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Minnesota state trooper Ryan Londregan entered a not guilty plea Wednesday to murder, manslaughter and assault charges in the fatal shooting of motorist Ricky Cobb II last summer. His trial has been set for mid-September.

"I plead innocent, Your Honor," Londregan told the court during a two-hour scheduling hearing, where both parties argued over evidentiary motions in the high-profile case.

The hearing marked the first appearance of a new prosecutorial team: five attorneys hired by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty to take over as counsel after the lead attorney stepped away from the case last month. The legal team from Washington, D.C.-based law firm Steptoe LLP consists of four former federal prosecutors and one former Manhattan assistant district attorney, who now work in private practice.

In orders filed ahead of the Wednesday hearing, Hennepin County Judge Tamara Garcia signed off on Ryan Poscablo, Michael Bromwich, Myles Ashong, Karima Maloney and Steven Levin acting as counsel.

Moriarty sought their assistance because she said her office lacks enough experienced litigators to handle the Londregan prosecution alongside their typical caseload. The Steptoe contract, backdated to April 22, includes an initial $1 million billing cap for their services.

Responding to Londregan's request for a speedy legal process, Garcia set a trial date beginning Sept. 9, anticipating the trial will take roughly three weeks.

The charges against the 27-year-old trooper stem from a traffic stop on Interstate 94 in north Minneapolis, when other troopers pulled over Cobb for driving without taillights but soon learned he was wanted for violating a domestic no-contact order.

Cobb, 33, didn't follow commands to exit his vehicle and instead shifted to drive, causing the car to lurch forward as Londregan and a colleague were partly inside trying to remove him.

Londregan fired his service weapon, striking Cobb twice. Trooper Brett Seide has said that he feared for his safety and Londregan protected him.

Londregan has maintained his innocence since the charges were filed in January, but Wednesday marked the first time he'd been asked to submit a formal plea on the record amid several contentious exchanges between opposing attorneys.

Londregan's attorneys motioned for Garcia to disqualify the special prosecutors, arguing the newly appointed counsel were "impermissibly financially motivated." Defense attorney Chris Madel remarked that he and Londregan are both Hennepin County residents whose taxes are paying for the outside help. (Moriarty told the County Board last month that all legal expenses will be paid from her office's existing budget.)

But Madel withdrew that and two other motions later in the hearing before the judge had a chance to rule on it. The others — related to whether the case lacked probable cause and accusing Moriarty of misusing the grand jury process — factored heavily into growing public scrutiny of the case, including mounting pressure by a group of bipartisan politicians on Gov. Tim Walz to reassign the case.

When Garcia opined that at least one of those motions would bring the case "to a screeching halt," the defense opted to instead pursue a speedy trial.

Meanwhile, Bromwich accused the defense of "intimidation and harassment" of Jeffrey Noble, a law enforcement expert originally retained by Moriarty's office during the charging process, calling the attorneys' attempts to get documents from Noble verging on "obstruction of justice."

Madel denied the allegations, but said "we know frankly it's untrue" that Noble had produced all the documents pertinent to the case. Later, Madel repeatedly chastised one prosecutor for interrupting him.

"Let me finish! You have a problem with this," he snapped, eliciting groans from Cobb's family in the front row.

The defense team strongly advocated for a trial date to be scheduled within 60 days — as early as July — noting that Hennepin County had been working on the case since last summer and Londregan was anxious to return to his life with his 1-year-old child.

"It's not that complicated in any respect," said defense co-counsel Peter Wold.

Maloney countered that, given the massive amount of discovery materials the new legal team would need to review, and the fact Londregan is not being held in custody, special circumstances permitted the court to start the trial later this fall or even early 2025.

Garcia agreed that 60 days was not a realistic timeline.

"I think we're going to have a fair amount to do given how this case has gone up to this point," she said in selecting the September start date. "I want everyone to be prepared to go forward. The goal here is a trial that's fair to everybody."

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.

Provided, Star Tribune