Updated: July 12, 2021 07:47 PM
Created: July 12, 2021 07:23 PM
Questions continue to swirl around Minnesota state Rep. John Thompson regarding everything from his residency to how he obtained a Wisconsin driver's license to the circumstances surrounding a traffic stop by St. Paul Police. On top of that, he faces an ethics complaint from a Republican Minnesota state representative who says Thompson called him a "racist" on the House floor.
Thompson hasn't responded to requests for comment from 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS but, on his Facebook page, he posted a message Sunday that said, "I know why I have a (target) on my back. But just know slander wont (sic) work either!!! Im (sic) not going to stop applying pressure!!"
It's unclear whom Thompson is accusing of slander.
At 7 p.m. Monday, Thompson released an official statement through his Minnesota House office saying he will allow the body camera video of his traffic stop to be released.
"There have been calls to release the bodycam footage from my stop, which I want to make clear I fully support," Thompson said. "It is within the power of the St. Paul Police to release that footage, and I am not a barrier to that. In the video, you won't see the officer do anything that isn't by the book, but the issue is we need to rewrite the book. I do not know the officer who pulled me over, and I have no reason to believe they have any hate towards me specifically. Officers do, however, work in a system that has allowed these too often pretextual traffic stops to continue despite tragic consequences."
Thompson's full statement can be seen below, or click here if you're on a mobile device.
Earlier Monday, the St. Paul Police Department said it was seeking an opinion from the city attorney about whether it can release police bodycam video of the traffic stop involving Thompson without Thompson's permission. Thompson has accused St. Paul Police of racial profiling and pulling him over because he was "driving while Black." Police deny that and Chief Todd Axtell has asked Thompson to apologize.
"The videos aren't public (typically), so he wouldn't have to do anything to prevent us from releasing it," St. Paul Police spokesman Steve Linders said. "On the other hand, if he wanted it released, he would have to proactively request it. We could release the video without his permission if it meets the legal threshold, which requires that the circumstances meet one of these criteria: Aid law enforcement, promote public safety (or) dispel rumor or unrest."
Now that Thompson publicly says he'll give permission to have it released, that could happen as early as Tuesday.
On Sunday, DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin issued a statement that was a rare public rebuke of a sitting DFL state lawmaker.
"Nobody is above the law, including our elected officials," Martin said in the statement. "We expect all of our elected officials, regardless of party, to not only follow the law, but to hold themselves to the highest standards. Whether they like it or not, their words, actions, and behavior are going to be scrutinized by the public. As such it is important for people in positions of power and influence to model the type of behavior we expect from everyone. Representative John Thompson fell short of that standard, and I am disappointed by his recent actions."
Martin declined an interview request on Monday to expand on that statement.
In Thompson's statement released Monday night, he accepted responsibility for failure to have a front license plate as required by law. He says his family recently bought the car and didn't have the right tool to attach the front license plate.
In his statement, he also acknowledged having a Wisconsin driver's license instead of a Minnesota driver's license and offered an explanation.
"I previously lived in Wisconsin, and my family and I considered moving back there to care for a family member, who will now be coming to live here," Thompson said. "I live and work in St. Paul, and have for many years. My Wisconsin license hadn't previously posed an issue for me, but I will now be changing it to a Minnesota license, as I should have before. During my stop, I was also informed that my license had been suspended for a minor child support issue, one which was resolved long ago. I owe $0 in child support."
It's still unclear what address Thompson used to obtain a Wisconsin driver's license or if he claims that as his primary address. If he does, it would impact his eligibility to serve in the Minnesota Legislature.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which oversees driver's licenses in that state, if they're investigating whether Thompson is eligible to hold a Wisconsin driver's license.
"To receive a driver license in Wisconsin, one must show proof of Wisconsin address, and their name/Wisconsin address must be on file with USPS in order to receive the license in the mail," a spokesperson said in a written response. "We have not been presented with evidence that the customer does not maintain a residence in Wisconsin."
There are multiple questions about where Thompson lives that have all come to light since his traffic stop on July 4 for failure to have a front license plate on his vehicle. The address he gave police that is listed on his traffic citation is in St. Paul, but it's more than three miles from his nearest district boundary. State law says, "Candidates for the legislature must meet legislative residency requirements when elected. This means that at the time of the general election, a candidate for the legislature must have resided in the state for one year and must have resided in the legislative district for six months."
As for whether he officially considers Minnesota or Wisconsin his primary residence, it's unclear who would even investigate that. Our first inquiry was to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office that oversees election filings. A spokesman said that office doesn't do the investigating of residency questions.
"No, we don't have any authority to investigate this," Communications Director Peter Bartz-Gallagher said. "An investigation ... would come from a complaint filed by citizen in the district, and go through the relevant county attorney."
Next, we called the Ramsey County Attorney's office and were told they believe it's the responsibility of the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. That led us to inquire with that state agency.
"The Office of Administrative Hearings does not have jurisdiction to hear challenges to elected officials' residence," spokesperson Kendra Schmit responded. "OAH only has jurisdiction to hear election-related complaints if they allege violation of Minn. Stat. 211A (campaign financial reporting for local candidates) or 211B (Fair Campaign Practices Act)."
Also Monday, a Republican state lawmaker revealed he has filed an ethics complaint against Thompson. Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, said Thompson called him "racist" twice on the House floor during a June 19 debate and released video from the House floor to prove it. Lucero called Thompson's comments "shockingly racist, bigoted and narrow-minded."
"Rep. Thompson's actions directed at a sitting Member on the floor of the House of Representatives bring absolute dishonor and disrepute to this body," Lucero said in a statement where he also said he's a Hispanic minority. "Rep. Thompson's comments were destructive to the integrity of the body and its adopted code of conduct. They further, and most importantly, served to impugn Rep. Lucero's character. Such direct attempts by one Member to bully and intimidate another on the House floor cannot be tolerated."
The ethics complaint has been forwarded to the Minnesota House Ethics Committee.
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