MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A Minnesota state trooper is free, on a set of court-imposed conditions that do not include monetary bail, after making his first court appearance on a murder charge in the deadly traffic stop shooting of Ricky Cobb II. Trooper Ryan Londregan did not enter a plea at Monday’s brief hearing. His legal team is attempting to have the case tossed out by attacking the Hennepin County Attorney’s use of a grand jury.
When Mary Moriarty announced second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and first-degree assault charges against Londregan last week, she made no mention of the use of a grand jury.
"This thorough investigation and review is what led to our decision to file these charges," stated Moriarty, at the time. "We want him to have a fair trial."
But her office now confirms using the confidential process to investigate the circumstances of the deadly traffic stop encounter between Cobb and three troopers, including Londregan.
Retired district court Judge Kevin Burke explained to FOX 9 that the state can use grand juries to subpoena and compel witnesses to testify under oath. They may face arrest if they do not comply.
"The idea of using a grand jury to get uncooperative witnesses to give testimony is a time-honored thing in this state," Burke said.
The county attorney’s office acknowledged in a public statement last September that members of the State Patrol refused to cooperate with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation into the deadly use of force along I-94 in north Minneapolis, early on the morning of July 31. While FOX 9 does not know exactly who was called before the grand jury, filings from Londregan’s legal team indicate they believe the two other troopers on scene testified under oath.
That would mean Brett Seide, who initiated the traffic stop, and is then seen on dash and body camera videos partially inside the vehicle when Londregan fired twice, has told his story and answered prosecutors’ questions under oath. Those sworn statements are now potentially admissible at a future Londregan trial.
"This county attorney is literally out of control," Londregan’s defense attorney said in a video-recorded statement shortly after the charges were announced. "Open season on law enforcement must end. And it is going to end with this case."
Madel has asked presiding Judge Tamara Garcia to dismiss the charges against Londregan, arguing the state abused the grand jury process and manufactured the charges.
"We have historically in Minnesota had grand juries that did investigations," responded Burke. "So, there is nothing unusual about the process that led to the charge."
The retired judge points back to former Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman using a grand jury to compel police testimony in the 2017 deadly shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in Minneapolis.
"Once you have a grand jury subpoena, you have got to testify," said Burke.
Freeman ultimately charged MPD officer Mohamed Noor, who was subsequently convicted by a jury and sentenced to prison. Moriarty vowed to make those same charging decisions in an office-recorded video posted to YouTube just weeks before she signed off on Londregan’s criminal complaint.
"I believe that it is the prosecutor’s job to take ownership and accountability of the charges that are issued by this office," Moriarty explained while looking directly into a camera. "That is the reason why we will not be using a grand jury for charging purposes in cases involving officers and the death of one of our community members."
In Trooper Londregan’s case, Moriarty insists, the decision to prosecute was hers alone. But first, she needed his fellow troopers to testify under oath.
There is no indication of a timeline for any judicial rulings on Londregan’s defense motion to dismiss. His attorneys have also argued the trooper used lethal force to protect himself and Trooper Seide from death or great bodily harm, in that they could have otherwise been dragged if he had not fired his duty weapon. They have also questioned why, after promising to consult with a use-of-force expert, Moriarty decided to charge the case without using such an expert.
Trooper Londregan is due back in court on April 29. Among the conditions of his release are that he surrender his passport, remain law-abiding, make all future court proceedings, and has no contact with either the Cobb family or any potential witness in the case.