Three officers charged in George Floyd death file motion for dismissal after prosecutors sneak info to media

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN- Three of the four officers charged in the death of George Floyd have filed separate motions to dismiss the criminal charges against them after prosecutors allegedly leaked information about a failed plea deal to the New York Times

On Friday, February 12th, the New York Times published a report that said former Attorney General William Bar rejected a plea deal from Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with murder, after his lawyer agreed to a 10-year incarceration term.

The Times reported that Barr believed the deal was too lenient, citing law enforcement officials close to the matter. In a motion of dismissal filed in Hennepin County District Court, Robert Paule, defense counsel for Tou Thao has requested a hearing.

In the motion, Paule is requiring the presence of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and prosecuting attorneys Matthew Frank and Neal Katyal so they can:

“Face sanctions against the State for its role, directly or indirectly, in the leaking of highly prejudicial information related to potential plea agreements of co-defendants.”

Thao’s defense team is asking Judge Peter Cahill to schedule the hearing within the next week, before jury selection is scheduled to begin in Chauvin’s trial March 8th. 

Paule alleges that the article published by the Times featured leaked information detailing a preliminary plea agreement between the state and co-defendant Chauvin.

In the alleged deal, the Times reported Chauvin would have plead guilty to third degree murder in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. In his motion, Paule argues that the information leaked is highly prejudicial and could only have come from the prosecution team or someone associated with it. Paule wrote:

“There are a finite number of people that would have had direct knowledge of the alleged plea agreement. The newspaper articles show that Mr. Chauvin’s team was not the source, nor were the federal prosecutors. Using deductive reasoning, the leak had to have come from the State.”

He added:

“It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this misconduct or its prejudicial effect on the defendants’ constitutional due process rights of a fair trial. If this leak would have happened during trial, the Court would be required to declare a mistrial and dismiss the charges with prejudice.”

Along with a dismissal of aiding and abetting second degree murder charges, Thao’s defense team is seeking the following:

An order barring any person(s) who leaked information of Mr. Chauvin’s plea deal to the press from participating in any of the trials stemming from the death of George Floyd. This order would also bar any person(s) who knew of the source of the leak and failed to mitigate it, ratified it, or ordered it;

An order removing of all out-of-state/pro hac vice attorneys from the case of State v. Thao;

An order removing all “special attorney generals” for the case of State v. Thao;

A gag order preventing the State, prosecuting attorneys, staff, witnesses, and all other employees in its offices from speaking to the public or press until the end of trial in State v. Thao;

An order requiring the State to pay for the cost and fees associated with filing this motion;

An order requiring the State to pay for the cost and fees of any further delay of trial stemming from these articles or further publication on the plea deal;

An order preemptively removing all potential jurors from sitting on the jury if they acknowledge in voir dire they saw, read, or have knowledge of the cited articles; and

An order increasing the amount of preemptive strikes each defense team has to counter this prejudicial effect of the misconduct.

Attorney Thomas Plunkett filed a similar motion to dismiss for his client, former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Kueng, citing the Times report on the failed plea deal.

Earl Gray, attorney for former officer Thomas Lane also filed a motion asking Judge Cahill to allow Lane to join the motions filed earlier by Thao and Kueng. 

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Revealed: Former AG Barr blocked Derek Chauvin plea deal that would have given 10 year sentence

February 11th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Some interesting new details have come to light regarding the case against former police officer Derek Chauvin, as there was once reportedly a plea deal offered to him days after the death of George Floyd.

And apparently, former AG Bill Barr was the person to have stopped the plea bargain from going through.

Here’s the details on this latest development.

By now, most everyone is familiar with the case lodged against Chauvin as he has been charged in connection with the in-custody death of Floyd from back in May of 2020. Currently, Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Yet, just days after the death of Floyd, there was reportedly a plea bargain offered to Chauvin for third-degree murder – which Chauvin was reportedly willing to agree to.

Said plea bargain would have seen Chauvin serve a decade or more behind bars for the death of Floyd, which officials were in the process to rally up the press and announce that Chauvin had agreed to plead guilty.

But in order for the deal to go through, it would’ve had to have gotten the greenlight from then-AG Bill Barr, which Barr at the time said to pull the deal.

The reason Barr needed to approve the deal was that said deal would’ve seen Chauvin serve his sentence in federal prison.

