Hennepin County judge disqualifies a total of four prosecutors for professional conduct violation in Floyd case

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HENNEPIN COUNTY, MN- We’ve said it before and we will say it again. Prosecutorial misconduct could possibly lead to charges against the four officers arrested in the George Floyd case being dismissed.

We already explained how we believe that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison likely over-charged the four officers in the case. Now comes word that a judge has disqualified four prosecutors from the case due to “sloppy” work that may have violated professional conduct rules.

According to the Star Tribune, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill banned Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and three of his staff from working on the case against the four officers, however he may reconsider after Freeman pushed back against the directive.

During a 3-1/2-hour hearing on Friday, Cahill ruled on various areas of the case which covered a wide range of topics, the outlet said.

One of the areas of concern was a meeting between some of the staff lawyers and the Hennepin County medical examiner, who is likely to be a key witness in the case. This meeting is alleged to have violated the rules of professional conduct for attorneys.

“I think it was sloppy not to have someone [else] present [at a meeting with] a primary witness in the case,” Cahill complained.

After the hearing, Freeman’s office released a statement in which it defended its handling of the case thus far. Ellison’s office asked Cahill to reconsider the ruling, however it is unknown when that decision might be rendered.

Ellison, an anti-cop zealot who was elected to the office despite having to resign as second in command of the Democratic National Committee amid sexual assault allegations, was a benefactor of billionaire socialist George Soros’ money to get elected.

Freeman’s statement said, in part, “The meeting was completely routine and if the ruling stands, would make it nearly impossible for prosecutors to obtain, understand, and introduce evidence in a case.”

However Eric Nelson, who represents former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, has filed a motion to disqualify Freeman’s entire office from working on the case.

Nelson complained that Freeman and the three attorneys from his office—Deputy County Attorney Andrew LeFefour, Senior County Attorney Amy Sweasy, and Assistant County Attorney Patrick Lofton—had met with the county medical examiner, Andrew Baker, in May about the case without a non-attorney in attendance.

Nelson claims that this fact in essence violates state rules for lawyers by turning them into potential witnesses.

Cahill granted part of the motion filed by Nelson, that which disqualified the four attorneys from the case, however other staff from Freeman’s office would not be banned, according to Cahill’s order.

According to Freeman’s office, however they claim that they followed the standards as spelled out by a Minnesota Supreme Court decision, in which they ruled the third party at such meetings is not required to be a non-attorney. The statement continued that both Sweasy and Lofton had asked to leave the case on June 3, which in essence made them third parties in the meeting with Baker.

Sweasy and Lofton were responsible for trying former Minneapolis officer Mohammed Noor in 2019 for the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017. Noor was on-duty when he killed Damond.

In speaking to the Cahill’s ruling, according to Fox News, Freeman’s office said, “Any suggestion by Judge Cahill that the work of Sweasy and Lofton is incorrect. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office fully stands by the work, dedication, and commitment of two of the state’s best prosecutors.”

In late August, Baker said that while Floyd had a “pretty high level of fentanyl” in his system at the time of death, he stopped short of claiming that the drug had in fact caused Floyd’s death.

 According to WCCO, the state is asking for a joint trial for all of the former Minneapolis officers, however defense attorneys are seeking separate trials for each of the four officers.

Concerning the departure of Sweasy and Lofton from the trial of the four officers, a spokesman for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Chuck Laszewski would not specify the reasons, however noted that a team of county prosecutors continues work on the case.

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In other motions filed which Cahill heard, he ruled on some while reserving decisions on others, including some key issues, which include change-of-venue motions filed by each defense attorney; the request of the prosecution to try all four cases together, and defense motions to dismiss all of the cases.

Of the four officers, Chauvin faces the most serious charges, related to his kneeling on the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes; he is facing one count each of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

The other former offices involved—J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao—are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

Attorneys for the four have proposed moving the trial to other counties in the state, including Clay County, Dakota County, or Stearns County, as well as others, while arguing that news coverage has tainted the local jury pool.

Thao’s attorney also expressed the opinion that local jurors might be concerned about the impact of a verdict might have if it went the “wrong way,” addressing the arson, looting and mayhem that took place in Minneapolis after Floyd died.

“If I lived in Moorhead I wouldn’t worry about the streets of Moorhead being burned” after a trial, Robert Paule, Thao’s attorney said.

To this point, Cahill seemed skeptical the paper reported, saying:

“There rally isn’t a county, would you agree, or a state in this country where there hasn’t been a lot of publicity about George Floyd’s death,” he said.

In addressing that point, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank said that a local jury was able to be empaneled for Noor’s case despite extensive pre-trial publicity.

Attorneys for Floyd’s family claim that the requests are an attempt to eliminate black jurors from the trial. That was likely not the reason, but should it make a difference if jurors are white, black, or whatever? They are supposed to decide on the facts of the case, not their own personal biases, correct?

The reason given for trying all four officers at once, with a target date of March, is to lessen the impact on Floyd’s family, witnesses as well s court resources.

Meanwhile defense attorneys are pushing for separate trials, claiming that their individual defenses might be “antagonistic” towards each other, with a likely target being Chauvin.

“There are going to be side attacks [from other defense attorneys] that I’m going to have to deal with,” Paule said.

One area of consternation is defense attorneys’ efforts to bring Floyd’s criminal past into the case, with the defense citing Floyd’s alleged history involving a 2019 drug case in Minneapolis, as well as a 2007 drug-related robbery in Texas.

Cahill questioned what relevance the Texas case had to the Floyd death.

Plunkett said that it would show a pattern of Floyd’s history repeating itself during the May 25 encounter with the police. Defense attorneys have also argued that Floyd ingested fentanyl and other drugs and argue that he may have in fact died of a drug overdose, not Chauvin kneeling on his neck.

Cahill then ruled that the prior cases could not be introduced in this case, however said if the prosecution argues that Floyd had not ingested drugs the day he died, that will allow defense attorneys to request admission of evidence from the 2019 case.

Floyd’s autopsy determined that he had Fentanyl intoxication and had also recently used methamphetamine.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Floyd’s family claim the defense is resorting to “character assassination” in their characterization of Floyd as a drug abuser.

“This is what happens every single time,” said Floyd family attorney Justin Miller. “We get killed and then we et killed again in court.”

Ben Crump, an ambulance chaser if there ever was one and who is also representing Jacob Blake’s family in the Kenosha, Wisconsin shooting, blows off allegations that Floyd died of an overdose.

“The only overdose was an overdose of police force. Who are you going to believe? Your eyes, or these killer cops?”

This is why we have trials. Let the truth come out and the chips fall where they may.

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