by Amy Forlitti | The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS – Four former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating the civil rights of George Floyd pleaded not guilty at a federal hearing Tuesday that included arguments over several pretrial motions, including requests to conduct separate trials.
A federal grand jury in May found Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao on May 25, 2020 for allegedly depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority because Floyd, 46, was confronted, handcuffed and not resisted in a restraint that That the viewer was captured on video. His death led to protests around the world and calls for a change in the police system.
All the four people attended the hearing remotely through videoconferencing. Chauvin, dressed in a plain T-shirt, appeared from a small room in the state’s maximum security prison, where he is serving a 22 1/2-year sentence for murder in Floyd’s death. The other three men with their lawyers appeared from afar.
US Magistrate Judge Tony Leung asked each person individually how he would plead, and each replied bluntly: “Not guilty.”
The hearing also addressed about 40 pre-trial motions, although many were similar. Most of the motions were routine, such as agreement on when the names of witnesses would be disclosed. But Leung heard oral arguments on two issues and ordered lawyers to file additional written arguments on those motions.
Lawyers for Lane and Kueng asked the judge to remove language from the indictment that says their clients had been police officers since December 2019. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said his client was still in training and under surveillance for months. Gray said Lane was working his fourth shift without supervision when Floyd was confronted. Kueng’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, said his client was in his third shift without supervision. Both lawyers said that the language in the indictment which indicates otherwise would be inappropriate.
Gray argued, “Common sense suggests that a law officer with four days on the job would be less apt to intervene.”
Prosecutor Manda Sertich said the men were officers as of December 2019 – they graduated from the police academy and were sworn in.
Kueng, Thao and Lane are also calling for their federal trials to be separated from Chauvin’s, saying they would be unfairly prejudiced if they went to trial with him.
Plunkett wrote in court documents that the evidence against Chauvin would confuse the jury and deny Kueng his right to a fair trial. Gray argued in court that “everyone knows that Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder” so the jury would find it difficult to accept the innocence of the other former officers.
Attorney Robert Poole argued that most of the evidence against Chauvin would not turn against his client, Thao. Paule also argued that since it appears that Lane and Kueng intended to use their lack of experience as a defense, Thao, who had been an officer for more than eight years, was prosecuted alone. should go.
Leung gave no indication of how he would rule. He said there is video evidence in this case, which shows what each of the defendants did or did not do. He also noted that it is not common practice in federal court to separate cases, but it does happen. He asked prosecutors why the men should be tried together.
Sertich said the state’s case against the men was set aside because of space restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but has more room in federal court. She also said that jurors would learn about Chauvin’s murder sentence whether he sat in the courtroom with the other three former officers.
As Floyd was being arrested, he repeatedly said he could not breathe as Chauvin slammed him to the ground. Kueng and Lane helped rein in Floyd; According to evidence in state court, Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, and Lane grabbed Floyd’s leg. During the 9-1/2-minute restraint, Thao restrained the audience and prevented them from interfering.
While all four officers are largely charged with denying Floyd his rights while acting under government authority, the indictment matters. One count against Chauvin alleges that he violated Floyd’s right to be released from unreasonable seizure and undue force by a police officer.
Thao and Kueng have been charged with violating Floyd’s right to be freed from undue seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin while kneeling on Floyd’s neck. All four officers are accused of denying Floyd his rights when they failed to provide medical care.
Four former officers were also indicted in state court, where Chauvin was convicted of manslaughter and manslaughter in April. The other three former officers face a state trial next March for aiding and abetting.
Chauvin is also charged in a separate federal indictment that he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.
Meanwhile, the federal government is investigating policing practices in Minneapolis. An investigation known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or illegal policing — involves a comprehensive review of the entire police department. This could result in major changes in policing in the city of Minnesota.