"I believe strongly that there is redemption."
That's how Mark Andrew, a former Hennepin County commissioner, explained why he urged a judge not to impose a prison sentence for three teenagers who brutally assaulted him last December.
Instead, the judge Tuesday sentenced one of the three to undergo three months of intensive therapy, graduate from high school, and participate in a year-long arts program, MPR News reports.
It was a brazen assault that caught the attention of the public last December.
Andrew, 63, was having coffee at a Starbuck's in the Mall of America when a teenage boy grabbed his iPhone from his table and ran off.
When Andrew chased the thief, he was attacked by two teenage girls. One of the girls jumped on Andrew’s back while the other struck Andrew in the head several times with a retractable metal baton.
Andrew suffered a large cut on the top of his head, which required nine stitches. He also suffered a concussion and broken teeth.
Given the injuries he received, Andrew might have been expected to argue for tough penalties against the three assailants.
But in an interview with Tom Crann of MPR News Tuesday, Andrew said he wants to see them turn their lives around, and prison time won't help them do that.
"I believe in humankind and I believe in restorative justice," Andrew said. "I didn't see the value in incarcerating any of these three for a long period of time."
Instead, he asked the judge to sentence them to mandatory counseling, anger management and family counseling, according to MPR. Andrew also asked that they be required to graduate from high school as well as participate in an arts program.
If those conditions are not met, the three could be sent to prison.
One of the teenagers, Deea LeShawn Elliot, 18, pleaded guilty in court Tuesday to an assault charge, and was sentenced as Andrew wished. Andrew said they spoke face to face.
"She came over to me and apologized, and I hugged her, and she just broke down in my arms," Andrew told MPR. "To me, it was a beautiful moment, because I could see how badly she felt. It was very, very healing."