Cahill cited the need for additional time to deal with pending issues in the case and clarity on the timing of federal proceedings, suggesting he thought the federal trial should proceed first. He also said there was a need for “some distance” from the Chauvin proceedings, citing the intense publicity surrounding the case and the impact it could have on jury selection.
“The bottom line is that we aren’t going to trial in August,” Cahill said.
Attorneys for Kueng, Lane and Thao said their clients did not oppose the delay. Matthew Frank, an assistant Minnesota attorney general, said prosecutors wanted to proceed with the Aug. 23 trial date, but Cahill overruled.
The decision comes just days after a federal grand jury indicted all four former officers on federal civil rights charges, saying they violated Floyd’s constitutional rights during an arrest May 25, 2020, when he was restrained, handcuffed and facedown on a Minneapolis street as he begged for breath before losing consciousness.
Chauvin, who pressed his knees into Floyd’s neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds, was convicted last month of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Floyd’s Memorial Day slaying sent millions into the streets in protest last summer and sparked a national reckoning on race and policing. Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.
The other officers had been set to stand trial jointly with Chauvin before Cahill separated the cases earlier this year to meet coronavirus social distancing requirements in the courtroom.
Kueng and Lane, rookie officers who responded to a 911 complaint about the passing of a counterfeit bill at a local market, were the first to encounter Floyd at the scene. Lane pulled a gun on Floyd within 15 seconds of encountering him in a parked car near Cup Foods, and both he and Kueng later helped Chauvin restrain him facedown on the street — Lane at his legs and Kueng at his back.
Thao, who was Chauvin’s partner that night, held back bystanders, including an off-duty firefighter, who urged the officers to check Floyd’s pulse and render medical aid.
Kueng, Lane and Thao, who were fired by the Minneapolis police department, are facing state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors have sought to add third-degree murder charges against all three — which Cahill rejected. The state has appealed that decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which will hear arguments on the issue later this month.
Prosecutors have argued the three other officers had a duty to intervene and stop Chauvin from using deadly force on Floyd.
Attorneys for Kueng and Lane, who had been full-time police officers for less than a week, have argued their clients tried to intervene with Chauvin, a 19-year veteran who was the senior officer at the scene and had been Kueng’s field training officer, but were rebuffed.
Lane’s attorney has pointed to police body camera video showing his client asking Chauvin if they should roll Floyd onto his side — a request Chauvin rejected. Kueng later told Chauvin he could no longer detect Floyd’s pulse — yet Chauvin continued to press his knees into Floyd’s body.
The three, who waived their right to appear at Thursday’s hearing, remain free on bond pending their trial.
Cahill also heard arguments on a defense request to issue sanctions against prosecutors for alleged leaks to the media, including reports that Chauvin planned to plead guilty in the case a year ago — a plea deal that was reportedly nixed by then-Attorney General William P. Barr.
Attorneys for Lane, Kueng and Thao said they want prosecutors to testify under oath or submit sworn affidavits that they didn’t leak details of Chauvin’s plea deal to the media — specifically pointing to a February New York Times article that cited details of the agreement. They alleged that details of that article were leaked by prosecutors and anyone involved should be barred from the case.
Cahill revealed in court that attorneys had held a private conference about the article, which was published just weeks before jury selection in Chauvin’s trial began and that he had suggested prosecutors file affidavits affirming they had not been the source of or approved the release of the information.
But of the more than a dozen attorneys working on the case on behalf of the state attorney general’s office, only Frank submitted an affidavit. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sent the judge a letter saying his prosecution team was not the source of the story — which Robert Paule, Thao’s defense attorney, pointedly noted was not a sworn oath.
Frank repeatedly told Cahill his office was not the source of the plea details, suggesting it more likely came from Justice Department officials or someone close to Barr — which Cahill appeared to agree with. Frank said prosecutors involved with the case would file sworn oaths they did not leak to the media but had waited until the motion was heard in open court.
Cahill granted Paule’s request for an evidentiary hearing in the case, where the defense attorney suggested he would subpoena prosecutors who do not sign sworn oaths and Times reporter Tim Arango, who wrote the initial story.
Cahill, who tentatively scheduled the hearing for August, said he was concerned about Arango being called to the stand because of First Amendment protections granted to the media.
“I’m a little skittish about putting a journalist on the stand and jailing him if he doesn’t reveal his source,” Cahill said.