Kassius Benson named new Hennepin County chief public defender

Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer Kassius Benson was chosen Tuesday to lead the Hennepin County Public Defender’s office, succeeding Mary Moriarty whose contract was not renewed by the state board.

Benson, 49, started out as a law clerk in the county office after he graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1996. He worked as a public defender both here and in Washington, D.C., before launching his own Minneapolis-based firm 17 years ago.

Benson, one of three attorneys interviewed Tuesday by the state Board of Public Defense, said that returning to the office will be “like coming home.” He talked about his “deep connection” to the lawyers who work there and in the court system across Minnesota; Benson has taught extensively throughout the state on behalf of the state board.

Describing what set him apart from the other two finalists, Benson said he has run his own firm, trained and recruited lawyers and dealt with management issues as “the ultimate authority.”

The other two finalists, Lindsay Siolka and Shawn Webb, are supervising attorneys in the Hennepin County office public defender’s office.

Benson will succeed Moriarty, who has held the job since 2014 but has been publicly on the outs with the board and the state’s Chief Public Defender Bill Ward for most of the past year. The state board voted 4-2 in September against renewing Moriarty’s contract for another four years after her term runs out this month.

Benson mentioned the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody as one of his reasons for wanting the job. He named diversifying the office’s staff as the main goal of his term, saying it has only nine attorneys of color now — four of whom were there when he started as a clerk.

Recruitment as well as recognition and training will be key to hiring a more diverse staff, he said. The office has about 118 employees, most of them attorneys.

Though the vote for Benson was unanimous, some board members expressed support for Siolka and Webb. Hennepin County District Judge Carolina Lamas said Siolka blew the others “out of the water” with the strength of her interview, and Elizer Darris, an organizer with the ACLU, said Webb and Benson were the strongest candidates.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Helen Meyer said Benson’s experience impressed her, and Hennepin County Chief District Judge Toddrick Barnette said Benson’s credibility and collaborative approach to the work won him over.

Barnette, who started as a clerk in the public defender’s office, is married to an attorney in the office.

Benson will take charge of the busy office after a difficult year that began in December 2019, when Moriarty was abruptly placed on paid leave pending an investigation that led to her discipline for social media activity, and following concerns about her ability to collaborate with other public officials.

In addition to the instability and uncertainty with Moriarty’s position, Hennepin County’s public defense attorneys have been working under shifting conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health restrictions have made it challenging for them to protect themselves and their clients while ensuring timely court sessions.

Moriarty reapplied for her job but wasn’t chosen as a finalist. She hasn’t indicated whether she will stay on in the office, but she remains a county employee and could return to trial work.

Benson was born in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from high school in Minot, N.D. He received his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University in Ames.

The chief public defender job in Hennepin County has an annual salary range of $140,317 to $161,398. Benson’s starting date and salary have yet to be determined.


