Washington County prosecutor who resigned after Daunte Wright assignment has new job

·6 min read

Jun. 24—The Washington County prosecutor who resigned because of the "vitriol" and "partisan politics" surrounding the case against the former Brooklyn Center police officer charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright has taken on a new role.

Imran Ali is now a shareholder and director of law enforcement education and training for Eckberg Lammers, a Stillwater-based law firm. Ali previously served as the assistant criminal division chief at the Washington County attorney's office and director of the office's major crime unit. He resigned last month, stating that "the vitriol from some and the infusion of partisan politics by many has made my job difficult to pursue justice."

Former officer Kim Potter, 48, of Champlin, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. A 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center force, she resigned after she fatally shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, on April 11.

Police have said the shooting of Wright, 20, during a traffic stop was an accident. Body-camera video showed Potter shouting "Taser! Taser! Taser!" before shooting Wright in the chest.

After second-degree manslaughter charges were filed, activists called on Ali and Washington County Attorney Pete Orput to add murder charges. Orput has publicly defended the manslaughter charges, saying they were appropriate in light of the evidence in the case.

Orput's office had been handling the matter under an agreement last year in which Twin Cities prosecutors said they would take each other's cases when someone dies after an officer uses force.

Orput gave the Potter case back to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who, in turn, asked Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to handle it. Ellison took the case in May at Freeman's request; he has said the evidence and existing charges are being reviewed by his office.

In Ali's May 24 resignation letter to Orput, he wrote that he prays the "state heals, and the extreme partisan platforms dissipate.

"We must return to thoughtful discourse that unites, not impulsive, irrational talking points that divide," he wrote. "Until then, there will be no justice or peace."

During an interview from his new corner office at Eckberg Lammers on Wednesday afternoon, Ali, 42, spoke with the Pioneer Press about his decision to leave, his new role and a new business he launched during the height of the pandemic.

The transcript is edited for clarity and conciseness.

Tell me about your decision to leave the Washington County Attorney's office. You've worked with (Washington County Attorney) Pete Orput for years.

My decision to leave was a really difficult one. I really loved working at the Washington County Attorney's office. I loved my job. I loved working with the East Metro Human Traffic Task Force. I think Pete has done a fabulous job in 10 years reshaping the office, but, ultimately, when some outside pressures affect being a minister of justice, that's the time to walk away. I'm not pro-cop, I'm pro-justice. I know that may seem a little cliché, but justice is equal protection to all. That's what I truly believe.

How bad were the threats?

If you work in criminal justice, you're going to have threats, it's just part of the job. When I became a prosecutor, narcotics investigation, human trafficking investigations, that was part of it. But with this case, there would be days where we would have dozens, if not hundreds, of emails and phone messages. We all know what happened at Pete's house. All that information is public, our personal addresses are public, and, you know, it got bad. When a job turns into putting your family at risk, that's really a difficult thing to handle. I had it from every side. I had people saying, 'All you are is pro-law enforcement,' but I also had other people say, 'When did you immigrate here? Get out of our country.' ... No job is important enough to affect your family that way.

How did the job at Eckberg Lammers come about?

Once it was public that I resigned, I was really humbled. I had a big outpouring of support, and I was blessed with multiple job offers. You may not believe this, but I jumped without a parachute. It was the most emotional I've ever been in my entire career. I jumped not knowing where I was going to end up, but I knew that I had to make a decision, and I did. This was one of the opportunities that came up. It wasn't like this was a position that was open.

You are the first person to hold this job at Eckberg Lammers. What does a director of law enforcement education and training do?

I'll be teaching evidence-based investigation; report writing and testifying, and drafting of search warrants. I'll also be doing implicit-bias training, which is something that I think, quite frankly, is needed in every profession. This isn't singling out law enforcement. The (subject) I'm probably the most passionate about, because it hits really close to home, is vicarious trauma and traumatic stress training. I believe that law enforcement, prosecution, defense, judges, probation officers, corrections, this entire criminal justice system, has one of the most high-stress, high-burnout, compassion fatigue that I have witnessed, and we don't talk about it, especially in law enforcement. It wears on you. I have seen criminal-justice professionals who are dear to me who have taken their own life, who have battled depression and addiction, and, quite frankly, I've seen bright and eager attorneys end up being broken. What we hold in and why we hold in not only affects you, it affects your family. ... Our firm will be on the cutting edge of this sort of training and really lead Minnesota and heal Minnesota, so I couldn't say 'No.'

Tell me about your new business.

It's called SotaPop. I've always wanted to do new things, and I've always wanted to be a business owner, I just didn't know what I wanted to do. It started out as therapeutic to me. I was making candles and doing some painting (during COVID), so I turned it into Sota. It was really good to keep myself busy. The candles are made of just three ingredients: all-natural fragrance oils, essential oils and 100 percent Midwest grown soy wax. They're all small-batch created, and they're all made in Stillwater. We also sell T-shirts, jewelry, home-decor items.

What do you do when you aren't working?

I do karaoke all the time. My song is Electric Light Orchestra's "Telephone Line." According to me, I'm the best karaoke singer in the state of Minnesota. During the pandemic, I turned our basement into Ronnie's (his nickname). Our neighbors call it the "St. Croix's Finest Karaoke Bar."

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