Plea deal means no prison time for Minneapolis photographer accused of raping, terrorizing 3 women

·2 min read

A judge has accepted a plea deal that allowed a Minneapolis photographer to plead guilty in two rape cases filed against him in exchange for dismissal of other sexual assault cases and a sentence that includes no prison time.

Den-Zell Gilliard, 29, was sentenced Monday in Hennepin County District Court after pleading guilty to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Charges in two other cases were dropped.

Judge Carolina Lamas stayed an eight-year sentence and put him on probation for five years. He also was ordered to receive sex offender treatment, register as a predatory offender and participate in a domestic abuse program.

Combined, the four cases alleged that Gilliard had been raping three women from 2016 until September 2019 and that he carried out no fewer than 50 sexual assaults.

"It's important to note that the allegations in the complaints do not accurately portray the actions Mr. Gilliard was ultimately convicted of and sentenced for," defense attorney Erin Carey said Tuesday. "While he admitted to being manipulative in relationships, he denied and continues to deny any allegation of physical abuse."

Prosecutors had alleged that Gilliard victimized the women at his home in the 4000 block of S. Oakland Avenue in much the same pattern using intimidation, blackmail, captivity and threats to their lives and reputations over many months. According to court documents, he took sexually explicit images of all the women and shared some of them on the internet and elsewhere as part of his desire to control them.

Carey said that the terms of Gilliard's sentence give him "the tools to be very successful. He's been compliant since get out of custody and is doing very well."

Gilliard was an up-and-coming photographer before the allegations, having been mentored by McKnight award-winning Twin Cities photographers Wing Young Huie and Inna Valin.

Gilliard's photography was included in a Gordon Parks/Jamel Shabazz exhibit that opened in January 2020 at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul.

Carey said Gilliard's sentence does directly put any limitations on his professional career, other than there being limits on access to the internet.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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