RNC Eight informant faces criminal charges


Andrew Clark Darst was scheduled to appear before Hennepin County District Court Judge Daniel Mabley at 3 p.m. Monday afternoon. The 30-year-old Minnetrista resident faces five criminal charges that include burglary and assault.

According to the criminal complaint, Darst showed up at a Minnetrista housewarming party on Jan. 11 looking for his wife, with whom he’d quarreled earlier in the evening. Darst allegedly kicked in the door of the home and physically assaulted two individuals attending the party. “The defendant appeared to be full of rage and anger,” the complaint states.

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The incident might be dismissed as a routine domestic dispute — except for Darst’s prior interactions with law enforcement. He previously served as an undercover informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, helping to build a case against the so-called RNC Eight. The group of activists are charged with criminally conspiring to disrupt the Republican National Convention held in St. Paul in September. But Darst’s own alleged criminal acts have raised questions about his credibility as an informant in the high-profile prosecutions.

Darst’s scheduled 3 p.m. court appearance never occurred, however. Apparently owing to scheduling conflicts for attorneys involved in the case, the legal matter was dealt with in an impromptu hearing earlier in the day.

According to a tape recording of the proceeding, Darst agreed to waive his right to a jury trial. Instead Mabley will decide his guilt or innocence based on written records related to the case.

Despite the unusual legal arrangement, prosecutors continue to insist that Darst is guilty of the alleged crimes. “He had reasonable alternatives available, including calling the police if he was concerned about the safety of his wife and he had the option to retreat from the dwelling,” said Assistant Hennepin County Attorney John Halla during the hearing. “He did neither.”

But the legal machinations have left some wondering if Darst might have struck a deal with the prosecution in order to avoid a trial.

“Otherwise why not just go to trial and let a jury decide?” asks Jordan Kushner, an attorney representing one member of the RNC Eight, Luce Guillen-Givins. “I would have to guess there’s more to this than what’s on the record.”

Whether these suspicions are justified will be known shortly. Mabley is slated to rule on the criminal charges facing Darst next Monday.