Prosecutors want to temporarily restrict public access to trooper murder case documents

man in suit and brown shoes stands in crowd
Trooper Ryan Londregan (center) stands with his wife, attorneys and dozens of supporters after making his first court appearance on Jan. 29.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Prosecutors in the case of a Minnesota State Patrol trooper charged with murder and manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a motorist last summer are asking for the court to restrict the public’s access to future motions and evidence on the matter.

State Trooper Ryan Londregan is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, first-degree assault and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of Ricky Cobb II.

In a hearing held Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court, prosecutors expressed concerns about inappropriate disclosure of discovery materials (which refers to evidence of materials used in a defendant’s prosecution) and reasserted the need for restrictions on the public’s access. 

Senior Assistant County Attorney Joshua Larson filed a motion late last week asking the judge overseeing the case to restrict public access to all motions and evidence in the case for at least two business days after filing. Larson argued that public access to information that may not be admissible at trial could “influence public opinion.”

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If no parties object to public disclosure of the motions or evidence, Larson said the restrictions on public access would be “short and temporary.”

“Allowing for a temporary screening period would also ensure that parties promptly notify the court of their intent to object to public disclosure of any information, and ensures that potentially confidential, prejudicial or inadmissible information is not improperly or prematurely released,” according to the prosecution filing.

Judge Tamara Garcia asked the parties to submit briefs on the motion to restrict public access by Friday. She said parties should not release motions in the future until a hearing is held.

Representing the Star Tribune, attorney Leita Walker said she plans to file a motion opposing the restrictions on First Amendment grounds. She asked the court to hold a hearing on the matter to allow oral arguments. 

Prosecutors in the trial of officers accused of killing George Floyd also tried to restrict public access to evidence and were challenged by a media coalition including MPR News. In that case, the judge found that there was already sufficient lag built into the court’s electronic filing system.

At the hearing, defense attorneys for Londregan also expressed frustration that the prosecution hadn’t yet turned over discovery in the case. Prosecutors said they feared discovery materials being made public outside the court process and cited statements made by Londregan’s attorney Chris Madel on the case.

A hearing to schedule future court dates was pushed back from this Friday until March 1 to get the parties time to assess discovery materials.