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Line 3 prosecutor reprimanded for sexually harassing jailed clients at prior job


Line 3 prosecutor reprimanded for sexually harassing jailed clients at prior job

Oct 03, 2023 | 1:49 pm ET
By Christopher Ingraham
Line 3 prosecutor reprimanded for sexually harassing jailed clients at prior job
Roughly 2,000 people rallied at the state Capitol Aug. 25, 2021 to protest Enbridge's Line 3 oil pipeline. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer

An Aitkin County assistant attorney prosecuting numerous Enbridge Line 3 criminal cases was formally reprimanded last month for misconduct that occurred at a previous job with the Fargo Public Defender Office.

In 2021 and 2022 Garrett Slyva sexually harassed two jailed female defendants, propositioned one of them for a date, and suggested that her answer would determine how quickly her case got resolved, according to a reprimand order from the disciplinary board of the North Dakota Supreme Court. 

Slyva was fired from the Fargo Public Defender Office after higher-ups learned of the incidents, according to the order. He later worked for the Mahnomen County Attorney’s Office, and was hired by Aitkin County in May of 2023, according to his LinkedIn page. 

Neither the Aitkin County Attorney’s Office nor Slyva responded to inquiries about the reprimand by press time. 

Near the end of 2021, according to the order, Slyva put his arm around a client at the jail. After learning of the incident the public defender’s office barred him from having face-to-face meetings with clients unless there was a glass partition between them.

Two months later, however, Slyva held face-to-face meetings with several incarcerated people at the Cass County Jail. One of them later told jail authorities that he asked questions about her relationship status, asked her out on a date, and told her that their conversation should “stay here because I have control of your next court date.”

The woman filed a report with the jail and Slyva was fired later that month. 

In a disciplinary hearing held earlier this year, Slyva admitted to putting his arm around the first woman, according to the reprimand order. But he denied asking the other for a date, claiming she misunderstood him.

But the hearing board members found that the woman’s testimony was credible. It recommended the formal reprimand, and ordered that Slyva pay close to $6,000 to cover the costs of the hearing. 

Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline was the source of significant protests in northern Minnesota during its planning and construction, leading to arrests and prosecutions. A northern Minnesota judge recently dismissed misdemeanor criminal charges against Anishinaabeg activist Winona LaDuke and two others accused of disrupting construction of the pipeline project in 2021, while offering a powerful indictment of the prosecution. 

As an assistant attorney in Aitkin County, Slyva prosecuted the LaDuke case, as well as several other criminal cases against Line 3 protestors. He is still working on several more, according to Claire Glenn, a staff attorney with the Climate Defense Project.

“It is deeply concerning that Slyva not only retains his license to practice law, but has failed up in such an extreme way — fired by the public defender’s office in North Dakota, he now has the power to prosecute people here in Minnesota,” Glenn wrote via email. She also noted that a majority of prosecuted Line 3 protestors have been women.

“Imagine being charged with a crime, not having a lawyer, being directed by the court to confer with the prosecutor about potential resolution of your case, and Slyva hits on you,” she said. “It’s horrific.”