Careers meander in odd ways.
Six years ago, I covered Kirby Puckett’s sexual assault trial in Hennepin County District Court. It was the first criminal trial I ever covered.
B. Todd Jones, who was recommended today by Sen. Amy Klobuchar to become Minnesota’s U.S. attorney again, was Puckett’s lead defense attorney.
Klobuchar happened to be the Hennepin County attorney who brought the charges: false imprisonment, fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and fifth-degree assault. He allegedly grabbed a woman and brought her into a men’s room and groped her.
Although Jones and Klobuchar were friends, the case was not a public moment of warmth between the two.
Klobuchar took some political risks then to prosecute the popular Puckett in a case that was somewhat fuzzy. Puckett was acquitted on all charges.
Jones wasn’t happy with Puckett being dragged into court.
He told the Star Tribune then: “When it comes down to it, they just did not have the courage to not charge Kirby Puckett … This stuff happens every weekend at some eating and drinking establishment in Hennepin County, and it is rarely charged. … They have better things to do with their resources than to go around prosecuting false imprisonment cases from a woman being taken into the men’s room or a man being taken into the women’s room at a bar at closing time.”
Klobuchar countered then: “People always second-guess afterward, but we did the right thing. We would have charged this case based on those facts no matter who the defendant is. If we didn’t do it, we would be shirking our obligation to enforce the law.”
Said Jones: “The system breaks down if a prosecutor decides to proceed to trial with every case … Prosecutorial discretion … needs to be exercised with judgment.”
But, when Puckett was acquitted on all charges, Jones, the victor, said: “The system does work.”
Jones, who served as U.S. attorney under President Clinton, is now in line for the post again.
Klobuchar is now Minnesota’s lone senator, and she’s recommended him to President Obama for nomination as the state’s chief federal prosecutor.
Puckett — whose arrival in the Twins’ locker room I covered in Anaheim on May 7, 1984 — died in 2006, three years after his trial.
And your correspondent is covering his first trial since Puckett’s … which will determine Klobuchar’s U.S. Senate colleague.
Careers meander in very odd ways.