May enters plea in gun incident

by Kamariea Forcier

Attorneys agreed to disagree Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court in the case of Jennifer Joan May, the woman charged with firing a handgun last June into University President Nils Hasselmo’s office.
In her introduction of the case, Elizabeth Cutter, assistant Hennepin county attorney, told Judge Peter Lindberg that May would plead guilty to all four counts of second-degree assault stemming from the incident.
But May’s attorney, George Ludcke, said his client had only agreed to plead guilty to one count, to which Cutter responded, “Your honor, the state is not willing to dismiss any counts. In order to do that we would have to go to trial.”
May spoke for the first time in court about what took place last June 11 in Hasselmo’s office. She said she entered the president’s office with a handgun in her purse, but added, “I didn’t go there to shoot anybody.”
During questioning, Cutter and May debated whether May pointed the gun at the head of one of four witnesses during the incident in Hasselmo’s office.
When Cutter said Karen Benson, Hasselmo’s executive assistant, told police that May pointed the gun at her head, May said, “I held that gun to nobody’s head.
“I did it like this,” she said, pointing with her index finger and waving it loosely at Cutter. “And I said, ‘I’m not going to hurt you.'”
Questions arose as to whether May felt she was really guilty of any crime. “I don’t believe I’m guilty, so to speak,” she said. “I’m guilty because I went in there with a gun, but I wasn’t going to hurt anybody.”
May said she went into Hasselmo’s office to get him to listen to her complaints about her former boss.
May worked in the chemistry department at the University from 1987 to 1991 as a secretary. In spring 1991, she filed charges of sexual harassment against Ronald Gentry, the head of the department and her boss. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at the University dismissed May’s charges in August of that year.
Gentry said in a written statement last summer that he and May had a “mutual and consensual romantic relationship.” The statement also alleged that May threatened to file a grievance against him after he ended their relationship. He eventually received a restraining order against May from a Hennepin County judge.
May said Tuesday that she was being harassed by her former boss and said each time she tried to contact Hasselmo’s office about it, she received “the runaround.”
“My actions were kind of extreme,” she said. “But I was trying to get some help here.”
May said that although her actions were not justified, she was acting in self-defense.
“I thought maybe I’d just scare them. I was upset and frightened and at the end of my rope,” said May.
May is scheduled to appear before Judge Lindberg March 18 to determine how the other three counts against her will be handled. Until then, Lindberg ordered May to continue with the rules of her probationary release from jail, which include continued medical and psychiatric treatments and no contact with the University.