Veterans Defense Project Board

Immediate Past Chair: John Kingrey

John Kingrey retired after more than 14 years as the executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association. He previously was a senior vice-president with the Minnesota Hospital Association and served as a staff assistant to Governor Rudy Perpich. Kingrey also served a combined 30 years in the Marine Corps and Army Reserves before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He currently volunteers for several veteran’s organizations and serves on the Boards of the Innocence Project MN, Animal Folks, and the Armed Forces Service Center.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Chair: Keith LeBlanc

Keith LeBlanc is a retired executive who spent a career in Sales, marketing and General Management. Keith’s a Vietnam Veteran who served on an Advisory Team as an intelligence asset working in the Phoenix program. Keith’s business background was in the consumer package goods industry, wholesale paper distribution and printing and packaging manufacturing Industry. Keith has spent the last 3 years as volunteer mentor in the Ramsey County Veterans diversion court program. Keith serves on several boards but is committed to serving returning veterans to insure they are treated respectfully and supported by the VA system. Keith was King Boreas for the Saint Paul Winter Carnival in 2011 and is on the ICE LLC . Board of Governor’s building an Ice Palace in St Paul for the 2018 Super Bowl year in Minnesota.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Vice Chair: Evan Tsai

Evan Tsai is a United States Marine veteran, Defense Attorney and litigator with the League of Minnesota Cities.  Previously, Mr. Tsai served as Assistant Public Defender in Ramsey County, Minnesota where he practiced in criminal defense. Mr. Tsai is also an adjunct law professor at William Mitchell College of Law and a legal writing instructor at Metropolitan State University. Mr. Tsai is also a frequent guest speaker at area high schools and colleges, including the University of Minnesota. He volunteers his time to judge collegiate mock trial. Mr. Tsai is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law where he co-founded the William Mitchell Journal of Law and Practice. He received the CALI Award in Public Health Law and was the recipient of several scholarships, including the Robert E. Oliphant Marine Corps Scholarship. Mr. Tsai received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Mr. Tsai was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1999. Mr. Tsai spends his free time performing with fellow former public defenders in the band “The Family Feedbag.” He plays bass and acoustic guitar; piano; drums and electric organ.

Mr. Tsai also serves as a board member for the Ramsey County Bar Association, the Minnesota State Board on Continuing Legal Education and the Minnesota Freedom Fund.  He is a peer mentor in the Anoka County Veterans Treatment Court.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Treasurer: Sara Sommerstrom

Sara Sommarstrom serves as the Vetlaw Director for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, working with attorneys and non-lawyers across the state of Minnesota to remove and reduce legal barriers to stability for veterans experiencing homelessness and other life crises. Ms. Sommarstrom is a 2005 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, where she received the Excellence in Public Service Award, given to one member of the graduating class annually. After graduation, she served two years as an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps Fellow with the Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF) before joining the staff of MJF full-time as a staff attorney and ultimately program director. Sara teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and has received the University of St. Thomas School of Law Mission Award for Excellence in Professional Preparation, 2009 Staff Woman of the Year Award and 2010 Faculty Woman of the Year Award. She is a member of the ABA Veterans Legal Services Initiative, co-chair of the ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services, a liaison to the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, and an active member of several state and local bar association committees. Ms. Sommarstrom was honored to receive recognition as a 2014 Unsung Hero from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans for her work on addressing legal barriers to housing and employment stability for homeless veterans.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Secretary: Bruce Richardson

Bruce Richardson was one of the most highly trained soldiers in the US Army as an airborne, ranger, artillery officer. He was also the closest thing West Point had to an English major. He still loves Shakespeare. After graduation, he served with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, and the 4th Infantry Division in Colorado. He is a Wharton MBA, a recovering Certified Public Accountant, and former Chief Financial Officer. He served for 16 years on the St. Louis Park school board and for 10 years on the Association of Metropolitan School Districts board where he served on the Executive and Legislative committees. He continues to serve on the St. Louis Park Public Schools Foundation board where he is active in fund raising. He facilitated for “Echoes of War” and Veterans Voices discussion groups at the Minnesota Humanities Center. Bruce consults on leadership, finance, and strategy for RSI Consulting. He and his wife Audrey live in St. Louis Park. They have two children, a large extended family, and a new granddaughter.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Director: Tom Plunkett

Tom Plunkett is a criminal defense lawyer with both a state and federal court practice. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mr. Plunkett was an officer and attack helicopter pilot in the United States Army and Army Reserve. After completing law school, Mr. Plunkett left Army Aviation to join the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. Mr. Plunkett’s talents as an attorney were called on by the military to draft the Minnesota Military Code and Minnesota Rules for Court Martial. Mr. Plunkett “wrote the book” for military courts in Minnesota. This code has subsequently been used as the model for many other states. Mr. Plunkett has defended many veterans facing criminal charges, including a high profile federal bank robbery case.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Director: Peter Orput

