Ex-MPD officer pleads guilty to assault, apologizes to victim

Pushback over police beating plea deal

Pushback over police beating plea deal

A former Minneapolis police officer admitted Wednesday that he “crossed a line” when he repeatedly kicked and punched Jaleel Stallings during the May 2021 riots.

Justin Stetson pleaded guilty to third degree assault and misconduct of a public officer. However, the felony assault charge will be cleared off his record in two years if he abides by the terms of his probation.

The charges are in connection with the beating of Stallings, who fired back in self-defense after he was struck by a less-lethal round from an unmarked van during riots that broke out following the death of George Floyd.

RELATED: Former Minneapolis officer charged with assault in Jaleel Stallings beating

As part of the plea deal Wednesday morning, Stetson’s attorney, Fred Bruno said the Department of Justice won’t file federal civil or criminal charges against Stetson.

Court records show his sentencing hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.

According to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office, state sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender with no criminal history recommend a stayed sentence and probation. Ellison’s office says the state recommends Stetson have a two-year sentence for the misconduct charge, but if found to violate his probation terms, a prison sentence may be issued. The state is also looking to have a stay of adjudication for the assault charge, but if he violates the probation, the court can vacate the stay and convict Stetson of third-degree felony assault, which could cost him up to five years in prison.

In addition, Ellison’s office says with the guilty plea to the assault charge, Stetson can no longer serve as a police officer in Minnesota.

Stallings filed a 15-page motion on Monday objecting to the possibility that Stetson could avoid a felony conviction by pleading to the lesser charge.

“The proposed agreement fails to hold Stetson accountable for the significant harm to me, his profession, and the community he swore to protect.”

Stallings, in the motion filed on Monday

RELATED: Jaleel Stallings files objection to possible plea that would allow former MPD officer to avoid jail

Stallings is an army veteran who was legally armed at the time of the incident, according to the complaint. He said when he was firing back in self-defense after being hit in the chest by a rubber bullet on the night of May 30, 2020, he didn’t know he was firing at police officers.

The complaint states that over the course of about 30 seconds, Stetson beat Stallings by kicking him, punching him in the head, slamming his head into the pavement, and striking him with his knee. Another officer held Stallings’ hands behind his back while Stetson continued punching him.

Eventually, the second officer told Stetson, “That’s it, stop!” before grabbing Stetson’s wrist and saying, “It’s OK,” ending the beating, court records state.

Stallings suffered a facial fracture from the assault, which legally amounts to “substantial bodily harm,” the complaint states.

Stallings was initially accused of trying to kill police officers but was acquitted of all charges after claiming self-defense. In addition, he later won a $1.5 million settlement from Minneapolis in exchange for dropping an excessive force lawsuit. However, the city still denies all claims and all liability.

A round of videos released on Oct. 5, 2021, as a part of the criminal case against Stallings, show officers celebrating after striking a protestor with a less-lethal round, saying “Gotcha!” followed by laughter. Another officer fist-bumped the officer and congratulated them.

In another video, one officer said to another, “You guys are out hunting people now. It’s a nice change of tempo.” The officer replied, “Yup, agreed.”

RELATED: New bodycam video shows officers discussed ‘hunting’ down protesters with less-lethal rounds