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Sen. Lindsey Graham sees a time when Republicans could impeach Vice President Kamala Harris because of her call for donations so that a nonprofit could bail out activists arrested at Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis.
But the factual basis for Graham’s claim is somewhat flawed.
“If you use this model, I don’t know how Kamala Harris doesn’t get impeached if the Republicans take over the House, because she actually bailed out rioters, and one of the rioters went back to the streets and broke somebody’s head open,” Graham told “Fox News Sunday” this week.
The South Carolina Republican is close to former President Donald Trump, who had been acquitted by the Senate the previous day of charges that he incited the January 6 Capitol riot.
Harris, a rising Democratic star, has been a favorite target of Trump supporters for months.
After the May 25 death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, protests erupted all over the country. Harris was active in efforts to reform police practices, and participated in a peaceful Washington, D.C. protest May 30.
The Minnesota Freedom Fund, established in 2016, has as its mission that it “pays criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who cannot otherwise afford to as we seek to end discriminatory, coercive, and oppressive jailing.”
Its premise centers on the common criticism of money bail, that wealthier defendants can easily post bail and await prosecution at home whereas defendants with less financial means must remain in confinement before trial.
Until last year, it had collected relatively small amounts of money. Its 2018 federal tax form shows it got $110,000 in contributions that year.
In 2020, it became enormously popular after Floyd’s death. Currently, the fund says on its web site that it has received more than $30 million in donations.
Harris and the riots
Harris did not personally bail out rioters or have any other interaction with the fund, according to its Greg Lewin, its interim executive director.
At the American Bail Coalition, Executive Director Jeff Clayton noted that most of those involved in the rioting after Floyd’s death were bailed out before donations began piling up at the fund.
He noted that it has been criticized in recent months because “They were and have been since (the riots) bailing out violent defendants. But that has nothing to do with insurrection.”
The fund appears to have struggled to manage what overnight became a multi-million dollar operation.
“They haven’t really don’t have a policy as far as I know. There’s no criteria they use to distinguish between defendants. They try to either bail people out at random or find people who are innocent,” Clayton said.
Lewin explained how it’s been difficult to go from being an organization with a staff of one and volunteers to become a much bigger entity.
But he noted that “trying to make a bail fund a villain is ignoring the fundamental injustice of a system that frees one person and jails another due to ability to pay.”
The case of Lionel Timms
One of the cases cited by Graham’s office involved that of Lionel Timms, a Minneapolis man charged in July with assault after attacking a passenger on a bus.
The Minnesota Freedom Fund paid his bail. Eleven days after his release, Timms allegedly punched and kicked a bar manager, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull and a brain bleed.
The two incidents had nothing to do with the rioting, Lewin said.
“We paid his bail after working to first ensure that Mr. Timms would be provided with housing and other necessary support as Mr. Timms requested. Delays in the government’s processing of his release prevented him from receiving that assistance, setting the stage for the subsequent tragedy,” said Lewin.
Released and charged again
The fund also paid bail twice for the release of Thomas Moseley. He was at an October protest on the skyway level of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis where he was part of a group protesting a court appearance by the four police officers charged in Floyd’s death, according to a statement from the county attorney’s office and criminal complaints.
“Police knew there was a pickup order for Moseley for possible charges in the Aug. 15 damage to the Fifth Precinct building,” the statement said, and he was charged with felony criminal damage to property and gun possession.
The freedom fund paid his $5,000 bail in those cases.
On New Year’s Eve, Moseley and others were charged with second-degree riot for a protest that night in downtown Minneapolis. This time, the freedom fund paid his $60,000 bail.
On January 27, he was re-arrested for new evidence on his original firearm charges.
Jordan Kushner, Moseley’s attorney, said his client is “not accused of any violence against anyone…..he’s not accused of any kind of assault.”
Kushner said “there’s no way he’s going to get convicted of rioting. There’s no evidence he did anything that he was involved in a riot.”
In another case cited by Graham’s office, the fund paid $75,000 last year to secure the release of Jaleel Stallings, who was charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder for shooting at police officers during May’s riots and protests, according to a statement by the Hennepin County (Minneapolis) County Attorney.
Stallings disputes the charges and is awaiting a jury trial.