Minnesota Dem Sen. Mitchell charged with felony burglary after breaking into stepmother's home to retrieve late father's belongings

 April 25, 2024

A Democratic state senator in Minnesota is facing a possible prison sentence and other consequences after being criminally charged following an incident amid an ongoing family dispute.

Minnesota State Sen. Nicole Mitchell was charged with felony first-degree burglary and hit with a restraining order following her arrest at the scene after she broke into her stepmother's house early Monday morning, according to the Daily Mail.

Mitchell provides her account of what happened

The state legislator, who is an Air Force Reserve pilot and was a TV meteorologist before being elected in 2022, insisted that she entered the home to retrieve a few items that belonged to her late father after an argument with his widow, her stepmother, who she alleged is suffering the ill effects of Alzheimer's disease.

"Like so many families, mine is dealing with the pain of watching a loved one decline due to Alzheimer's and associated paranoia," Sen. Mitchell wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "Over the weekend, I learned of medical information which caused me grave concern and prompted me to check on that family member. I entered a home I have come and gone from countless times in the past 20 years, where my son even once had his own room."

"Unfortunately, I startled this close relative, exacerbating paranoia, and I was accused of stealing, which I absolutely deny," she added. "Thank you to all my friends (and colleagues of both parties) for the kind words of support and for trusting my character even before I had a chance to respond. This has been a true tragedy for our family and my hope is it can return to being a private matter."

Criminal complaint and 911 transcript tell different story

Sen. Mitchell's version of events doesn't quite match up with the criminal complaint filed against her, which noted that officers were dispatched at 4:45 am to a reported burglary in progress and found the lawmaker in the basement dressed in all black with a flashlight dimmed by a black sock over it and a black backpack -- which contained two laptops, a cellphone, her drivers' license, and state Senate ID -- wedged in an open window to the basement.

While being placed into custody, she reportedly told her stepmother in front of the officers, "I was just trying to get a couple of my dad's things because you wouldn't talk to me anymore," but later acknowledged to the arresting officers that she knew she "did something bad" and was "not good at this."

Mitchell further told the officers that she had been attempting to retrieve items of "sentimental value" that had belonged to her late father, who died last year, such as photos and clothing, as well as his ashes. As for one of the laptops found in her backpack, which displayed the victim's name when booted up, Mitchell claimed that she had received it from her stepmother "way back when" -- a claim that the stepmother disputed.

According to the Star Tribune, Sen. Mitchell's account of what occurred in her Facebook post also seemingly conflicts with the transcript of the 911 call made by the stepmother, who told the dispatcher that she'd "tripped over" an unidentified intruder who was "on the floor next to my bed" before they "ran downstairs into my basement."

The transcript also revealed that the stepmother had armed herself with a "little steak knife" to defend herself while waiting for police to arrive and could at times hear movement down in her basement, where she correctly assumed the intruder had entered through a small window.

Released without bail on a restraining order; Republicans call for her resignation

The Detroit Lakes Tribune reported that Sen. Mitchell appeared in court from the county jail via Zoom on Tuesday to be arraigned on the felony first-degree burglary charge -- which per the complaint carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and $35,000 fine, or both -- and for bail to be set at $40,000.

However, District Judge Gretchen Thilmony agreed to release Mitchell on her own recognizance without posting bail, provided that she abide by a few conditions that included obeying a restraining order obtained by her stepmother and avoiding all contact with the victim, as well as informing the court ahead of time of any travel out of the state.

According to MPR News, Minnesota Democrats hold a one-seat majority in the state Senate and are reluctant to sideline Mitchell and lose her vote for the remainder of the legislative session, as evidenced by a statement from Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy, who said the allegations were "upsetting" but called for "due process" to play out before any action was taken in response to what occurred.

Republicans, however, insisted on immediate action, as Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson acknowledged in a statement the "difficult situation" but pointed to the "disturbing" allegations that Mitchell "took extensive preparation to burglarize a family member’s home," and added, "This behavior is unbecoming of a member of the Legislature and she needs to resign from the Senate immediately."

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