Liz Collin, Alpha News, October 17, 2023
New court documents expose the “extreme pressure” prosecutors faced in Hennepin County to charge Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers in the death of George Floyd.
Several attorneys opposed charging the “other three” officers and withdrew from the case due to “professional and ethical rules.”
Now, hundreds of pages of sworn testimony of Hennepin County attorneys and other county employees that took place this summer have been made public.
The depositions were conducted in relation to a lawsuit filed by Amy Sweasy, who was one of the office’s top prosecutors, against former County Attorney Mike Freeman. Sweasy is suing after settling a claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights alleging that Freeman engaged in sex discrimination and retaliation in the office. Hennepin County agreed to pay $190,000 to settle the Department of Human Rights claim.
Freeman left office in January and Sweasy resigned from the current county attorney’s office in April.
According to the new documents, Senior Assistant County Attorney Patrick Lofton who worked on police use-of-force cases with Sweasy said the relationship between Sweasy and Freeman soured after Lofton and Sweasy withdrew from the officers’ cases formally on June 3, 2020. Lofton explained the pressure they were under to file charges.
“The Chauvin stuff is the catalyst of this,” Lofton said, according to a transcript from his June 6 deposition.
“There was extreme premium pressure, yes. The city was burning down,” Lofton said.
He explained that while he “wanted the case charged” and believed there was “probable cause to charge Mr. Chauvin with third degree murder,” the pressure from outside the office was “insane” and he had reservations about charging “the other three cops.”
In the days leading up to Sweasy and Lofton withdrawing from the case, Sweasy described tense meetings and phone calls.
“He (Freeman) was screaming at us. He asked whether we had worked out deals in state court with the other three officers. Of course, we had not. He screamed, ‘What the fuck have they been doing all day?’ to Andy LeFevour (former chief deputy county attorney) about Patrick and me,” Sweasy said, according to a transcript from her Aug. 21 deposition.
During her deposition, Sweasy also discussed a revealing conversation she said she had the day after Floyd’s death when she asked Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker about the autopsy.
“He called me later in the day on that Tuesday and he told me that there were no medical findings that showed any injury to the vital structures of Mr. Floyd’s neck. There were no medical indications of asphyxia or strangulation,” Sweasy said, according to the transcript.
“He said to me, ‘Amy, what happens when the actual evidence doesn’t match up with the public narrative that everyone’s already decided on?’ And then he said, ‘This is the kind of case that ends careers.’”