Elderly Black Nurse Faces Legal Battle Amidst
Racial Disparities in Minnesota Justice System

In a disheartening case highlighting the challenges of racial disparities in the legal system, Sybil Garbow, a 72-year-old Black nurse, has been sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay over $51,000 in restitution after being found guilty of felony assault. The incident occurred during an altercation with a white coworker, resulting in consequences that have left Garbow reeling.

Background and Context

Garbow, a dedicated nurse with over four decades of experience, was employed at Touchstone Mental Health in Fridley, Minnesota. A disagreement with a white coworker, Devlin Stitt, escalated, leading to an altercation. Garbow claimed self-defense, stating that she struck Stitt with an aerosol can after feeling threatened. However, the following legal proceedings have raised concerns about racial bias within the justice system.

Racial Disparities and Legal Proceedings

From the initial arrest to the sentencing, Garbow felt that her race affected how she was treated within the justice system. As one of the few Black individuals in a predominantly white county, she sensed the odds were stacked against her. Her feelings were further exacerbated when she observed that the jury, the majority of which was all-white, found her guilty of second-degree assault.

Garbow’s defense attorney argued that her actions were influenced by an “imperfect self-defense component.” Despite this, she was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail, facing potential career and future employability barriers.

Impact and Consequences

Garbow’s conviction tarnished her nursing career and triggered financial challenges due to the significant restitution she’d been ordered to pay. As a 72-year-old, the implications of this legal battle are daunting, particularly since she’s concerned about her husband’s well-being, given his health issues.

Advocacy and Call for Fairness

Advocacy groups like We Resolve, which supports individuals facing criminal charges, are working to shed light on the racial biases within the justice system. They argue that racial disparities played a role in Garbow’s case, leading to an unjust sentence that disproportionately affects her life and well-being.

Garbow’s story underscores the need for greater awareness and action against racial disparities within legal proceedings. Her case serves as a reminder that addressing these issues is essential to achieving a fair and just legal system for all individuals, regardless of their background or ethnicity.

In a time when conversations around equity and social justice are more important than ever, stories like Sybil Garbow highlight the urgent need for change within the criminal justice system.

Tauqilla Manning of Black Nurses Week and I have taken this case very seriously, and we plan to advocate for Mrs. Garbow until we can get her some relief. Here is what we have done and what we plan to do. We hope you get involved, engage, and speak up for what is right.

Steps taken to Advocate for Mrs. Garbow’s release or a review of her case:

  • Call the Governor’s office (started on Aug 25, 2023)
  • Share one sheet with nursing organizations, community, and colleagues to continue the conversation.
  • Find an appeals lawyer for Mrs. Garbow.
  • Engage and share this story with nursing organizations and associations.
  • Reached out to Team Roc (legal advocacy arm of Roc Nation).


  • Get Nurse Garbow’s case reviewed or appealed
  • Organize and mobilize against racism and social justice.
  • Inform nurses of how to navigate the legal system safely.

Published Articles:

Donation Information:

  • Garbow does not have a GoFundMe due to the site’s restrictions, but she does have a DonorBox managed by her husband.
  • Garbow owes over $51,000 in restitution to the State of Minnesota.

Workhouse Mailing Address:

Sybil Paulette Garbow
Anoka County Workhouse
3300 4th Ave
Anoka, MN 55303

Point of Contact: