Bill in honor of Waseca officer passes Senate committee

Published 3:41 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2021

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The Senate’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that strengthens state criminal penalties for individuals who are convicted of assault that causes great bodily harm to a police officer, judge, prosecutor or correctional officer. 

The legislation, chief authored by Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, increases the maximum sentence from 20 to 25 years for great bodily harm, and if the assault causes great bodily harm and was committed with deadly force or using a dangerous weapon, from 20 to 30 years, according to a press release.

In either case, a perpetrator would serve a longer mandatory minimum sentence in prison. 

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The bill is in honor of Officer Arik Matson, a Waseca police officer and Freeborn resident who was nearly killed in the line of duty in January 2020.

Waseca Police officer Arik Matson is steadied by his wife, Megan, as he reads a statement at Tyler Janovsky’s sentencing hearing in November at the Waseca County Courthouse.  Pat Christman/Mankato Free Press

Testifiers in support of the bill included Matson and his wife, Megan; Waseca County Attorney Rachel Cornelius; and Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Executive Director Brian Peters.

“We are extremely grateful for Minnesota’s police officers who put their lives on the line, in the hardest of circumstances, to keep us safe,” Jasinski said. “This is a common sense, pro-public safety measure that honors Officer Matson’s service — and the service of every law enforcement officer — by showing the community’s strong support for police and the tough work they do every day.”

Megan Matson said the legislation will bring “a higher level of justice to horrific situations involving criminals that try to take the lives of our loved ones — officers that put it all on the line.”

Waseca County Attorney Rachel Cornelius said the current law is inadequate for cases involving the use of deadly force and the causing of great bodily harm against law enforcement and other justice partners. 

“While increased penalties exist for assaults against average citizens, prosecutors lack the same tool for those who have inflicted great bodily harm against law enforcement,” Cornelius said. “This legislation will enhance punishments, bringing parity to the law and giving appropriate consequences for crimes that cause years and years of recovery for the victims.” 

The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it awaits a hearing.