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MN Legislature Fails To Approve $3 Million Settlement For Family Of Joe Gomm

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An inmate brutally attacked the 45-year-old while he was supervising a worship inside the Stillwater Prison, Liz Collin reports (2:47) WCCO 4 News At 5 - May 20, 2021

Video Transcript

FRANK VASCELLARO: In other news, the family of a murdered Minnesota corrections officer is making one final plea to lawmakers before taking the case to court.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: The legislature, again, failed to approve a $3 million settlement for the family of Joe Gomm during its regular session. An inmate brutally attacked the 45-year-old while he was supervising a workshop inside the Stillwater Prison. WCCO's Liz Collin shares their desperate search for closure, three years later.

CHRIS CONE: In the past three years, we have not, as a family, ever been allowed to heal.

LIZ COLLIN: Showing visible signs of defeat, Joe Gomm's family is still trying to make sense of their search for justice.

MIKE PADDEN: These hard working men and women of the DOC feel disrespected and ignored.

LIZ COLLIN: Their attorney, Mike Padden, says the suggestion from a lawmaker years ago to appropriate funds to the family after his brutal murder made the most sense, similar to how victims of the bridge collapse were compensated by the state. Another session has passed, and still, nothing.

AUDREY CONE: Nobody's taken responsibility for what happened. It was easily preventable. It's all in black and white in the file.

LIZ COLLIN: From that file, a WCCO investigation first detailed the final minutes of Officer Gomm's life, along with the warning signs that were seemingly ignored about Edward Johnson. The inmate had a five page discipline report to spend nearly 5,000 days in segregation and the words he sent in the mail to relatives two weeks before the attack, that you will hear some very bad news real soon.

MIKE PADDEN: The assault was so bad that Joe's face was not even recognizable. That's how bad this assault was.

LIZ COLLIN: Beat with a sledgehammer and stabbed with home-made weapons he'd hidden, Johnson himself was paid more than $600,000 by the state for losing an eye in a prison fight years earlier. Gomm's family has so far received $60,000 in a workers comp claim.

AUDREY CONE: Where's the Justice there?

LIZ COLLIN: But more than money, his sister believes a settlement equals an admission that they've been waiting for

AUDREY CONE: --for somebody to finally admit that Joe was not in a safe work environment and for somebody to finally admit that somebody didn't do their job and it caused Joe to lose his life.

LIZ COLLIN: Attorney Mike Padden says if the legislature fails to do anything by July, the three year statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit will run out, leaving the family no choice but to take their fight to court. In Stillwater, Liz Collin, WCCO4 News.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: It is still possible legislature could take up a settlement during a special session. Republican Senator Karin Housley said in a statement that she's still working to help the family receive fair compensation for their loss. We have not heard back from the DFL for a comment yet.