Gov. Walz: If county attorney had not dropped charges against state trooper, his office would have intervened

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If Hennepin County’s head proseuctor had not dropped charges against the state trooper who shot and killed Ricky Cobb II, the governor’s office would have legally intervened to remove her from the case, Gov. Tim Walz said Monday.

A spokesman for County Attorney Mary Moriarty sent out a statement early Monday afternoon, after the governor’s news conference, saying that rumors that Walz might intervene did not impact her decision to dismiss the case against Trooper Ryan Londregan.

“These rumors did not impact the decision to dismiss this case. Rather, given the office’s decision to dismiss this case, the county attorney felt compelled to notify the Cobb family and the community as soon as the work was completed. The Cobb family has already been subject to vicious attacks while they were forced to endure this case being used as a political football. They deserved to hear the decision from us,” spokesman Nicholas Kimball wrote in a statement.

In January, Londregan was charged with murder in the shooting of motorist Ricky Cobb II, who didn’t get out of his car during the traffic stop and took his foot off the brake when officers tried to arrest him.

“Ricky Cobb II should still be alive today,” Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a news release announcing the dismissal of charges on Sunday. “Today’s necessary decision does not change that fact, nor does it exonerate Mr. Londregan or the methods his supervisors used to train him in difficult situations.”

At the end of a press conference Monday, in which Walz signed a bill into law to increase penalties for straw purchases of firearms, the governor said there were problems with the prosecution of Londregan from the beginning and that dismissing the charges was the right thing to do. He said he had been hoping that Moriarty would come to that conclusion on her own.

However, he said, if she hadn’t, he would have used his legal authority to remove her from the case.

“At some point, had this decision not been made, yes we would have done that,” Walz said.

He said he doesn’t take a decision like that lightly and believes that is not the way it should happen but that it is a safety net “to allow egregious situations like this to be corrected.”

Walz also said he believed that Moriarty’s statement dismissing the charges should have been different.

“I think what probably should have been the statement was: ‘After reviewing all the evidence, we determined the charging decision was wrong and we’ve dropped that.’”

Kimball’s statement Monday said the decision to dismiss the case wasn’t affected by rumors of Walz interceding but came “when we received new information from the defense several weeks ago, we began to reevaluate the case, including consulting with a use of force expert.”

During this reevaluation, prosecutors said the “new evidence undermined our ability to meet our burden of proof” and led to the dismissal of charges.

On Sunday, a press release from Moriarty’s office said that new evidence was presented in court April 29 when the defense said that Londregan was going to testify that he saw Cobb reach for the trooper’s gun shortly before he fired the shots that killed Cobb. In addition, there was also going to be testimony saying that trainers never told troopers not to shoot into moving vehicles during “an extraction, even though that is best practice.”

An outraged attorney for the trooper held his own press conference, Monday saying there was nothing new about that defense and that information was given to prosecutors on Jan. 24, the day Londregan was charged.

Defense attorney Chris Madel said he had given the county attorney a “notice of defense” on that day saying that Londregan used deadly force to protect Trooper Brett Seide from “death and/or great bodily harm” first and to protect himself second.

“The county attorney’s office has had this from day one and for her to come out and say ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea the defense was hiding this great evidence’ is just plain absurd,” Madel said.

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