Judge sets ex-cops’ trial date, warns of venue change

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY NANCY DIL­LON

Four for­mer Min­neapo­lis po­lice of­fi­cers charged in Ge­orge Floyd’s killing ap­peared at a tense court hear­ing Mon­day as the judge set a March 2021 trial date — and warned that a venue change is pos­si­ble.

Derek Chau­vin, 44, ap­peared by video from a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison and re­port­edly spoke only to waive his right to a speedy trial.

Charged with sec­ond-de­gree un­in­ten­tional mur­der, third-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree man­slaugh­ter, Chau­vin is be­ing held on $1.25 mil­lion bail.

The 19-year vet­eran of the force knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 min­utes and 46 sec­onds on May 25 as Floyd, hand­cuffed and stom­ach-down on the ground, re­peat­edly cried, “I can’t breathe,” ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors and graphic by­stander video.

“I’m about to die,” and “Please,” Floyd begged as the 46-year-old fa­ther of five also called out for his de­ceased mother, ac­cord­ing to Chau­vin’s com­plaint.

Fel­low fired cops J. Alexan­der Kueng, 26, and Thomas Lane, 37, showed up with their lawyers af­ter post­ing bail, while Tou Thao, 34, ap­peared in per­son and re­mains in cus­tody.

All three are fac­ing charges of aid­ing and abet­ting sec­ond­de­gree mur­der and man­slaugh­ter.

Thao’s lawyer Robert Paule said he plans to file a mo­tion to move the case to an­other venue af­ter pub­lic of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Po­lice Chief Medaria Ar­radondo and Pub­lic Safety Com­mis­sioner John Har­ring­ton, made state­ments call­ing Floyd’s death a “mur­der.“

“I’m fight­ing the bat­tle with one hand,” Paule com­plained to Hen­nepin County Judge Peter Cahill, ac­cord­ing to the Min­neapo­lis Star Tri­bune.

Cahill stopped short of is­su­ing a gag or­der, but urged As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Matthew Frank to ad­dress the mat­ter with pub­lic of­fi­cials, say­ing pre­trial pub­lic­ity could force the court to trans­fer the case. “They are more than likely push­ing this trial to a dif­fer­ent venue if they con­tinue to do so. More likely to push it out of Hen­nepin County, and they need to be aware of that,” the judge said, ac­cord­ing to NBC af­fil­i­ate KARE 11 in Min­neapo­lis. “We are just as in­ter­ested in a fair trial,” Frank re­port­edly replied. “We have done our best to make the court’s point to [Min­neapo­lis of­fi­cials] in hopes of putting an end to it as well. Legally, we don’t have con­trol over them.”

The judge set a ten­ta­tive trial date for March 8, 2021.

It’s not yet clear if the of­fi­cers will be tried to­gether or separately. That will be de­ter­mined af­ter mo­tions on the is­sue are sub­mit­ted and ar­gued.

Floyd’s un­cle Sel­wyn Jones at­tended the hear­ing and said out­side the court­house that he found it “to­tally hideous” Lane and Kueng made bail.

“My nephew will never have a chance to be free ever again,” he said, call­ing Floyd a “good dude” whose “story shouldn’t have ended in the streets of Min­neapo­lis, Minn., by four peo­ple.”

“I just think we need to fix the sys­tem. Racism needs to go, po­lice bru­tal­ity def­i­nitely needs to go, and we need to find some kind of equal­ity and care for each other,” he said.

Lawyers for Lane and Kueng have pre­vi­ously de­fended their clients as rook­ies.

They say Chau­vin took charge as the most se­nior of­fi­cer at the scene and re­fused to ease off Floyd’s neck as Lane held down Floyd’s legs and Kueng held down his torso.

Lane was work­ing his fourth day on the job as a full-time po­lice of­fi­cer, while Kueng was work­ing his third.

Ac­cord­ing to court pa­per­work, Lane asked Chau­vin at one point, “Should we roll him on his side?”

“No, stay­ing put where we got him,” Chau­vin replied.

Kueng has since been re­leased on $750,000 bail with con­di­tions and was spot­ted buy­ing Oreos at a gro­cery store in Ply­mouth, Minn., by a woman who con­fronted him over Floyd’s death and posted video of the tense ex­change.

Lane also was re­leased on $750,000 bail with con­di­tions.

Thao, who was recorded stand­ing watch over the deadly ar­rest and re­buff­ing by­stander con­cerns, had not posted bail — $1 mil­lion bail with­out con­di­tions or $750,000 with con­di­tions — by Mon­day’s hear­ing.

Dis­traught aunt An­gela Har­rel­son and un­cle Sel­wyn Jones of cop choke­hold vic­tim Ge­orge Floyd out­side Min­neapo­lis court Mon­day. Four for­mer of­fi­cers charged in Floyd’s death, Derek Chau­vin (top inset), and above from left, J. Alexan­der Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, ap­peared at hear­ing.

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