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Minority leader opposes US attorney nominee for Minnesota

February 10, 2022 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Opposition from the Senate’s top Republican to President Joe Biden’s nominee for Minnesota’s next U.S. attorney complicates his path to swift confirmation.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote to nominee Andrew Luger this week to express his concerns after a man was sentenced to 10 years below the recommended maximum for setting a deadly fire during the violent demonstrations that followed the police killing of George Floyd in 2020.

Luger, who previously served as Minnesota’s U.S. attorney under Democratic President Barack Obama, did not have a role in the case.

“I just had to place a hold on a nominee to be U.S. attorney for Minnesota because the person recently acting in that job recommended an unusually soft sentence below the maximum guideline to a convicted fatal arsonist because the arsonist was taking part in a far-left political riot at the time,” McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor, referring to the prosecution team in the case.

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The hold doesn’t block Democrats from confirming Luger, but the party may have to spend time on the floor voting on the confirmation rather than moving the nomination quickly through with unanimous consent.

Luger wrote back to McConnell and noted he “was not involved in the decision making regarding the matter” and couldn’t comment on the sentencing of Montez Lee Jr., the Star Tribune reported.

“I can, however, assure you that, if confirmed as U.S. Attorney, violent crime cases — regardless of motivation — will be prosecuted fully, and that I will require the prosecutors under my supervision to make all prosecutorial decisions based on the individual facts and circumstances of each case, and without regard to the political or ideological viewpoint of the defendant, consistent with the Principles of Federal Prosecution,” Luger wrote.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright — who could be on the shortlist to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer — sentenced Lee to 10 years in federal prison, well below the 20 years in line with federal sentencing guidelines.

Surveillance video showed Lee pouring an accelerant around a Minneapolis shop and lighting it. The remains of Oscar Lee Stewart Jr., 30, were recovered from the rubble nearly two months later. An autopsy found that Stewart died of smoke inhalation and excessive burns.

Lee was not prosecuted in Stewart’s death, and said he didn’t know anyone was in the building when he ignited it.