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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Three Other Officers Involved in George Floyd's Death Charged. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 3, 2020 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Based on your conversations with the demonstrators, the activists, how do you think they're going to react to this announcement?

Do you agree with Omar Jimenez's assessment that they will likely see this as one step, but not necessarily enough, they want to see this all the way through, and they want more changes?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They want more changes, simple as that.

There were enormous protests here in St. Paul, thousands and thousands of people showing up in the state capital yesterday. There were protests across the state, certainly in Minneapolis, and those protesters, they will be pleased, absolutely happy to hear that these charges have now been brought.

But they will want more. Specifically, they do want the county attorney, Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County, who initially had this case and then turned it over to the attorney general, they want him to resign. They're also upset with the governor and his handling of it.

There is great distrust of the entire system top to bottom. There is a sense that something is different now, the story that we did yesterday here at the capital, where we saw thousands upon thousands, mostly young people, but old young, black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian, coming in huge numbers that people in the movement here have never seen before.

They have never seen that sort of sensibility. The suburbs, some of these -- some of these marches that we have been in, they have marched out to areas where you have very big, very grand, very suburban sort of homes, and there are people out front there expressing their support for what's happening here.

So, I think that there is -- we have covered a lot of these things. And there does feel to be something different here, that that videotape was so shocking at its very core, that an officer for eight minutes and 46 seconds could sit on the neck and knee the neck of that individual, with his hand in his pocket, as casually as he was standing online at the bank, and then for him to die that way, the shock to the consciousness of the entire nation, I think, is with them right now -- back to you. TAPPER: All right, Miguel Marquez in St. Paul.

We are still waiting for the Minnesota attorney general.

The press conference looks like it's about to start. So, let's go there right now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... taking your questions. He will not be able to answer any questions about evidence or how evidence is evaluated, any question about witnesses, any question about the timeline of events that led to Mr. Floyd's death or any investigative detail.

It is all under investigation. It is currently confidential. So I just want to set that expectation right now.

With that, Attorney General Ellison.

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: First of all, thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the press.

Myself and my friend Mike Freeman want to share some information with you.

I want to begin with a reminder. And that is that we're here today because George Floyd is not here. He should be here. He should be alive, but he's not.

About nine days ago, the world watched Floyd utter his very last words, "I can't breathe," as he pled for his life. The world heard Floyd call out for his momma and cried out, "Don't kill me."

Just two days ago, when I became the lead prosecutor in the murder of Mr. Floyd, I asked for time to thoroughly review all the evidence in the case. And we looked at the case, the evidence that is available, and the investigation is ongoing at this time.

I also said that I know it's asking a lot of people to give us time, particularly people who have suffered for decades and centuries of injustice, to be patient.

And yet we did get that time. And together, a very strong, experienced team, which included county attorney Mike Freeman, his team and my team, we reviewed the evidence, together with the BCA, and we have something to announce today.

Before I announce it, I want to say, thank you for the patience of the people who -- they have shown me and our entire team in pursuit of justice. And I'm here to make these announcements right now.

First, today, I filed an amended complaint that charges former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with murder in the second degree for the death of George Floyd. I believe the evidence available to us now supports the stronger charge of second-degree murder. We have consulted with each other, and we agree.

[16:05:03]

Second, today, arrest warrants were issued for former Minneapolis police officers J.A. Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao.

Finally, I'd like to announce that, today, Hennepin County attorney Michael Freeman and I have filed a complaint that charges police officer Kueng, Lane, and Thao with aiding and abetting murder in the second degree, A felony offense.

I strongly believe that these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community and our state.

I'm the lead prosecutor in this case, I will be speaking and addressing the public. And this is -- but this is absolutely a team effort. We're working together on this case with only one goal, justice for George Floyd.

I want to thank first Mr. Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman, who has been a true partner in this matter at every step of the way. His experience and insight have been invaluable and will continue to be counted on by the team.

I also want to thank county attorney Freeman's professional staff, who have cooperated and work together with my staff and the investigating officers every -- from the very minute this case started.

I also want to thank Superintendent Drew Evans of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and his professional staff for the care and speed with which they are conducting this investigation.

And I want to thank especially U.S. attorney Erica MacDonald and Special Agent in Charge Rainer Drolshagen, who are conducting a parallel federal color of law investigation.

I have heard directly from the leadership of the Department of Justice that there is full support for her leadership in pursuit of her investigation and, as she put it so well, one team, one goal, one mission.

I agree 100 percent.

As I said earlier, I think Mr. Floyd's family, I think -- and I can speak for Mr. -- Mr. Freeman and I jointly thank them, along with U.S. attorney MacDonald. We thank the community for their patience in allowing us the time and space we need over these days to lay these charges.

