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KARE 11 Investigates: Calls for Attorney General to prosecute jail medical neglect death

Citing conflict of interest, Hardel Sherrell’s mother and community members call for Beltrami County Attorney to hand over jail death case to MN Attorney General.

ST PAUL, Minn. — “Give the case to Keith, give the case to Keith,” chanted a small crowd gathered outside Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office in downtown St Paul.

The chant was led by Del Shea Perry, the mother of Hardel Sherrell.

Sherrell died in the Beltrami County jail in 2018 of a treatable illness.

Prior KARE 11 investigations revealed how he suffered for days pleading for medical help that never came, all while is jailers and many of his care providers believed he was faking.

“They didn’t help him,” said Perry, “Time after time after time they lied. They covered up from the very beginning and that’s why we are where we still are today, because lies have been told and coverups have been done.”

The case was initially swept under the rug, until under mounting pressure the state Department of Corrections reopened their review of what happened to Hardel in the jail leading up to his death.

Where a prior investigation found no violations, this new review uncovered regular and gross violations of Minnesota Jail standards in Beltrami that were, “pervasive.”

Credit: Beltrami Co. Jail
After days of medical neglect, Hardel Sherrell died on the floor of a cell at the Beltrami Co. jail.

Earlier this year, the state medical board suspended the medical license of the jail doctor responsible for Sherrell’s care, Todd Leonard, calling his actions “egregious.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) then opened a criminal investigation.

The BCA recently presented their findings to the Beltrami County Attorney’s office to make a determination on whether to bring charges.

However, the history of the case leaves Hardel’s mom — and others in the community, such as Pastor Brian Herron — skeptical that justice can be served if anyone connected to Beltrami County is making the charging decisions.

“From day one they’ve tried to cover this up, they’ve never told the truth about it, they never acknowledged what they did and so how do we trust that they’re going to prosecute this case in a fair and just way,” said Pastor Herron of Zion Baptist Church. He added, “So, we’re demanding that the Beltrami County Attorney recuse himself and turn these documents over to our Attorney General Keith Ellison so that we can get justice for Hardel.”

Credit: KARE 11
Brian Herron joined Hardel Sherrell's mother in calling for the Attorney General to take over the case.

Attorney Zorislav Leyderman, who represents Hardel’s mom in a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Beltrami County, issued a statement saying the County Attorney has a conflict of interest because he’s defending the Sheriff’s Office in the civil lawsuit.

“There is a clear conflict of interest in this case,” the statement reads. “Beltrami County Attorney’s office cannot ethically proceed with determination of criminal charges against its own clients. This is why we’re demanding that the Beltrami County Attorney’s office immediately recuse itself and turn this case over to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office for determination on criminal charges.”

“It took four years for this case to land on my desk, and it will take some time to go through the extensive information provided and determine next steps,” Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson told KARE 11 earlier this week.

The first step will be demining whether his office has a conflict with the case, and if so, Hanson said he’d seek an outside prosecutor.

John Stiles, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Keith Ellison told KARE 11, “If the case is referred to the Attorney General, he will strongly consider it.”

Next week will mark the four-year anniversary of Hardel’s death.

“They’ve had four years to try to rectify this situation, no apologies, nothing, just coverups, lies, racism at its core,” said Perry. “My son should be here today!”

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