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Attorney General Ellison puts nuisance properties on formal notice they may be sued

 

October 12, 2022



Along with Hennepin County and City of Minneapolis, provides notices to Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas Station in Minneapolis they are permitting or maintaining illegal public nuisances, may be sued in 30 days

Documents 36 instances of shots fired, people injured, weapons possession, and drug dealing and possession at these locations—including three shootings last month

OCTOBER 11, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office, with the assistance of the Hennepin County Attorney and the Minneapolis City Attorney, has completed its investigation of Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas Station in Minneapolis and has determined that illegal public nuisances are ongoing at the properties. Attorney General Ellison, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, and Minneapolis City Attorney Kristyn Anderson have provided Merwin and Winner with official notices that unlawful public nuisance activity is occurring on their properties in violation of Minnesota law, and that a complaint for relief will be filed in district court in 30 days if they do not abate the nuisance conduct or reach an agreement for abatement with the Attorney General’s Office, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, and the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office.

Both locations have been the sites of recent violence and their properties are host to widespread drug activity. The notices document 14 instances at Merwin Liquors and 22 instances at Winner Gas Station of shots fired, people injured, weapons possession, and drug dealing and possession in 2022 alone. These include at least three large-scale shootings in September 2022. The properties continue to be a source of alarming activity, despite the businesses being put on notice last month of this nuisance investigation.

“Creating safe communities means using all the civil and criminal tools of the law to keep people safe from violence, and it means creating stable housing, good schools, healthy environments, and a fair economy where everyone can get ahead. And it takes all of us working together to make that happen,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I’m thankful for the partnership with Hennepin County, the City of Minneapolis, and all the community members who’ve stepped up to help us correct dangerous conditions at these establishments. I look forward to working constructively with these businesses as they abate these conditions so neighbors can thrive and feel safe wherever they go, as everyone in every neighborhood has a right to.”

The Attorney General’s investigation, undertaken with the assistance of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, focused on widespread criminal activity that has occurred on the respective properties of Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas Station. The investigation has further revealed that similar unlawful nuisance activity remains ongoing on their premises.

Comprehensive approach to public safety, using civil and criminal law

Attorney General Ellison’s nuisance investigation against Merwin and Winners, first announced on September 15, is part of a comprehensive approach to public safety that includes using civil and criminal law.

Stopping illegal straw purchases of guns. Last week, on October 5, Attorney General Ellison sued Fleet Farm for negligently selling guns to straw purchasers, aiding and abetting these criminals, creating a public nuisance, and contributing to gun trafficking in Minnesota by allowing guns to get into the wrong hands. One such gun was used in a shootout in Saint Paul just one year ago that resulted in one death and 14 people wounded.

Holding problem property-owners accountable. In October 2019, Attorney General Ellison sued notorious Minneapolis slumlord Stephen Meldahl for deceiving tenants about his “eviction for profit” scheme and illegally barring them from contacting city building inspectors about their living conditions. In November 2021, a court agreed after trial that Meldahl knowingly and in bad faith violated the rights of 267 families who rented from him, citing conditions of “Biblical plague proportions” that tenants lived in. The court later awarded the Attorney General’s Office more than $1 million in attorneys’ fees.

In February 2022, Attorney General Ellison sued hedge fund-owned mega-landlord Havenbrook Homes for failing to repair its Minnesota rental properties, in violation of Minnesota law.

Fighting dangerous, untraceable ghost guns. On August 19, 2021, Attorney General Ellison joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the ATF to finalize regulations that would classify “ghost guns” as firearms under federal law. After the rule’s introduction, Attorney General Ellison also joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the ATF rule on July 11, 2022. A court agreed with Attorney General Ellison and dismissed the lawsuit challenging the rule, and the rule went into effect on August 24, 2022.

• Criminal prosecution. Under Minnesota Statutes Sec. 8.01, a county attorney may refer a felony criminal matter — over which they have original jurisdiction under Minnesota Statutes Sec. 388.051 — to the Attorney General’s office for prosecution. Since Attorney General Ellison took office in 2019, county attorneys have referred 47 felony criminal cases to his office. So far, Attorney General Ellison’s office has won 26 convictions and has not lost a single criminal case referred since 2019.

Attorney General Ellison is seeking input from community members and local stakeholders. He strongly encourages individuals with eyewitness accounts of unlawful behavior at the Merwin and Winners locations to come forward by contacting the Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 or by submitting a complaint online.

 

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