Twitter: @rochelleolson


rn//Load jQuery library using plain JavaScriptrn(function(){rn var newscript = document.createElement(‘script’);rn newscript.type = ‘text/javascript’;rn newscript.async = true;rn newscript.src = ‘https://code.jquery.com/jquery-3.1.0.min.js’;rn (document.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)(0)||document.getElementsByTagName(‘body’)(0)).appendChild(newscript);rnvar newscript2 = document.createElement(‘script’);rn newscript2.type = ‘text/javascript’;rn newscript2.async = true;rn newscript2.src = ‘https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/js-cookie/2.1.3/js.cookie.min.js’;rn (document.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)(0)||document.getElementsByTagName(‘body’)(0)).appendChild(newscript2);rn})();rn/********TEST CODE for METER SNOW PLOW ANALYTiCS*******************/rnvar meter = {};rn$(document).ready(function(){rn // console.log(“this loads well”);rn $(‘.js-optimizely-click-goal’).click(function(){rn // console.log(this);rn meter(‘type’) = $(“input(name=’offer’)”).val();rn if(meter(‘type’) = 131){meter(‘type’) = “Premium Digital Access”;}rn else if(meter(‘type’) = 130){meter(‘type’) = “Sunday Print + Digital”;}rn else if(meter(‘type’) = 129){meter(‘type’) = “7-Day Print + Digital”;}rn else if(meter(‘type’) = 128){meter(‘type’) = “Sunday Print”;}rn meter(‘date’) = new Date().toLocaleString();rn // console.log(meter(‘type’));rn // console.log(meter(‘date’));rn var json_meter_cookie = JSON.stringify(meter);rn Cookies.set(‘meter_sign_up’, json_meter_cookie); rn rn });rn});rn/************************************************************************/rn // FACEBOOK TRACKING PIXEL #1rn !function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s)rn {if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function(){n.callMethod?rn n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)};rn if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n;n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version=’2.0′;rn n.queue=();t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0;rn t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)(0);rn s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window,document,’script’,rn ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js’);rn fbq(‘init’, ‘590074241155998’); rn fbq(‘track’, ‘ViewContent’);rn rnrn{% endblock %}”},”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit-signup-optimizely/start”},{“id”:”limit-signup”,”count”:12,”action”:”ignore”,”mute”:true,”action_config”:{“template”:”{% extends “grid” %}rnrn{% block heading_text %}Youu2019ve read your 10 free articles for this 30 day period. Sign up now for local coverage you wonu2019t find anywhere else, special sections and your favorite columnists. StarTribune puts Minnesota and the world right at your fingertips. {% endblock %}rnrn{% block last %}rn{{ parent() }}rn{# limit Krux pixel from https://www.squishlist.com/strib/customshop/328/ #}rnrnrn{% endblock %}”},”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit-signup/start”},{“id”:”meter-desktop-331″,”count”:10,”action”:”ignore”,”mute”:false,”action_config”:false,”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/meter-desktop-331/start”},{“id”:”PDA991499opt”,”count”:9,”action”:”ignore”,”mute”:true,”action_config”:false,”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/PDA991499opt/start”},{“id”:”limit”,”count”:8,”action”:”inject”,”mute”:false,”action_config”:{“template”:”rn.o-overlay,rn.o-overlay * {rn display: block;rn box-sizing: border-box;rn}rnrn.o-overlay {rn position: fixed;rn top: 0;rn left: 0;rn width: 100%;rn height: 100%;rn font-size:14px;rn background: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8);rn z-index: 999999;rn opacity:1;rn transition:all .01s;rn}rn.o-overlay h1 {rn font-family:popular-bold, ‘Popular’;rn font-size:28px;rn}rnrn.o-modal {rn width: 100%;rn max-height: 100vh;rn overflow: auto;rn position: absolute;rn top: 50%;rn left: 0;rn -webkit-transform: translateY(-50%);rn transform: translateY(-50%);rn}rn.o-modal-middle {rn padding:5px 5px;rn position:relative;rn background:#F6E463;rn text-align:center;rn border-top:1px solid rgb(246, 228, 99);rn -webkit-box-shadow:0px 0px 0px rgba(0,0,0,0);rn box-shadow:0px 0px 0px rgba(0,0,0,0);rn}rn.o-modal-inner {rn background: #ffffff;rn margin: 0 auto;rn width: 100%;rn max-width: 600px;rn position: relative;rn}rnrn.o-button {rn display: inline-block;rn font: bold 18px/1 Whitney, sans-serif;rn margin: 0;rn padding: 0;rn border: none;rn text-decoration: none;rn color: #fff;rn background: #00824A;rn padding: 15px 20px;rn border-radius: 4px;rn border: 2px solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.1);rn -webkit-transition: all .1s;rn transition: all .1s;rn cursor: pointer;rn text-shadow: 0 1px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);rn}rn.o-button:hover {rn text-decoration: none;rn color: #fff;rn border-color: transparent;rn background: #00824A;rn opacity:0.9;rn}rn.o-cta {rntfont:bold 38px/1 Whitney, sans-serif;rntcolor:#00824A;rntpadding:5px 0px;rntdisplay:block;rnttext-align:center;rntoverflow:hidden;rntcursor:defaultrn}rn.o-block {rn text-align: center;rn font-family:’Whitney’,sans-serif;rn}rn.o-block img {rn width: 150px;rn height: auto;rn display: block;rn margin: 0 auto 10px;rn}rn.o-block .text-left {rn text-align:left;rn}rn.o-block.pad {rn padding: 10px;rn}rn.o-block.pad-top {rn padding-top: 30px;rn}rn.o-block.pad-right {rn padding-right: 30px;rn}rn.o-block.pad-bottom {rn padding-bottom: 30px;rn}rn.o-block.pad-left {rn padding-left: 30px;rn}rn.o-block.shadow-out {rn box-shadow: 0 0 7px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);rn}rn.o-block.shadow-in {rn box-shadow: inset 0 0 7px 0 rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);rn}rnrn.o-small {rn color: #010101;rn font: italic normal 13px/1 Whitney, sans-serif;rn margin: 10px 0;rn}rn.o-small:first-child {rn margin-top: 0;rn}rn.o-small:last-child {rn margin-bottom: 0;rn}rn.o-small.left {rn text-align: left;rn}rnrn.o-small a {rn display: inline-block;rn color: inherit;rn text-decoration: underline;rn}rn.o-small a:hover {rn color: black;rn text-decoration: underline;rn}rnrn.o-bg-green {rn background:#86cff2;rn color:#ffffff;rn}rnrn.o-info {rn display:inline-block;rn position:absolute;rn bottom:20px;rn right:20px;rn overflow:visible;rn z-index:1;rn}rn.o-info:hover {rn padding-left:2em;rn padding-top:2em;rn}rn.o-info:hover div {rn display:block;rn}rn.o-info button {rn width:1.5em;rn height:1.5em;rn border-radius:100%;rn font-weight:bold;rn line-height:1.5em;rn padding:0;rn margin:0;rn border:0;rn text-align:center;rn font-size:1em;rn tbackground:#F6E463;rn}rn.o-info div {rn background:#F5F5F5;rn position:absolute;rn right:1.5em;rn bottom:1.5em;rn box-shadow:0 0 10px rgba(0,0,0,.5);rn padding:20px;rn font-size:12px;rn line-height:1.3;rn display:none;rn width:300px;rn border-radius:7px 7px 0 7pxrn}rn.o-info div a {rn text-decoration:underline;rn color:#005776;rn}rn }rnrnrnrnrnrn rn rn rn Premium Digital Access
starting at 99u00a2 rn trn SUBSCRIBErn Already a subscriber? Log in.rn rn All Star Tribune readers without a Digital Access subscription are given a limited number of complimentary articles every 30 days. Once the article limit is reached we ask readers to purchase a subscription including Digital Access to continue reading. Digital Access is included in all multi-day paper home delivery, Sunday + Digital, and Premium Digital Access subscriptions. After the 1 month Premium Digital Access introductory period you will be charged at a rate of $14.99 per month. You can see all subscription options or login to an existing subscription herern rn ?rn rn rn rn rnrn”},”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit/start”},{“id”:”nag”,”count”:7,”action”:”lightbox”,”mute”:true,”action_config”:{“height”:null,”width”:”630px”,”redirect_on_close”:null,”template”:”{% extends “shell” %}rnrn{% block substyles %}rnrn .nag {rn padding:0;rn }rn .nag-inner {rn padding:0 20px 50px;rn }rn .nag img {rn width:auto;rn margin:0 auto;rn }rn .nag h1 {rn margin-top:-20px;rn text-transform:uppercase;rn color:#61bf1a;rn text-align:center;rn font:normal 26px/1 ‘Popular bold’, serif;rn }rn .nag h2 {rn font:bold 28px/1 ‘Benton Sans’, sans-serif;rn font-style:italic;rn text-align:center;rn }rn .nag-status {rn text-align:left;rn background:#f5f5f5 url(“{{ static_url(‘img-icon-warning.png’) }}”) 12px 10px no-repeat;rn padding:12px 35px 10px;rn margin-bottom:65px;rn }rn .nag-status p {rn display:inline-block;rn margin-bottom:0;rn font:normal 14px/1 ‘Benton Sans’, sans-serif;rn font-style:italic;rn }rn .nag-status p:first-child {rn color:#ff8200;rn font-weight:bold;rn }rn .nag-status p:last-child {rn color:#ccc;rn float:right;rn }rn .nag-status .btn-link {rn color:#61bf1a;rn }rn .nag-divider {rn border-top:1px solid #e7e7e7;rn text-align:center;rn width:100%;rn max-width:500px;rn margin:40px auto 20px;rn }rn .nag-logo {rn display:inline-block;rn background:#fff;rn padding:10px;rn margin-top:-24px;rn }rn .nag-btn {rn display:block;rn font-size:24px;rn padding:20px;rn border-radius:5px;rn margin:20px auto 0;rn }rn .log-in {rn margin:-40px auto 30px;rn max-width:400px;rn }rnrn{% endblock %}rnrn{% block page %}rn{#rnrn{{ limit – count – 1 }}rnrn{{ form.flow_form_open({nextAction: ‘firstSlide’}, null, null, ‘_top’) }}rn {{ form.btn(‘Save Now’) }}rn{{ form.flow_form_close() }}rnrnrn {{ form.get_general_error_messages((‘authenticate’)) }}rn {{ form.flow_form_open({nextAction: ‘login’}, (‘authenticate’), ‘login-form’, ‘_top’) }}rn rn {{ form.login }}rn {{ form.flow_form_close() }}rnrnrnKeep reading rnu2022 Log inrnrnrnrn#}rnrn rn

