Judge: Rusczyzk family's civil lawsuit on hold until Noor stands trial for Justine Damond shooting
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - A federal judge has ordered the civil lawsuit seeking $50 million against former police officer Mohamed Noor and the city of Minneapolis will wait until Noor's criminal trial is resolved. A trial date of April 1, 2019 has been set for the third-degree murder and manslaughter charges Noor faces for the July 2017 shooting of Australian native Justine Damond Ruszyck in southwest Minneapolis.
“This is a case of multifaceted difficulty for all parties involved. Understandably, Plaintiff wants to progress his case. That progression, however, is not appropriate currently for the reasons discussed herein," U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Tony Leung wrote.
Bob Bennett, the attorney for the Ruszyck’s family, argued the civil case should proceed even as Noor defends himself on the criminal charges.
“It’s important to proceed with the case,” Bennett said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever hear from him.”
Noor’s attorney countered, saying the former officer needs to worry about protecting his freedom in the criminal case where he is staring at prison time if convicted.
Noor’s attorney told Judge Leung that if the court didn't grant a stay, Noor would take the fifth during any civil proceedings, meaning he would not answer any questions the Ruszyczk family has for him so as not to incriminate himself.
Judge Leung addressed this in his order approving the motion to stay proceedings in the civil case:
"Noor’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment right will not advance the parties or public towards this goal because the record will be incomplete. The parties and public will instead be left in essentially the same position as they are now: with no explanation for the July 15, 2017 shooting of Ruszczyk. Just as the Court, the parties, and the non-parties, the public has a paramount interest in preserving the indispensable linkage between justice and truth and fairness. Accordingly, the public’s interest weighs in favor of a stay."
In the criminal case, the two sides have been battling over his record and Minneapolis Police Department history. Prosecutors detailed a sub-par police officer who struggled with training and failed to properly assess the threat when he pulled the trigger.
With Noor’s background and department oversight potentially on trial in the murder case, his civil attorneys and those of the city claim even more reason to wait given the interconnectedness of the two matters.