Minneapolis, MN – On February 2, 2017 a jury of twelve in Hennepin County, Minnesota found white supremacist Allen Scarsella guilty on all twelve felonies levied against him for his November 2015 racially-motivated shooting. On April 26, 2017, Scarsella was sentenced to 182 months (15 years, 2 months) in custody by Judge Caliguiri.
Twenty-five-year-old Allen Scarsella came into the courtroom on the sixteenth floor of the Hennepin County Government Center wearing a blaze orange jumpsuit. The gallery was packed full of Hennepin County officials, witnesses who had testified in the case (including investigators), community members, and members of the media.
Scarsella, who had been in administrative segregation (reportedly for his protection) in a Minneapolis jail since November 24 of 2015 has been placed in the custody of the MN Department of Corrections (and given Offender ID number of 254119).
[Content Advisory: some of the language seen in this article may be disturbing and offensive to our audience.]
Watch the video below for a timeline of events that led to the shooting:
Allen Scarsella was represented by public defenders Laura Heinrich and Peter Martin in his plea for self-defense, while Hennepin County Assistant Attorneys Judith Hawley and Chris Freeman prosecuted the case.
Six deputies positioned themselves throughout the room as Judge Caliguiri said that she had watched video testimony by Scarsella’s family. Audio recording of certain elements of the proceedings was allowed. Two people read victim impact statements: Cameron Clark spoke first, a victim of the shooting and also Jamar Clark’s cousin; and Jamar’s step-father James Clark (who is also Cam’s father). Both told the judge a variety of ways that this incident has impacted their lives. Listen to their statements below.
Victim Impact Statements – Cameron Clark, James Clark:
We interviewed Cameron after the sentencing, who spoke about his unhappiness with the charges and time given to Scarsella, as well as the lasting impact of the two bullets that injured him on the night of November 23, 2015, watch below:
Assistant Hennepin County attorney Chris Freeman addressed the judge next and spoke about Scarsella’s avowed racism that was prevalent in his everyday interactions with his friends. He brought up the victims and how it seemed as though Scarsella had been planning this for a long time, asserting that “texts are windows into the most intimate and private thoughts.” Those private thoughts, he said, were filled with racist violent rage that Scarsella had been “pondering for months.”
Freeman scoffed at the idea of probation for Scarsella. He pushed for consecutive sentencing. He reiterated that “yes, he is racist, he has racist thoughts” and said that “he can accept responsibility for going there, saying that was probably a mistake … it was not a mistake to go there … it was the fruition of his desires.”
“His remorse is very much a shallow shield,” Freeman added, explaining how Scarsella was attempting to excuse his behavior and further perpetuate his myth of self-defense.
“Yes, Mr. Scarsella was brought up in a very good environment … where did this seed of hate grow?” Freeman said “in order to make sure” to prevent any future acts of terrorism, “you have to rehabilitate” his racist views. He implored the judge that consecutive sentencing is the “appropriate manner” in which to attempt to gain some “trust within the community.”
Freeman spoke about how protesters at the 4th Precinct were trying to make things better and said “today is our opportunity to make things better.”
Defense attorney Laura Heinrich spoke against consecutive sentencing and pushed Judge Caliguiri to sentence Scarsella to probation, and “if the court is asking for additional time” that he be given the lowest sentence of 74 months, run all of the other sentences concurrently, and then receive probation.
She spoke at length about Hernandizing, the “process of applying criminal history to multiple offenses being sentenced on the same day in front of the same court,” as well as sentencing guidelines. She said the sentencing “should be least restrictive as possible.”
Heinrich then spoke about how Scarsella’s “brain development” hasn’t matured yet and he is in an “extended adolescence period” where the “executive functioning” in Scarsella’s brain hadn’t “fully developed” at the time of the crime (Scarsella was 22 years old, is 25 now).
She stated that he has shown that he feels horrible about this situation, “he does carry the weight that he has hurt other human beings … something that he feels deeply sorry about.” She said her client had been respectful of the trial process, and that while on recess her client expressed how hard it is to hear certain things during the trial.
Heinrich said Scarsella’s family made video testimonies and wrote letters on his behalf, and said that “they would like to be a part of the rehabilitation … they wanted to be here but were scared of situations that happened in the past.”
“He does come from a place of relative privilege,” Heinrich said, and mentioned how Scarsella’s ample resources could help rehabilitate him into a productive member of society.
