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Judge Warns of Venue Change For Ex-Minneapolis Cops

A Minnesota judge warned he’s likely to move the trials of four former police officers charged in George Floyd’s death out of Minneapolis if public officials, attorneys and family members continue speaking publicly about the case. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill did not issue a gag order, but said he “is not going to be happy about hearing comments on these three areas: merits, evidence and guilt or innocence,” the Associated Press reports. The officers were fired after Floyd’s May 25 death. Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder and other counts. Thomas Lane, 37, J. Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, cited officials who called the officers are guilty, including President Donald Trump, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Cahill set a March 8 trial date for the former officers if they are tried together, though he  expects motions to separate their trials. If they’re tried separately, those still in custody — currently Chauvin and Thao — would most likely go first. 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. Kueng’s attorney said that he intends to plead not guilty and that he will argue it was self-defense, a reasonable use of force and an authorized use of force. Chauvin remains in custody on $1 million bail and Thao is held on $750,000 bail. Lane and Kueng are free on bond. Cahill barred cameras from court during pretrial proceedings. Defense attorneys asked for cameras, saying it would help balance what the public has heard about the case, but prosecutors objected.