Judge scolds Minnesota AG in Chauvin leak case

A federal judge’s investigation into who leaked information about a grand jury looking into former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, has led to a sharp scolding of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Federal Judge Patrick Schiltz initiated the investigation, titled ‘Blue Grand Jury,’ after the New York Times reported on its existence on February 23.  The article said federal prosecutors were prepared to indict Chauvin if he was found not guilty on state murder charges.

Many of the documents in the ‘Blue Grand Jury’ investigation remain under seal.

But a letter Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank wrote Tuesday to Judge Schiltz was filed publicly, not under seal.

Judge Schiltz was not amused.

"I already had serious concerns about whether your office should continue to be entrusted with testimony and other evidence presented before federal grand juries, and your failure to ensure that your letter was filed under seal has certainly done nothing to assuage those concerns," wrote Judge Schiltz.

In Frank’s letter, he asks Judge Schiltz if he could reveal a conversation the two of them had in court on June 30 to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.

Judge Cahill is considering a motion by former Minneapolis Police officer Tou Thao alleging the "leak had to have come from the state."

In that closed courtroom conversation, Frank writes that Schiltz "informed us that the Chief of Staff for the incoming Attorney General had acknowledged to Chief Judge Tunheim that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice had been the source of information" in the New York Times article.

Matt Klapper is the Chief of Staff for U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice tells FOX 9 the correspondence between Klapper and Chief Judge Tunheim is being misconstrued by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

"In his communication with Chief Judge Tunheim on this matter, which was in writing, the Chief of Staff did not suggest unauthorized disclosures had come from the Department but instead made clear that he did not know the source of the disclosures," the DOJ spokesperson said.    

Judge Schiltz wasn’t nearly as diplomatic with the Minnesota AG.  

"Because your letter was publicly filed and has been downloaded by at least one reporter, the contents of your letter public information, and you do not need my permission to share public information with Judge Cahill," Schiltz continued.

Judge Schiltz described the information about the source of the leak as merely further speculation.

"Like any of us, the Chief of Staff can engage in speculation about what is known about the leaks, but to my knowledge, no one knows for certain whether the leaks came from the Department of Justice, your office, both, or neither.  The matter remains under active investigation," Schiltz concludes in the letter.

The existence of the unsealed letters was first revealed by the blog Powerline.