Judge's warning: George Floyd trial may be moved

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge on Monday warned that he's likely to move the trials of four police officers charged in George Floyd's death out of Minneapolis if public officials and attorneys don't stop talking about the case.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill stopped short of issuing a gag order on attorneys, but he said one is likely if public statements continue. Cahill added that such a situation would also make him likely to grant a change-of-venue motion if one is filed.

“The court is not going to be happy about hearing about the case in three areas: media, evidence and guilt or innocence,” Cahill said.

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Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
A protest wearing a face mask with the words "I can't breathe" is seen at the area where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Flowers are seen at the site where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was arrested by police officers before dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Miller
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Police dressed in tactical gear attempt to disperse crowds gathered to protest the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Station on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Police dressed in tactical gear attempt to disperse crowds gathered to protest the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Station on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Tear gas is fired as protesters clash with police while demonstrating against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: A protester holds a sign while demonstrating against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: People hold signs as protesters march by while demonstrating against the death of George Floyd on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Women hold signs decrying the killing of George Floyd during a protest march on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, "I can’t breathe". Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Protesters and police face each other during a rally for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of the black man who died in police custody were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander’s video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
A police officer throws a tear gas canister towards protesters at the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, following a rally for George Floyd on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander's video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
Protesters gather calling for justice for George Floyd on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander's video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. (Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via AP)
People gather at a police precinct during a protest for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of the black man who died in police custody were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander’s video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
Items are left in honor George Floyd during a protest Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander’s video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
A protester wipes his face after being doused with milk after exposure to percussion grenades and tear gas near the Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, in Minneapolis, during demonstrations the day after the death of George Floyd. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander’s video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. (Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via AP)
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It was the second pretrial hearing for the officers, 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.

Floyd's death was universally condemned in Minnesota, with elected officials including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey calling for the officers to be charged. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Floyd's death was “murder.”

Cahill asked Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank to use his influence to keep public officials silent, warning that if they continued to discuss it publicly, he likely would “have to pull (trials) out of Hennepin County and they need to be aware of that.”

Cahill set a March 8 trial date for the former officers if they are tried together, though he said he expects motions to be filed to separate their trials. The next court date is Sept. 11.

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.

Chauvin remains in custody on $1 million bail and Thao is being held on $750,000 bail. Lane and Kueng are free on bond.

Cahill also rejected a defense request to reconsider his earlier decision to allow cameras in the courtroom during pretrial proceedings. Defense attorneys asked to allow such coverage, but prosecutors objected. The judge has not ruled on whether to allow cameras for the trial itself, which in Minnesota usually requires the consent of all parties.

Kueng’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, was the attorney asking Cahill to reconsider his ruling on cameras. He asserted that prosecutors and other officials forfeited their right to object to cameras in the courtroom by making public comments that went as far as “saying the defendants are guilty of murder.” He said allowing electronic coverage of pretrial proceedings would actually make it easier to impanel a fair jury by helping to “educate the public that there may be more to the cases than what has been told to them by the state.”

The charges against Chauvin are unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, third-degree murder carries up to 25 years and manslaughter up to 10.

The other three former officers are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Those charges are legally tantamount to the counts against Chauvin and carry the same penalties.

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