Judge considers releasing body camera video of Sen. Nicole Mitchell arrest

A judge heard arguments on Monday on a lawsuit pushing for the release of body camera footage from Sen. Nicole Mitchell's (DFL-Woodbury) arrest in northern Minnesota.

The Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) on behalf of Alpha News filed the complaint in April. The lawsuit asks the City of Detroit Lakes and the Detroit Lakes Police Department to release the body and dash camera footage from the arrest of Sen. Mitchell after she allegedly broke into her stepmother's home. 

READ MORE: Sen. Nicole Mitchell burglary charges: 'I know I did something bad'

In Monday's hearing, UMLC argued that there is significant public interest in the case because of Sen. Mitchell's political status as a state senator. 

Becker County Judge, Gretchen Thilmony, asked how the release of the footage might impact the right to a fair trial for Sen. Mitchell. UMLC then made a comparison to the trials in George Floyd's death, and the video that circulated during that case, arguing that ignorance isn't required for jurors to be impartial in a case.

The attorney for the City of Detroit Lakes and the police department said the city isn't opposed to the release of the footage, but was worried about the release of the footage setting a precedent. If the footage is released, the city would want to make it clear this case is under special circumstances. 

Judge Thilmony is reviewing the footage and will weigh a decision.

Sen. Mitchell was charged with first-degree burglary in April after police responded to a house in Detroit Lakes around 4:45 a.m. and found Sen. Mitchell in the basement dressed in all black with a flashlight covered by a black sock found nearby. 

Sen. Mitchell told police she had "just gotten into the house" and added, "Clearly I’m not good at this," charges read. 

The lawmaker claimed to investigators that she entered the home to get items that belonged to her late father, court documents said. Sen. Mitchell said the woman who lived in the home, identified in the charges as a non-blood relative, had stopped contacting her and refused to give her the items. The items included pictures, a flannel shirt, ashes, and other sentimental items. 

A laptop was found in Sen. Mitchell's backpack, which belonged to the woman, who said she did not give it to Mitchell, but Mitchell said otherwise. 

Sen. Mitchell allegedly admitted to leaving Woodbury around 1 a.m. and driving to Becker County where she entered the house through the window.

In May, Sen. Mitchell was the subject of the Senate's Ethical Conduct Subcommittee earlier in May. Mitchell had already been relieved of her committee assignments and caucus meetings. Mitchell invoked her 5th Amendment rights and refused to answer questions in the ethics hearing. 

READ MORE: MN Sen. Nicole Mitchell's refuses to testify at ethics hearing

Ultimately, members agreed to reconvene the ethics committee on June 12, after Sen. Mitchell's next court appearance.