An independent oversight board tasked with monitoring the integrity of Minnesota’s litigators declined for the second time in less than 45 days to pursue allegations of ethical misconduct against Carver County Attorney Mark Metz. Members of a fringe fan group believing Prince died via intentional homicide filed a series of documents describing a wide array of perceived infractions late last year with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (OLPR), a sanctioned body of the Minnesota State Bar Association headed by Susan Humiston.
Appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2016 and with prior experience on Minnesota’s 4th District ethics committee, Susan and her staff took the claims seriously, investigated them thoroughly and responded to the fans promptly.
In short, the fans felt Metz’ decision to abandon pursuit of criminal charges stemmed from a loose relationship between Prince’s longtime friend and collaborator, Kirk Johnson, and Metz’ wife, whom it is widely believed once received personal fitness services from Kirk.
A response from the OLPR and signed by both Susan Huniston and her deputy director first cites the applicable state statute and outlines grounds for violation. The OLPR’s letter next details its findings.
“Your complaint does not state a basis for a reasonable belief that Mr. Metz had a conflict of interest, which could give rise to a violation of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, based solely on his marriage to K.S.M. and her connection to Kirk Johnson,” the response explains. “This is because Mr. Metz’ marriage, by itself, is insufficient to demonstrate a personal interest conflict.”
The OLPR’s official reply to the fan complaints goes on to say, “there is no allegation in this complaint that Mr. Metz personally knows Kirk or, even if he does know Kirk, that this type of connection would create a substantive risk that Mr. Metz’ present discretion would be materially limited.”
The reply closes by saying, “For these reasons, your complaint will not be investigated.”
An appeal of the OLPR’s decision to forego pursuit of any investigation was subsequently filed by Minnesota resident Nicole Welage. The appeal outlines the group’s theory that Kirk Johnson conspired to murder Prince, as well as other comments on the case's evidence, law enforcement's tactics during their investigation and perceived inaccuracies contained in witness statements. The appeal, which was referred to an independent attorney named Allen Witz and has been posted here for inspection, was likewise denied.
Welage was among a group of fans who delivered a petition to the U.S. Attorney's Office in September of last year seeking a grand jury investigation into Prince's death. More than 6,000 signatures are reported to have been attached to the petition. Welage did not return requests for comment on the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct or on the OLPR's decision to decline pursuit of disciplinary actions.
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