You have {{ limit – count – 1 }} articles leftrn

rn Keep readingrn u00a0u00a0u2022u00a0u00a0rn Log inrn rn rn rn rn {{ form.get_general_error_messages((‘authenticate’)) }}rn {{ form.flow_form_open({nextAction: ‘login’}, (‘authenticate’), ‘login-form’, ‘_top’) }}rn rn {{ form.login }}rn {{ form.flow_form_close() }}rn rn Save More Todayrn

Over 70% off!rn rn rn Star Tribunern rn rn

99u00a2 for first 4 weeksrn {{ form.flow_form_open({nextAction: ‘firstSlide’}, null, null, ‘_top’) }}rn {{ form.button(‘Save Now’, ‘btn nag-btn’) }}rn {{ form.flow_form_close() }}rn rnrn{% endblock %}rnrn{% block last %}rn{{ parent() }}rnrn{% endblock %}”},”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/nag/start”},{“id”:”x”,”count”:4,”action”:”ignore”,”mute”:true,”action_config”:false,”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/x/start”},{“id”:”multi-start”,”count”:3,”action”:”fly_in”,”mute”:true,”action_config”:{“location”:”bottom_left”,”slide_direction”:”bottom”,”group_id”:null,”display_delay”:”0″,”collapse_delay”:”10″,”template”:”rn.fly-in-group,rn.fly-in-group *,rn.fly-in-group *:before,rn.fly-in-group *:after {rn box-sizing:border-box;rn -moz-box-sizing:border-box;rn -webkit-box-sizing:border-box;rn box-sizing:border-box;rn -webkit-text-size-adjust:none;rn margin:0;rn padding:0;rn}rn.fly-in-group {rn position:relative;rn width:300px;rn background:#484848;rn box-shadow:0 0 10px rgba(0,0,0,.3);rn}rn.fly-in-header {rn width:300px;rn height:70px;rn}rn.fly-in-collapse {rn background:#333333 url(“https://users.startribune.com/static/flow_group/14/slide/1531/1624710778/img-nag-savemoretoday.gif”) center center no-repeat;rn width:300px;rn height:70px;rn cursor:pointer;rn}rn.fly-in-close {rn position:absolute;rn top:0;rn right:0;rn height:20px;rn width:20px;rn display:block;rn color:#FFF;rn font-size:20px;rn line-height:1;rn text-decoration:none;rn cursor:pointer;rn text-align:center;rn}rn.fly-in-close:hover {rn color:#E0E0E0;rn}rn.fly-in-body {rn text-align:center;rn}rn.fly-in-body p {rn color:white;rn font:bold 14px/1 ‘Benton Sans’, sans-serif;rn text-transform:uppercase;rn margin:30px 0 7px 0;rn text-align:center;rn font-style:italic;rn}rn.fly-in-body h2 {rn color:#fff;rn font:bold 25px/1 ‘Benton Sans’, sans-serif;rn text-align:center;rn font-style:italic;rn}rn.fly-in-body h2 span {rn color: #A4A4A4;rn text-decoration:line-through;rn}rn.fly-in-start-btn {rn color:white;rn background:#61bf1a;rn font-family:”Benton Sans”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif;rn font-weight:bold;rn line-height:1;rn text-decoration:none;rn text-transform:uppercase;rn border:none;rn -webkit-appearance:none;rn cursor:pointer;rn padding:15px 0 12px;rn display:block;rn margin:10px auto 30px;rn width:130px;rn border-radius:5px;rn font-size:16px;rn}rn.fly-in-footer {rn background:#333 url(“https://users.startribune.com/static/flow_group/14/slide/1533/2757847127/img-logo-st-sm-darkgrey.png”) center center no-repeat;rn height:35px;rn}rnrnrn rn rn u00d7rn rn rn

From justrn

$3.79 99u00a2 a weekrn Save nowrn rn rn”},”start”:”https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/multi-start/start”})};


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here