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Hennepin County Prosecutor Moriarty drops murder charges against state trooper in Ricky Cobb II shooting

Hennepin County Prosecutor Mary Moriarty said Sunday she will dismiss murder and manslaughter charges against Minnesota State Trooper Ryan Londregan in the shooting death of motorist Ricky Cobb II last summer.

Moriarty told the Star Tribune that his unexpected decision followed a prosecution expert’s new analysis of video from the scene and recent statements from Londregan’s defense attorney.

At a court hearing in April, attorney Chris Madel said the 27-year-old police officer feared for his partner’s life because he thought Cobb was reaching for a gun. Moriarty said the defense team had not raised this legal claim before.

She said prosecutors and the law enforcement expert reviewed the video and found that as Londregan’s partner held on to the passenger door, Cobb raised his hand and “you can’t see very clearly” what he is doing.

Moriarty cited the expert, who said the video revealed “horrible, horrible, horrible” tactics deployed by the soldiers. But it shows that Londregan used lawful force at that time because he “could have fired to prevent serious bodily injury or death” from his partner, Moriarty said.

“We could theoretically prosecute and let the jury decide,” she said. “However, ethically we cannot do that because we do not believe, at this point, that we can refute this affirmative defense.”

“It’s not about us going backwards,” Moriarty said, adding that last week’s killing of Minneapolis police officer Jamal Mitchell did not influence his decision.

“It’s about recognizing that given all the barriers that have been put in place in these types of cases and the new information that has come to light, we simply cannot ethically move forward.”

Bakari Sellers, an attorney representing Cobb’s family, said the family couldn’t be more disappointed in prosecutors.

“They were bullied. There is no other solution,” Sellers said. “There was a unique display of cowardice.”

Londregan’s attorney was equally succinct in his response Sunday.

“It’s about time,” Madel said. “This will be my only official comment.”

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association continued to criticize Moriarty even as it celebrated his decision. In a statement, Brian Peters called the decision to charge Londregan “political.” The association’s general counsel and former Washington County prosecutor, Imran Ali, said in a statement that the “damage” caused by the case will continue.

“This prosecutor has divided our communities in the name of politics,” Ali’s statement read. “Shame on you, Mary Moriarty.”

The case also saw prosecutorial upheaval when Hennepin County Deputy Prosecutor Joshua Larson stepped down and was replaced by outside counsel from Steptoe LLP, an international law firm based in Washington, DC, with a contract that included an initial billing cap of $1 million for its services.

In a report released Sunday, the special prosecutor recommended that the charges be dropped, and Moriarty said she agreed.

The nine-page report said that while the soldiers’ tactics were flawed in that they failed to deescalate the confrontation, they were “not clearly contrary to their training.”

“Suffice it to say that the State’s ability to rebut Londregan’s justification for his use of deadly force has declined significantly in the months since his indictment,” the report states. “As a result, the charges can no longer be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The ruling ends a legal battle that grabbed headlines in Minnesota and exploited the intense politics surrounding police use of force in America.

Sellers said nothing has changed in the videos at the heart of the case. “They (prosecutors) presented us with a very strong case today for voluntary manslaughter,” Sellers said. “But they were afraid.”

Londregan has maintained his innocence since charges were filed in January. Wearing T-shirts and carrying signs calling for the charges to be dropped and Moriarty to be recalled, comrades and other law enforcement supporters arrived by bus and filled the courthouse before several hearings.

Before an April hearing, several supporters briefly clashed with a smaller but vocal contingent demanding justice for Cobb.

Moriarty said she has been at the center of criticism since announcing the accusations and Madel posted a video calling her “out of control.”

“The hunt for law enforcement must end,” the defense lawyer said at the time. “And that’s going to end with this case.”

Moriarty, a former public defender, ran for Hennepin County’s top prosecutor after the 2020 killing of George Floyd, campaigning on a promise to hold police officers who break the law accountable.

In a lengthy interview on Sunday, she said the matter had never been political for her. She criticized Londregan’s defense team, police organizations and politicians for making comments that were “really inappropriate, really disrespectful to Ricky Cobb’s family.”

Among them was Gov. Tim Walz, who publicly expressed concerns about the handling of the case shortly after the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association asked him to turn the prosecution over to the attorney general’s office.

“The governor never contacted me,” Moriarty said. “I don’t recall him intervening in anyone’s case on behalf of the person charged.”

Asked if she thought Walz was preparing to take the case off her, Moriarty said it was possible. “Who knows, right? And it would be tragic,” she said. “I mean, I’m capable of doing my job. I’m doing it here, right? This will probably have political consequences for me, but like I’ve always said, the people have not elected to make political decisions. They elected me to make courageous ethical decisions.”

Walz said in a statement Sunday that he supported Moriarty’s decision.

“This decision is supported by evidence and multiple expert opinions,” he said. “While I have expressed serious reservations about the approach taken and the cost of these proceedings, it is clearly the right decision.”

Londregan’s charges stem from a July 31 traffic stop on Interstate 94 north of Minneapolis, when other officers stopped Cobb for driving without tail lights and learned he was wanted for violating a national no-contact order.

Cobb, 33, refused orders to get out of his vehicle and instead put it in drive. With Londregan and a colleague partly inside, trying to take out Cobb, he lurched forward. Londregan fired his service weapon, striking Cobb twice.

Moriarty said she charged Londregan based on the evidence available at the time and the judge said there was probable cause to pursue the case. She said the defense declined several invitations from her office to discuss what Londregan would say in court, and that other witnesses were uncooperative with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation.

She said the prosecution was caught off guard when Madel commented in the courtroom about her fears that Cobb was reaching for a gun.

Cobb had a gun in the vehicle and Moriarty said there was still no evidence he intended to grab it, but those statements caused prosecutors to reconsider the evidence from a new perspective.

“They could have told us before they filed charges, they could have told us at any time,” she said. “And that’s information that we would have taken into account – and obviously have taken into account.”

Star Tribune reporters Kim Hyatt, Liz Sawyer and Josie Albertson-Grove contributed to this story.

News Source : www.startribune.com
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