Lawyer: Unruly crowd warrants venue change in Floyd case

AMY FORLITI
·2-min read

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An attorney for one of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd on Thursday reiterated his request for the trial to be moved, saying the defendants and lawyers were harassed and threatened by protesters after a September hearing in the case.

Tom Plunkett, the lawyer for J. Kueng, said in a court filing that defense attorneys and their clients were harassed on their way to and from the courthouse on Sept. 11, and that at least one attorney was physically assaulted. He argued that holding the trial in Hennepin County would not be safe for participants, witnesses could be intimidated and jurors could be affected by chants from the crowd, which were audible during the last hearing.

Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death was captured in widely seen bystander video that set off protests, sometimes violent, around the world. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and other crimes; Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting.

Attorneys for all four men have said pretrial publicity has made it impossible for them to receive a fair trial in Hennepin County, and they have asked for the trial to be moved. Judge Peter Cahill has not ruled on that request.

Plunkett wrote that the “riotous crowd” showed the men can't get a fair trial in Hennepin County, and that "the Court simply cannot control the rioters and protesters who have taken to the streets of Minneapolis.”

Plunkett said Thao and his attorney were followed for several blocks by jeering protesters and that Lane and his attorney were assaulted. Plunkett also filed a police report saying he was verbally threatened with death, and that someone smashed a bicycle into his vehicle, causing $2,000 in damage.

Lane's attorney, Earl Gray, confirmed Thursday that he was hit and threatened, and said he didn't realize how dangerous the situation was until he got into a vehicle and saw the crowd.

“I will not be walking through something like that again,” he said. “That was just insane.”

Trial is set for March 8.