Sep. 16—OLIVIA — Renville County is retaining former assistant Washington County attorney Imran Ali to serve as a special prosecutor.
Ali resigned his Washington County position earlier this year while serving as the lead prosecutor in the case against Kim Potter, a former Minneapolis police officer charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.
The Renville County Board of Commissioners approved a request by County Attorney David Torgelson to retain Ali as a special prosecutor for the second-degree murder-with-intent case against Julian Daniel Valdez, 26. He is charged in the Aug. 5 fatal shooting of Pablo Eliazar Gutierrez, 31, in the city of Renville.
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Torgelson told the commissioners that a $50,000 scope of services agreement includes Ali's service as prosecutor in the Valdez homicide as well as his potential assistance on "two cases that may be coming down the pike that also involved a death."
Torgelson and Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable described a number of challenges facing the county attorney's office that led to the decision to request a special prosecutor. The sheriff said the Minnesota Attorney General's office often assists counties in the prosecution of homicide cases. It declined to take the Valdez case, he told the commissioners.
Torgelson said his office is facing a staffing shortage while its workload has increased. The courts have returned to in-person hearings, and cases that had been delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic are now being heard as well.
Assistant County Attorney Paul Overbee submitted his resignation earlier this summer, and will be leaving the county attorney's office on Friday. That leaves the office with two practicing attorneys, Torgelson and Assistant County Attorney Glen Jacobsen. Torgelson said a support staff member is also taking a leave of absence due to a medical condition.
Torgelson said that the Valdez case will very likely go to trial. He offered no information on the two other potential cases.
Torgelson described Ali as a very experienced prosecutor whose services would be invaluable to the prosecution of the case. He also emphasized that, as county attorney, he would retain the final say on decisions in the case, such as whether to accept a plea agreement at some point.
Torgelson is interviewing candidates for the vacancy created by Overbee's departure today. He said it could possibly take as long as two months before a new attorney can be brought on board. The candidates are currently employed and would likely seek to provide one month's notice before leaving a current position, he explained.
Funding for the special prosecutor will come from the county attorney's forfeiture account and possibly from the county general fund, according to the county attorney. County Administrator Lisa Herges said it may be possible to fund the special prosecutor straight from the county attorney's budget by using available cost savings as well.
Ali joined the law firm of Eckberg Lammers after resigning his Washington County position. He was recognized as the 2016 Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the year for his work in sex trafficking prosecutions.