The reported rationale for Barr’s decision was multifaceted, according to reports, with Barr at the time expressing concerns that a plea deal for third-degree murder would seem too lenient and that the investigation into the incident was far too early to begin entertaining potential plea bargains.

Furthermore, Barr was also said to have noted that the case was about to fall into the hands of state prosecutors who he felt would be best suited how to handle the case moving forward.

Chauvin’s trial is slated to begin on March 8th, but the scheduled trial itself is also causing concerns about the potential for unrest within the city of Minneapolis.

There are already reports coming in that employees in various downtown businesses are being told to not come in to work during the period of the trial, due to concerns over safety. Not to mention, reports of the National Guard being deployed to the area during the trial have also surfaced.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz was said to have added into his recent budget proposal a special $4.2 million allocation for security needed during the trial and a $35 million fund to reimburse local law enforcement agencies that may get called in to assist with any potential rioting during the trial.

With as contentious as this case and investigation has been, one could hardly contend with the concept that the trial of Chauvin – no matter the outcome – is going to be a magnet for varying degrees of protests and unrest.

Paul Butler, a former prosecutor who is a professor at Georgetown University, says that this case is hallmarked with being, “the most famous police brutality prosecution in the history of the United States.”

Considering what occurred in the wake of Floyd’s death, one would be hard to disagree with Butler’s notion.

Recently, Judge Peter A. Cahill had ordered that the trial of Chauvin be separate from the other three officers’ trials in connection with Floyd’s death, which the prosecution is actively trying to get that decision appealed.

But what has drawn the most concern over this trial is if Chauvin manages to be found not guilty, which could then set into motion a domino effect of riots akin to – or even worse than – the ones Minneapolis and several other major U.S. cities saw back in the summer of 2020.

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In other matters related to Minneapolis, and the aftermath of Floyd’s death, there was some recently introduced police policies with regard to the use of body worn cameras. 

We at Law Enforcement Today recently reported on this updated policy earlier in February. 

Here’s that recent report. 

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – A recent announcement by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo revealed that officers will no longer be allowed to deactivate their body cameras during the course of any response to an incident.

The news from the mayor and the police chief was delivered on February 1st and is one of many new policies that are being implemented within the MPD.

The policy change with respect to body cameras is that officers won’t be able to turn those cameras off, even if they’re attempting to engage in a private conversation, in the course of responding to an incident.

It’s unclear what, if any, caveats will arise from this newly implemented policy – but if anything, it’s likely to serve MPD officers’ best interests in the event that there any inquiries with regard to alleged inappropriate conduct during incident responses.

Policy changes within the MPD have been an ongoing endeavor since the in-custody death of George Floyd in May of 2020.

Some of the other notable policy changes that have been adopted in recent months were the banning of chokeholds and also requiring officers to announce their presence before executing a search warrant.

Of course, there are exceptions to curtailing the utilization of no-knock warrants such as circumstances involving hostages.

From the joint statement that was delivered on February 1st, both the mayor and the police chief see these efforts as measures that can be implemented to re-instill “transparency” in police work and also “accountability”:  

“Strengthening accountability and increasing transparency have been cornerstones of our community safety work.”

“This update helps leadership provide a more complete and accurate picture during and after incidents, and puts officers in a better position to hold each other accountable.”

On February 4th, the policy with respect to body worn cameras will go into effect.

Chief Arradondo explained how important of a role body worn cameras play in the realm of “critical events”:

“We’ve seen as a community and as a police force, body camera footage increasingly plays a crucial role in understanding critical events in our community.”

“Accountability is not achieved with any single solution, but changes like this move us toward an even more transparent approach to public safety and building trust with the communities we serve.”

Now with this policy update regarding body worn cameras not being able to be turned off during incident responses, it does not mean that publicly released footage regarding critical incidents will showcase anything that might be of a sensitive and/or ongoing investigative nature needing to remain clandestine.

Reportedly, conversations between officers that are captured in the footage with respect to tactics or sensitive information can be redacted prior to a public release.

All this policy enforces is that MPD officers cannot turn off their body worn cameras while on a response call.

What the policy was before this change was introduced was that MPD officers were specifically required to activate their body worn cameras prior to interacting with an individual who reported an incident, a victim, suspect or witness – as well as activating those cameras upon dispatch and actions taken in a law enforcement capacity.

But, before this new policy was launched, officers could switch the body worn cameras off during instances such as internal interactions while at the scene of an incident.

However, that will no longer be an option.

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