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The Hennepin County Attorney's Office has hired a team of former federal prosecutors to take over the high-profile murder case against state trooper Ryan Londregan, signing a formal contract Thursday that includes an initial $1 million billing cap for their services.

Four attorneys from Steptoe LLP, a Washington D.C.-based international law firm, will be deputized as special assistant county attorneys and assume ongoing litigation against Londregan, who fatally shot motorist Ricky Cobb II last summer during a traffic stop. The move comes amid a legal team shake-up; the assistant county attorney who was leading the case recently walked away from prosecuting the trooper.

The 28-page contract, released to the media Friday afternoon, outlines basic terms of the arrangement, including pay rates for attorneys (blended at $850 per hour), paralegals ($250 per hour) and a tentative end date of Dec. 31, 2025.

The legal team will report directly to County Attorney Mary Moriarty and Deputy County Attorney Sarah Davis, who maintain control over the prosecution.

"Our goal in this case, as in every case, is to achieve a just process and outcome, public transparency, and accountability for the harm that has been caused," Moriarty said in a statement. "It is clear this case will be extremely resource intensive and will involve extensive litigation prior to trial. These former federal prosecutors with impeccable credentials will be singularly focused on this case while the rest of our team continues the critical work of prosecuting the high volume of other serious cases that are central to safety in our community."

On Tuesday, the Hennepin County Board voted 5 to 1 to authorize Moriarty's request for outside counsel, after she appeared before the body to ask for its assistance. She told commissioners that her office was down 10 attorneys and lacked enough experienced litigators to handle the Londregan prosecution along with the typical load of other criminal cases.

At the time, ongoing cost was a concern for Commissioner Jeffrey Lunde, who said it would be hard for the board to stop funding the case if consulting fees get out of hand.

"What is the burn rate?" Lunde asked Moriarty, who did not provide a direct answer. "I think it will be very difficult for us to pull back. Once we are in, we are in."

Kevin Anderson was the only commissioner to vote against Moriarty's request, saying he didn't feel it aligned with a previous, long-standing county policy about hiring outside counsel. That policy, in place since the early 1990s, says the county attorney needs to detail the special expertise outside attorneys bring to a case. The policy does not require the county attorney to put the contract out for bid.

The framework approved by the board stipulates that Moriarty inform county leaders when she hires outside lawyers for criminal cases and give updates on costs at least twice a year. All accrued legal fees must come out of the County Attorney Office's existing $78 million in 2024.

The newly-approved contract requires that Steptoe notify Hennepin County once the fees — including airfare, lodging, meals and billable work hours — exceed $750,000. Either party can terminate the agreement upon three days' notice "with or without just cause."

Moriarty has faced ongoing questions and criticism about the merits of the case and whether there is enough evidence for the murder, manslaughter and assault charges she brought against Londregan.

Brian Peters, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, wrote to commissioners last week, urging them to probe why no one in Moriarty's office wanted the case. He said Moriarty is biased against police and that someone independent of her office "of unquestioned ethics" should take over the case to decide if it will proceed.

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat who has also expressed concern about Moriarty's handling of the case, told reporters Wednesday that he does not see the hiring of outside legal counsel as a "positive development," calling the decision somewhat "unorthodox."

"It seems to me, a well-funded and robust office like the Hennepin County D.A. should be able to handle this case," he said, promising to continue monitoring the situation. As of Tuesday, his office had not ruled out reassigning it.

In an internal memo sent to staff Friday, Moriarty sought to justify her decision, noting that it was the best option given staffing constraints.

"While I have no doubt we could assemble a team that could handle this case, it would require pulling multiple people away from current caseloads, something I do not believe we can afford to do," she wrote, according to an email obtained by the Star Tribune.

She went on to assure personnel that the decision to retain outside counsel would not impede ongoing efforts to hire for vacant positions, result in any layoffs or influence the next labor contract.

Last month, Steptoe conducted an independent review of the case and concluded that the prosecution was justified based on the evidence, Moriarty told staffers.

The four attorneys now tasked with the Londregan case are Michael R. Bromwich, Steven Levin, Karima Maloney and Ryan Poscablo.

Bromwich works with police departments around country on use-of-force issues and recently led an investigation of the largest corruption scandal in the history of the Baltimore police. Levin successfully prosecuted a former Baltimore police commissioner on public corruption charges and represented police officers in misconduct and murder cases.

Maloney previously served as deputy chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division's criminal section. She will serve as the team lead in Minneapolis. Poscablo spent six years as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York prosecuting violent and organized crime.

The new legal team will appear in court May 15 to go over scheduling, followed by a hearing June 10 to continue arguments over probable cause.

Star Tribune staff writers Rochelle Olson, Kim Hyatt and Christopher Magan contributed to this story.