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Rejected: Half of Sex Assault Cases Minnesota Police Send to Prosecutors Never Result in Charges

They reject cases that include DNA evidence, witnesses, and sometimes even confessions, records show.

By Brandon Stahl, Jennifer Bjorhus and MaryJo Webster 

Hannah Traaseth told the deputies things she had been too afraid and ashamed to tell her father.

How she got into the car of a man she had never met before. How he and his friend had taken turns raping her, an experience so violent that she said she later texted a friend, “My body hurts.”

Traaseth was 13. The men were 21.

Investigators in Wisconsin and Maplewood spent the next 8 months working the case, even though Traaseth, afraid for her safety, initially misled them on how she met the men and where the assault occurred. Still, detectives combed through her text messages and social media accounts to identify possible suspects, and Traaseth soon told them everything. Then they obtained warrants for Facebook accounts, arrested and questioned two men and took samples of their DNA, which matched the samples found on the teenager’s underwear.

Police, convinced the evidence was strong enough to charge both men with rape, sent the case to the office of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi in May of 2016.

“We generally don’t send cases over unless we think there’s enough evidence,” said David Kvam, a commander at the Maplewood Police Department.

Choi’s office declined to charge the men, saying in a letter to the family that the teenager’s “conflicting versions” of what happened that night made it unlikely they would win at trial.

“We strongly believe that no responsible prosecutor in the state of Minnesota would charge this case,” Choi told the Star Tribune.

Bradley Traaseth, Hannah’s father, begged Maplewood police to resubmit the case.

They did. Five months later, Choi’s office again declined to press charges, citing the same reasons. In total, Choi’s office would review the case four times, each time electing not to charge either of the men.

Bradley Traaseth is still furious.

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