Minnesota Innocence Project
The second annual “Hotrod and Motorcycle Breakout” benefit for the Minnesota Innocence Project was held on Saturday, August 2, 2014 and generated $2000 in cash donations. This year the event hosted approximately 100 classic cars and 500 spectators. Those numbers were nearly three times more than 2013’s totals. In addition to the scheduled speakers, many attendees were compelled to share their personal stories throughout the day creating an atmosphere filled with laughter, tears, and important awareness about the issue of wrongful convictions.
Speakers for the day included: Amy Tomczyk, interim Executive Director of the Minnesota Innocence Project; Steve Kaplan, the lead Attorney on the Wisconsin Monfils case; Michael Piaskowski, the Wisconsin exoneree of the Monfils Case; Denis Gullickson and John Gaie, co-authors of the book The Monfils Conspiracy; and Trudy Baltazar, a citizen advocate notable for her advocacy work in the Koua Fong Lee exoneration case of Minnesota.
Important sponsors that helped make the event possible: Gene Kohler, the owner of Route 65 Classics in Ham Lake, MN and Sue Stang, the General Manager, hosted the event (both years); Brad Slawson Sr. and Jr., owners of Route 65 Pub and Grub in East Bethel, MN, supplied the food and drinks and they attained sponsorship from Budweiser (who supplied us with two 4×8’ promotional banners). Kathy Sauvageau, who manages the Route 65 Pub and Grub bar and restaurant, assisted with organizing the pub’s participation and serving food. Chuck Brost, owner of Tunes to Go in Spring Lake Park, MN, provided entertainment through music and trivia. Christi Williams, owner of Grinkie Photography in Minneapolis, MN, documented the day through photos and promoted them on social media. Dahlke Trailer Sales in Fridley, MN donated and set up a large platform for the second year in a row for use as a stage.
Also in attendance from the Green Bay area were Shirley DeLorme, who hosts monthly Friends and Family meetings in Green Bay, WI for the families of the wrongfully convicted men of the Monfils Case and Clayton and Brenda Kutska, their son Mathew, and Brenda’s Mom Claire. The Kutskas are family members of one of the five innocent men.
For more information about the day read The Relevance of Making Each Day Count…
A letter written by Joan Treppa to news reporters prior to the Innocence March in Green Bay, WI on 10/28/13.
The Inspiration Continues
Many who read this may wonder why I have not let this Monfils issue rest. Everyone has their opinion about whether the six men are guilty or not and so do I. I’m just more vocal about it. The thing is, after years of unrelenting determination and persistence in search of the truth, I still have not seen or heard anything to prove that they murdered anyone. Not one person has ever given me a credible argument as to why they believe in the guilt of these men so I continue my pursuit of justice on their behalf. I have never been alone in that pursuit and the list of believers keeps growing. The Wisconsin Innocence Project now has help from the Minnesota Innocence Project as well as a very large and respectable law firm here in Minneapolis. Significant time has been spent pouring over and discussing the so called evidence and it just isn’t there!
The continued courage and endurance I witness among the family members fuels my drive to see justice served also. These people represent the collateral damage that no one talks about. They signify the rest of the tragedy that no one ever acknowledges and even though their lives have been ruined, few seem to care. Somehow they still find the strength to hold their heads up and take pride in the fact that none of these men has ever caved under pressure by admitting to something they did not do. I wonder how many of us could endure that kind of pressure.
I have earned the trust of these family members and I will again walk proudly with them in the name of truth and justice on Monday, October 28th at 5:30 pm at the Brown County Courthouse, because to me, that is what this is all about; to verify the absolute truth about what actually happened and to encourage justice for all involved, whether it be for the first victim in this tragedy or for all of the other “collateral damage” that has followed.
The Benefit for Innocence fundraiser hosted by the Innocence Project of Minnesota that featured guest speaker Brian Banks, an exoneree and NFL hopeful. People integral to the re-investigation of the Monfils Case that attended the event included Joan Treppa, Johnny Johnson, John Gaie, Mike Piaskowski (the only man in the Monfils Case to have been exonerated to-date), and Steve Kaplan. Also, exonerees Audrey Edmunds and Damon Thibodeaux, both currently living in Minnesota, were there to show support for the organization and its mission.