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Sept. 11 is the next due date for the 4 ex-cops charged over George Floyd’s death

MINNEAPOLIS — The four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd were in court on Monday for a pretrial hearing that deal with bail amounts and other issues.

It’s the second pretrial hearing for the men, who were fired after Floyd’s May 25 death. Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder and other counts, while Thomas Lane, 37, J. Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.

Floyd died after Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee against the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes. The officers were responding to a call about a man trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby store.

The defendants have not entered pleas. Chauvin’s attorney has not commented publicly on the charges, while Lane’s and Kueng’s attorneys have sought to minimize their clients’ roles and deflect blame to the more senior Chauvin in Floyd’s death, which sparked protests around the world against police brutality.

Judge Peter Cahill instructed both prosecutors and defense attorneys to limit pre-trial publicity about the case.

Thao's attorney, Robert Paule, said in court that he is considering a motion for change of venue due to what he described as prejudicial pre-trial publicity. 

He noted that public comments already made about the case by President Donald Trump, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the Hennepin County attorney’s office, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey could jeopardize a fair trial in Hennepin County.

“We are just as interested in a fair trial,” said Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank.

While Cahill stopped short of issuing a gag order, he warned he could do so if his instructions were not followed. On Friday, Cahill barred news cameras and audio equipment during pre-trial proceedings after expressing worries that publicity could taint the pool of potential jurors. 

He said he has yet to decide on whether to allow news cameras in the courtroom during the actual trial.

Chauvin, who remains in custody, appeared in court via video. Thao, who is also in custody, was physically in the courtroom, but stood inside a phone-booth-like wooden cubicle during the hearing.

Kueng and Lane, who have been released on bail, were both in the courtroom for the proceedings.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. Lane, Kueng and Thao are all charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder and second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter.

None of the former officers has yet entered a plea. But court documents show Kueng intends to plead not guilty and will argue self-defense.

Frank informed the court that prosecutors have compiled about 8,000 pages of discovery material in the case.

Cahill set the defendants' next court appearance for Sept. 11 and tentatively scheduled a trial date for March 8, 2021. He asked Chauvin if it would be OK with him to extend the timeline for those dates given the voluminous amount of discovery evidence.

"Yes, your honor," answered Chauvin in the only statement he made at the hearing.

Cahill has yet to decide if the men will be tried separately or together.

In the courtroom on Monday were two members of Floyd's family, his aunt, Angela Harrelson, and his uncle, Selwyn Jones. At one point, Cahill admonished Floyd’s relatives for reacting from the gallery during the hearing.

Outside the courthouse, Jones described the emotions he felt during the hearing, saying, “Absolutely crazy that I sat six feet away from the person who murdered my nephew.”

— AP, ABC

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