ST. PAUL — The American Indian Movement activist charged with toppling the Christopher Columbus statue at the state Capitol in June will not serve prison time, but instead must complete 100 hours of community service.
A Ramsey County District Court judge approved a recommendation Monday, Dec. 7, that the active prosecution of the case be suspended for one year, until the man charged — Michael Anthony Forcia — completes 100 hours of community service. Restitution for the statue will be revisited at a later date, as it has not yet been decided if the statue will be replaced.
Forcia, 57, of New Brighton, was charged with one count of felony criminal damage to property for his involvement in toppling the statue on June 10, shortly after the death of George Floyd that caused widespread civil unrest in the Twin Cities.
A restorative justice process consisting of three discussion circles made up of community members concluded that a jail or prison sentence would not be appropriate for Forcia’s actions.
“In fact, it would be detrimental to responding to what happened,” said Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Sarah Cory at a hearing Monday. Cory said she acknowledges that violence has been inflicted on the Native people, resulting in trauma that exists to the present day. Cory added that multiple inquiries to have the statue removed were made, but that no legal mechanism existed to remove it.
Additionally, Forcia does not have any previous criminal history.
Instead, it was decided that completing 100 hours of community service that provides education and participation in other restorative practices to further heal the community would be suitable. Forcia said at Monday’s hearing that he likely will complete more than 100 hours.
“I look forward to the community service; I look forward to the discussions that we are going to be having,” Forcia said.
Forcia also acknowledged in the agreement the significance the statue has for the Italian-American community. He added that some members of the Native community did not agree with his actions in toppling the statue.
“I will work to restore community peace and seek to repair the harm that I have caused,” he said in the agreement.
Forcia must also write an apology letter and remain law abiding in addition to completing community service. He will have quarterly check-ins to ensure he completes his service on time.
Forcia’s attorney Jack Rice commended the restorative justice process, which brought together diverse people from the community to look at the case.
“The opportunity to have those voices heard, I think is unique and critical, and something that frequently doesn’t happen in the more traditional criminal justice system that I know that the court has been involved in for decades,” he said at Monday’s hearing.