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Following opposition from a media coalition and defense attorneys, a Hennepin County judge denied prosecutors' request to temporarily restrict public access to court records in the deadly force case against Minnesota state trooper Ryan Londregan in last summer's shooting of motorist Ricky Cobb II.

District Judge Tamara Garcia issued her decision Wednesday on the motion filed two weeks ago by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty's office. The state's request prompted a series of objections from Londregan's attorneys and a media coalition that includes the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and local TV news stations. The motion requested a 48-hour "screening period" on all court filings that would allow attorneys time to review evidence and motions to "prevent confidential, inadmissible, or prejudicial information from improperly being made public."

Londregan is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of Cobb during a traffic stop on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis last July 31.

Garcia wrote in her decision that she found the state's request "premature and overbroad," as the motion requested all filings to be sealed, rather than just filings that contained potentially prejudicial or contested evidence. As of now, Garcia found that the risk of pretrial publicity is "insufficient to overcome the constitutional presumption in favor of public access to court records."

The media coalition praised Garcia's decision in favor of public access to court records, recognized as a First Amendment right. Media attorney Leita Walker, in her motion opposing the prosecutors' request, said it would impose "draconian restrictions." Walker said the state offered no explanation why this case is any different than others involving law enforcement defendants. In those similar cases, no screening period was imposed.

Normally, court documents become available to the press and general public promptly after being filed with the court. They are routinely monitored by journalists to track arguments and other information, including what evidence and testimony may be admitted at trial.

Attorneys routinely seek to seal documents containing confidential information on a case-by-case basis. But Garcia found that "the public coverage of this case has not been so significant that it creates a serious concern of irreparably tainting the jury pool."

"Even if some inadmissible or prejudicial evidence becomes public, it is unlikely to be so pervasive as to prevent the court from selecting a fair and unbiased jury," the judge wrote.

Ricky Cobb II was killed by a state trooper during a traffic stop on Interstate 94 in north Minneapolis on July 31.
Ricky Cobb II was killed by a state trooper during a traffic stop on Interstate 94 in north Minneapolis on July 31.


Garcia added that parties may mutually agree to share motions before they are formally filed to potentially resolve issues without on-the-record intervention by the court.

Early on in Londregan's case, for example, the state asked defense attorneys to withdraw a court filing because Moriarty's office claimed it "contained inadmissible, irrelevant, and frivolous information," Hennepin County Attorney spokesman Nick Kimball said.

Defense attorneys filed an affidavit that contained numerous social media screenshots posted by Cobb's brother and several activists who shared Londregan's home address and made other comments that attorney Chris Madel said were threatening toward his client. There was also a video from Londregan's Ring doorbell camera, dated Oct. 7, in the filing that showed a vehicle at night briefly park in front of his house and appear to take pictures of Londregan's home.

Madel said in an email that he filed the affidavit "to show why it was necessary for Trooper Londregan to possess firearms to protect his wife, newborn baby, and himself." He told the Star Tribune that because of the affidavit his client was allowed to retain his right to possess a firearm at home after Moriarty initially said she would ask the court to require Londregan to surrender his firearms.

In other high-profile cases of law enforcement charged with killing civilians around the Twin Cities, officers were order to surrender firearms. Conditions of Londregan's release changed from no possession to instead no transportation of firearms.

Kimball said the withdrawn affidavit is not why release conditions changed. But the affidavit was a "significant factor," he said, behind Moriarty's office filing the 48-hour screening period motion. Kimball said they were concerned such pretrial publicity initiated by the defense may continue.

"That's why we suggested the court temporarily restrict public access to filings to allow for a quick review and to ensure any future filings do not cause additional unnecessarily prejudicial pretrial publicity," Kimball said.