Heinrich furthered that for “long-term rehabilitation” Scarsella needs probation. If Scarsella goes to prison for what people are calling a “racially motivated mass shooting,” and “given the culture of the D.O.C. … that puts Scarsella in a position where he is likely gonna be targeted.” She said that prison will likely harden his racist viewpoints and he “wont be able to change his perspective moving forward” and will become “more likely to commit dangerous acts in the future.”
Heinrich said that Scarsella “grew up very privileged” and asserted that he wasn’t fully aware that his conduct was considered disrespectful by others.
“Well educated but naive … his perspective is an educated one but it is not a lived one. He doesn’t have friends from other backgrounds, he’s isolated … I’ve watched him think through, ‘Oh, I may have not experienced these things the same way so I don’t understand how hurtful this language is.” – Defense attorney Laura Heinrich
Allen Scarsella was then able to address the judge and the court.
Scarsella: “I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address the court. I recognize the severity of the events of November 23, 2015. I acknowledge my role in those events. People *pause* were hurt *second pause*. This is something I’ve struggled with for almost a year and a half, and I’ll live with the consequences of it for the rest of my life. The fact that others were injured because of something that I did weighs heavily on my heart every day.
The incident touched so many lives, and everybody who was involved is now worse off for it. *clears throat* It’s not what I wanted, I wish it hadn’t happened, and I wish there was something I could do to change events so that nobody had been hurt. *clears throat again*
I understand that I come from a background of privilege and that I’ve had uncommon opportunities. If I were to receive probation, I would leverage this background and the support of my family as a foundation to rebuild my life and to become an asset to society. *clears throat a third time* I would make gainful employment a priority. I have an university education, employable skills, and I am a very hard worker. I can utilize those things to give back to the community, and I can make it happen on probation.”
Defense attorney Heinrich: *whispers* “Say thank you”
Scarsella: “Thank you very much.”
JUDGE CALIGUIRI’S SENTENCE
Judge Caliguiri then announced the sentence that she concluded.
Judge Caliguiri Statement:
Judge Caliguiri: “Mr. Scarsella, I’ve been asked to give you a downward dispositional departure to probation, largely because of the productive life that you led prior to November 23 of 2015 …. I cannot give you probation, however, because that would so seriously understate the severity of what you did that day in North Minneapolis. I don’t claim to understand why you did what you did on that day. I truly didn’t realize that people in this day and age, particular young, educated people, still held such repugnant, racist ideas as the ones expressed in your text messages.
Your father told me in a letter that your family was raised without any prejudice, or even considering the color of a person’s skin. ‘We were all just people, and all equal’, is what he said. Based on that, I’m not even sure whether those ignorant thoughts that we saw in you text messages were truly what you believe, or if they were just a terribly misguided attempt to be cool or fit in. But, either way, you brought a loaded gun into a gathering of the very people for whom you had expressed such contempt.
I don’t believe for a second that you wore a mask that night because it was cold. You were not there as a person of good will, and it played out as anyone would have predicted. The only saving grace is that your shots didn’t kill their targets; all of the victims are recovering now, albeit with difficulty. And I am especially thankful that one of the eight bullets that you fired didn’t find its way into a family’s home in the area, and take a completely innocent life.
Based on your conduct, and the injuries that it caused, I find that the criminality of the offense would not be unfairly exaggerated by sentencing for the counts consecutively. So, I am going to accept the recommendation of the PSI writer as to consecutive sentencing and as to the total sentence …
Sir, I truly hope that the ideas that you’ve expressed, that we’ve heard about in the trial, haven’t so poisoned your mind that they prevent you from being a productive member of the community in the future, or being an asset to the community, like you talked about a moment ago. After you’ve served out your commitment, your punishment, I hope you can resume a positive life with your family, returning to the ideals with which you were raised. Good luck to you, sir.”
As a result of the conviction, Scarsella will have a lifetime ban on being able to possess or use any firearm, ammunition or explosives, and he must provide a DNA sample to the state.
Scarsella was committed to the commissioner of Corrections for a total of 182 months. The sentencing is as followed: one 74-month sentence for 1st Degree Assault and three 36-month sentences for 2nd Degree Assault.
Scarsella’s legal defense team plans to appeal.
Unicorn Riot went live after the sentencing and spoke with Cameron and James Clark about the sentence given to Scarsella as well as what they said in their victim impact statements.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) April 26, 2017
After a press conference by victim Cameron Clark, his grandfather James Clark, members of the NAACP and other supporters of the victims, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman eventually did his own press conference.
