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Hennepin County prosecutor under investigation for lying to a judge

Catherine McEnroe was removed from the case and the charges against a rape suspect were dismissed.

MINNEAPOLIS — A St. Paul man accused of raping a teen is now free because the attorney prosecuting the case lied to the judge. 

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said veteran prosecutor Catherine McEnroe admitted to lying and is now under investigation by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility.

Moriarty, who just took office last week, said she had no choice but to dismiss the charges.

Court documents say the case against a now 35-year-old suspect dates back to 2019 when he was living with his family, including a then-14-year-old cousin.

The documents accuse him of raping her, saying "she was his." The documents say the alleged crime wasn't reported for two more years. The suspect was eventually arrested and his trial started last week. 

Except on Friday, he was unexpectedly released from custody.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law Professor Joseph Daly isn't involved in the case, but says what happened is unusual.

"The problem is justice incorporates the victim," said Daly. "And I'm quite sure that it's colossally painful for the victim to see this alleged perpetrator walk away."

In a statement, Moriarty said a victim's advocate passed McEnroe a note while the victim was testifying, reminding her where the crime happened. Here's what Moriarty wrote: 

"During a recess, while the 17-year-old alleged victim testified with their parent in the courtroom, a victim advocate from our office passed a note to the prosecutor. The note was a reminder to the prosecutor to establish the venue of the offense. This simply means that it happened in Hennepin County. After seeing the note passed and being concerned it could be a violation of the sequestration order, Judge Cahill called the prosecutor to the bench and questioned the prosecutor about the content of the note. While the note was not a violation of the sequestration order and was not inappropriate in any way, the prosecutor lied to Judge Cahill about its content. This incident came to the attention of our supervisors, following conversations with the victim advocate. The supervisors notified me immediately and I was directly involved in addressing the issue from that point forward. After the prosecutor admitted to having lied, we notified Judge Cahill, who brought the parties back to court for a short hearing. During that hearing, the prosecutor admitted lying about the contents of the note."

When asked, Daly said there are very few other paths for Moriarty's office to take moving forward. 

"The problem is they wouldn't be prepared and it takes a while to prepare for a significant serious felony case," said Daly, who also thinks it's unlikely the judge would have granted Moriarty more time. The defense could also argue it has a right to a speedy trial. 

"Also, they’re already started proceeding in their case so we might face double jeopardy if you continue this case," said Daly. 

Meanwhile, the suspect's lawyer tells KARE 11 he has maintained his innocence and that he hopes he gets his life back. 

The director for the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility says the investigation against McEnroe could take months. Daly says it's possible she doesn't face any consequences or she could be reprimanded, suspended or even disbarred. 

KARE 11 learned McEnroe is overseeing about 70 other cases. Moriarty's office didn't respond to our questions about whether she'll be dismissed from those cases as well. 

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