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Defense attorney pushes for change of venue, citing armed man yelling 'Kill Chauvin' in courthouse

Thomas Plunkett filed a memorandum in Hennepin County District Court Tuesday, describing the incident at the courthouse last week.

MINNEAPOLIS — A defense attorney for a former Minneapolis police officer charged in the George Floyd case says an armed man walked through the Hennepin County Courthouse yelling "Kill Chauvin" after a hearing last week.  

Attorney Thomas Plunkett filed a memorandum in Hennepin County District Court on Tuesday, in support of his motion asking Judge Peter Cahill to change the venue for the trial.

Plunkett is the attorney for J. Alexander Kueng, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with aiding and abetting murder in George Floyd's death. Former officers Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are also facing the same charges, and Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after video footage showed him kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

Plunkett said in his court filing Tuesday that after an Oct. 15 hearing in the case, an attorney made a statement to the press. Plunkett wrote that a protester followed that attorney in the atrium of the Hennepin County Courthouse afterward and "did his best to provoke a violent encounter." According to the memorandum, the person also went on Facebook live calling for more people to join them at the courthouse.

Plunkett then cited a Star Tribune report that an armed man was arrested after yelling "kill Derek Chauvin" in the courthouse.

"The intensity accompanying these proceedings has continued to increase as time has passed and grown into the real potential for deadly violence," Plunkett argued.

Plunkett earlier tried to file a video of the events as evidence, but was denied. He filed his Oct. 20 memorandum describing the events, in lieu of showing the video.

The attorneys for the other former officers involved have also filed motions to move the trial out of Hennepin County.

"Moving these proceedings to a county that does not have a public thoroughfare passing through the lobby is necessary," Plunkett said. 'This matter cannot be tried in a location where protestors may hop on a bus or train in response to a call for violence, which may have been the case on October 15, 2020."

After the Oct. 15 hearing, the Floyd family's attorneys held a news conference in response. Attorney Jeff Storms said, "One of the most unfortunate aspects of today’s proceeding is that there is not a 5th defendant’s chair for the City of Minneapolis. While the individual officers must bear individual responsibility for their individual acts, we cannot forget the City’s failure to discipline and train its officers also killed George and ruined so many lives."

Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd also spoke, saying that watching his brother die on video was the most painful experience of his life.

"But listening to those defending these officers blame him for his own death today felt like a knife in the heart," he said. "It shows the degree to which the justice system works to protect those in authority at our expense."

Although Judge Cahill denied the introduction of video evidence in motions for a change of venue on Oct. 16, he has yet to rule on moving the trial out of Hennepin County. The trial - or trials - are expected in March of 2021.

Cahill warned as early as June that he would consider moving the trial if the public comments around the case continued.

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