It was observed by public records researcher Tony Webster that Mike Freeman’s office attempted to wait until supporters of the victims left before they brought him down to the Government Center atrium for his press conference.
Because people aligned with protesters/victims are still here, Co. Atty Mike Freeman doesn't want to come down and be on camera.
— Tony Webster (@webster) April 26, 2017
When Mike Freeman came down to speak to the press about prosecuting Scarsella, he said “we charged to the max we could, initially” and was immediately interrupted by Cameron Clark disagreeing with the charges.
“Mike Freeman, please do not lie in front of these people. Like you lied on my cousin Jamar, talking ‘he told them officers that he wanted to die.’ Please, don’t lie in front of these people, because I could’ve been dead … He [Scarsella] could’ve killed us.” – Shooting victim Cam Clark confronting Hennepin County Atty Mike Freeman
Cameron stated that the charges, and sentence, would be much different had the perpetrator been a Black man that shot five white people: “If that was me, I would’ve been looking at 25 to 30 for shooting you and the rest of these white people.” The community has been consistent in saying that they wanted charges of attempted murder, hate crimes, and conspiracy levied against Scarsella.
During the disruption to his press conference, Freeman said, “We’re pleased with the sentence. We worked very hard on this case. Mr. Scarsella’s conduct is totally unacceptable. We prosecuted to the fullest we could.” Freeman then said, “We take this as a good result,” and walked away.
After the press conference and disruption, we spoke to Cam and James further and gave a run-down of what transpired to get Scarsella sentenced to 15 years and 2 months.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our expansive documentation of the Scarsella Trial. To help our volunteer-operated horizontally organized non-profit media collective, please consider a tax-deductible donation:
Watch the community react to the guilty verdict of Scarsella on February 2, 2017:
Protests for Jamar Clark, who was executed by the Minneapolis Police on November 15, led to an eighteen-day outdoor occupation of the 4th Precinct police station. To watch our live coverage of this historic protest encampment that was mere blocks away from the site of Jamar’s death, and a block away from where Scarsella open fired, click here.
Allen Scarsella and his group of co-defendants, Joseph Backman (28 y/o – Eagan, MN), Nathan Gustavsson (22 y/o – Hermantown, MN), and Daniel Macey (who got his charges dropped by Judge Caliguiri in late February), are all part of the growing movement of white nationalists clustered around xenophobic ideology blossoming in internet chat forums.
This racist reality was centered in this trial as a motive for the armed attack, namely speaking and posting about white-supremacist ideals through memes and terminology not fully recognized by the larger majority of the populace. The actions that Scarsella took are deemed by many as an act of domestic terrorism.
Allen Scarsella was found guilty on all twelve felonies levied against him on February 1, 2017; one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree riot while armed, and five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon – causing substantial bodily harm, as well as five more counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon (note: on January 31, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office added the five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon).
It must be noted that courtroom 1653, in which the trial took place, has less than forty seats available in the gallery and several Hennepin County employees gave their seats up to community members (although not all that needed seats got seats) during the reading of the verdict on February 2 and the sentencing on April 26.
Also noted, after the jury reached a verdict on February 2 and the court notified people, the court delayed reading the verdict for at least 20 minutes until one of the victims of the shooting had arrived.
Unicorn Riot wants to thank Tony Webster, Brandon Stahl, Maevy [MVBDLR], the community for their support, and all others unnamed that helped our coverage in any capacity during the Scarsella Trial.
Read all ten comprehensive report backs by clicking the titles, Part One: Jury Selection, Unicorn Riot Subpoenaed, Opening Statements | Part Two: “In hindsight it was very stupid” | Part Three: Jury Sees Videos Around Mass Shooting | Part Four: Shooting Victims Testify | Part Five: Cell Phone Extraction Shows Scarsella’s Hardened Racism | Part Six: Defense Attempts to Discredit Protesters Using Police Videos, | Part Seven: Co-Defendant Waives his 5th, Testifies for White Supremacist, | Part Eight: Scarsella Takes Stand, Admits Shooting, Claims Self-Defense, | Part Nine: Defense Rests & Closing Statements, | Part Ten: Scarsella Guilty of 12 Felonies, Sentenced to 15 Years, or by clicking on the images below:
To see Unicorn Riot’s past coverage in relation to this shooting, see below: