A suspect who was bailed out of jail by a fund touted by then-vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris and other members of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign staff has been charged with murder.
Police in Minneapolis took George Howard into custody Aug. 29 after the domestic abuser and repeat offender allegedly shot and killed Lis Martinez Ortiz, 38, in what’s being called a road rage incident.
About three weeks earlier, the Minnesota Freedom Fund bailed Howard out after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence, the organization acknowledged in a statement.
“We are aware of reports of the tragic and fatal shooting in Minneapolis earlier this week allegedly involving George Howard, an individual the Minnesota Freedom Fund had previously provided with bail support,” the group Friday.
“MFF believes that every individual who has been arrested by the law enforcement is innocent until proven guilty, and if a judge deems them eligible for bail, they should not have to wait in jail simply because they don’t have the same income or access to resources as others,” the organization added.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 1, 2020
The group formed in the wake of deadly and destructive riots following the police-involved murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.
During her campaign, Harris praised and promoted the organization and urged followers to donate to it. Donors also consisted of U.S. corporations such as Adidas, though the fund also bailed out sexual abuse suspects including one accused of penetrating a minor. At least 13 Biden campaign staffers also donated to the MFF, according to DCNF.
Many of the suspects bailed out by the fund were also violent offenders including males who were charged with beating and strangling women in their homes.
In addition, the fund bailed out a man accused of sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl in September.
Thirty-six-year-old Timothy Columbus was facing up to 30 years in prison for the alleged sexual assault in 2015, according to court records. He was let out of jail in Minneapolis in July on just $75,000 bond.
The MFF also posted bail in August 2020 for a man who was arrested for assaulting a 71-year-old woman while he burglarized her home, according to court documents. He was then found to be in violation of his bail just a week after he was released.
Harris faced widespread criticism following her promotion and endorsement of the organization shortly after the Floyd incident. American Bail Coalition executive director Jeffrey Clayton said MFF “definitely got a windfall” after her endorsement and managed to haul in $35 million, which it has since struggled to spend on bail.
Reports noted that of the $3.5 million the group has spent, just $210,000 went to bail out people involved in the rioting in Minneapolis following the riots after Floyd’s death.
In 2018, two years before Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, the fund had only raised about $100,000, according to tax filings.
At the time that Harris and Biden’s campaign was touting and donating to the MFF, then-spokesman Andrew Bates, now serving as White House deputy press secretary, defended the money, calling the requirement for cash bail a “modern-day debtors prison.”
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