A grand jury has handed a four- count indictment against former Minneapolis City Council Member Dean Zimmerman, according to the U.S Attorney’s office. The U.S Attorney for Minnesota, Thomas Heffelinger, said Zimmerman was indicted on three counts of accepting cash and one count of soliciting property, a retaining wall, from people with business before the City.
The cash amounts Zimmerman allegedly accepted amount to $7,200, prompting questions about whether this was small-time corruption.
“I guess it’s up to a jury to decide how much corruption is too much. Is it a dollar? Five thousand dollars? Where do you draw the line?” said Heffelfinger Wednesday at an afternoon press conference.
This is the second indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s office against a sitting or former Minneapolis City Council member since Heffelfinger began his appointment. The U.S. Attorney indicted Joe Biernat in 2002 for accepting services from a plumber’s union. Biernat was convicted and served prison time. If convicted, Zimmerman could face a 10-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine for each count.
Zimmerman’s supporters, which include the Minnesota Green Party, say the timing of the initial investigation was strange. Zimmerman’s home was raided just days before the primary election in September.
“I think a lot of Green Party members question the timing of a very public raid of materials that are unrelated to these charges,” said Green Party spokesperson Stephen Eisenmenger.
“Certainly we felt at that point it could have been handled in a different way,” he said.
Heffelfinger dismissed criticisms that the investigation, or the indictment, were politically motivated.
“As you can see in the indictment, Zimmerman accepted $1,000 on August 31 of 2005. A search warrant was executed soon after,” said Heffelfinger. “That is the due course of an investigation.”
No trial date has yet been set. Zimmerman was not available for comment.