Peter Orput is the Washington County Attorney. He was elected to that position in November, 2010. Prior to becoming county attorney, Pete served as an assistant Hennepin County attorney in the violent crime section of that office. There, Pete prosecuted primarily robberies, weapons and homicide cases. Prior to joining the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, Pete served as general counsel to the Minnesota Department of Corrections and prior to that served in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as the deputy attorney general in charge of the public protection section. Pete also served as lead prosecutor for a state anti-gang initiative for five years. In that position with the attorney general’s office, Pete prosecuted gang murders and drug dealing offenses throughout the state.

Pete formerly served for seven years as an assistant Washington County attorney. He has served as faculty at the National District Attorneys’ College in Columbia, South Carolina for numerous prosecutor courses including complex trial advocacy, persuasion and cross examination. Pete also formerly served as faculty at St. Mary’s University in their law enforcement program where he taught legal aspects of police leadership. Pete is a former high school teacher and Marine and has served as legal counsel to the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association since 1994.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Director: Michael Dickinson

Michael Dickinson is a Retired Navy Chief who served 21 years, He has a Masters of Social Work from The University of Minnesota Duluth. Formally he worked at the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) doing discharge planning for incarcerated veterans and veterans struggling with mental health and homelessness issues. Currently, he is working with St Louis County as a case manager in Mental Health with a focus on veterans, providing assistance to help bridge the gap from military to civilian life. This role also has him actively involved in Duluth (St Louis County) Veterans Treatment Court. He is one of the founding board members of The Veterans Defense Project, still serving today.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Director: Hank Shea

Hank Shea is a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, where he has taught ethics and criminal law-related courses for the last 10 years. Mr Shea also is a Professor of Practice at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in Tucson. He previously served for 20 years as an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. Hank also served four years of active duty as an Assistant to the Army General Counsel and seven years as a reservist in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Director: Raymond Wilson

Raymond Wilson’s dream since age five was to become a pilot. He started flying at age 20 while still in at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. He graduated with a degree in education and taught social studies in junior high school. When Ray joined the Army, he was trained to fly UH1 and Blackhawk helicopters. Ray is a veteran of three combat tours in Vietnam, Honduras, and Panama. He was one of the Army’s best pilots and employed his teaching skills as a flight instructor to train other Army pilots. He served three tours in Germany during his 22 years in the US Army. After retiring from the Army, he joined Northwest Airlines as a pilot and pilot instructor. Retiring from Northwest Airlines gave Ray the opportunity to fly as a medical evacuation pilot with LifeLink. In addition to his work with as a board member for the Veterans Defense Project, Ray is a mentor who participants in the Ramsey County Veterans Treatment Court. Ray plays trumpet in the St. Anthony Park community band, and he and his wife Kit live in St. Paul.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Director: Lyndsey Olson

Lyndsey Olson was appointed as the Saint Paul City Attorney by Mayor Melvin Carter in 2018. Working alongside a talented team of legal professionals, Ms. Olson provides strategic leadership to the second-largest municipal law office in the State of Minnesota which handles every aspect of the legal business for the City of Saint Paul. The Saint Paul City Attorney’s Office operates under a vision of inclusion, access to justice, sustainable legal processes and innovative legal solutions.

Ms. Olson, is a 2003 graduate of the Hamline School of Law and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. Previously as the General Counsel of the Minnesota National Guard and Minnesota Department of Military Affairs from 2013 to 2018, she managed and directed all legal matters for the department in 62 communities around the state. She is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Minnesota National Guard Judge Advocate General’s Corps. She is also a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom; she received a Bronze Star for her service there as a criminal prosecutor and international law attorney.

Ms. Olson is a frequent local and national CLE instructor, and is the author of several publications. She has been named to the Minnesota Business Journal’s list of top in-house counsel, Minnesota Lawyer’s Attorneys of the Year, and is one of Minnesota Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. She also serves as the Treasurer for the 34th Infantry Division’s Commander’s Own Chapter, and on the Ramsey County Justice Coordinating Committee, the Ramsey County Equal Justice Committee, board of directors for Central Minnesota Legal Services, and the Minnesota County Attorneys’ Association Board.

Veterans Defense Project Board

Director: Luis Quinoñez

Luis Rodolfo Quiñonez is a United States Marine, Vietnam War veteran and business executive. He serves as the chief executive officer of IQ Management Services, a mental health defense contractor.  He serves as the president of the United States-Central American Chamber of Commerce, and he is a co-founder of the Hispanic College Fund.  Mr. Quinoñez also serves on the American Battle Monuments Commission.