As it is so hard to do, I now ask for continued patience. This case continues to be under investigation. We will not be able to say very much publicly about the investigation, except that we encourage anyone who believes that they have evidence in this case to come forward and to be cooperative with the investigation.

As we develop the case for a prosecution, which will also not be -- we will not be able to say very much publicly about it, because our job is to seek justice and to obtain a conviction, not to make statements in the press, but to put -- do our talking in court.

So, I ask for your patience again, while we limit our public comments in pursuit of justice. I also ask for your trust that we are pursuing justice by every legal and ethical means available to us.

I also want to add a word of caution. The investigation is ongoing. We are following the path of all of the evidence, wherever it leads. We are investigating as quickly as we can, because speed is important.

We're also investigating as thoroughly as we can, because being complete and thorough is critically important, but it takes time. The reason thoroughness is important is because every single link in the prosecutorial chain must be strong.

It needs to be strong, because trying this case will not be an easy thing. Winning a conviction will be hard. In fact, county attorney Freeman is the only prosecutor in the state of Minnesota who has successfully convicted a police officer for murder.

And he can tell you that it's hard. I say that -- I say this not because we doubt our resources or our ability. In fact, we're confident in what we're doing.

But history does show that there are clear challenges here. And we are going to be working very hard and relying on each other and our investigative partners in the community to support that endeavor.

To the Floyd family, to our beloved community and to everyone that is watching, I say, George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His family was important. His life had value. And we will seek justice for him and for you, and we will find it.

[16:10:05]

The very fact that we have filed these charges means that we believe in them. But what I do not believe is that one successful prosecution can rectify the hurt and loss that so many people feel.

The solution to that pain will be slow and difficult work of constructing justice and fairness in our society. That work is the work of all of us. We don't need to wait for the resolution and investigation of this case to start that work.

We need citizens, neighbors, leaders in government and in faith communities, civil and human rights activists to begin rewriting the rules for a just society now. We need new policy and legislation and ways of thinking at the municipal, state and federal levels.

The world of arts and entertainment can use their cultural influence to inspire change that we need. There is a role for all who dream of a justice that we haven't yet experienced.

In the final analysis, a protest can shake a tree and can make the fruit fall down, but, after that fruit is in reach, collecting it and making the jam must follow.

The demonstrations and the protests are dramatic and necessary, but building just institutions is more of a slow grind, but equally important, and we have to begin that work as well.

We need your energy and we need everyone's help right now.

Thank you very much.

We will take a few questions.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ELLISON: We believe we have a duty to charge the charges that fit the facts in this case. And we have done so.

And so our concern is to put all the energy we can into putting forth the strongest case that we can, without fear or favor of anyone or anything. These charges are based on the facts that we have found, and we're going to pursue them.

QUESTION: The Hennepin County attorney, obviously, you got the case from him. Was he going to plead this case as a murder three case? (OFF-MIKE)

ELLISON: The Hennepin County attorney did an excellent job by gathering facts, and has worked cooperatively with us at every single step of the way.

We consulted with each other on these charges. We believe that these are the right charges. Mike Freeman and I will be -- we have signed the complaint for these additional charges. And so that's what we're doing.

So...

QUESTION: The whole nation, indeed, the whole world, has been waiting for some type of announcement from your office.

Can you describe the process involved in your deliberation, and what impact you think today's decision might have, not just in Minneapolis, but for those across the country watching you right now?

ELLISON: Unfortunately, I can't delve into our deliberative process.

But what I will tell you generally is, we gathered all the facts that we could, we reviewed the criminal statutes, we looked at case law, we consulted with each other, and we arrived at these charges. We believe that they're justified by the facts and the law.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) What does this impact have on them, this decision?

ELLISON: The pursuit of justice is always good and right. And we -- I want to signal to them that we hope that they continue to

raise the cause of justice, but do it in a peaceful manner. It is their right to express themselves.

And, with that, I will say that they should -- they should continue in their own communities to get together to build just police-community relationships. We need the faith community to be involved. We need arts and entertainment to help inspire us toward justice. We need everybody.

There's a lot more to do than just this case. And we ask people to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Are was talking weeks? Are we talking months? (OFF-MIKE)

[16:15:01]

ELLISON: You know, I want to thank you for asking that question because part of my comments were to help set expectations in a realistic light.

You know, in order to be thorough, this is going to take months. And I don't know how many, but it is better to make sure that we have a solid case, fully investigated, researched, before we go to trial, than to rush it. We don't -- and so, it will take a while. And I can't set a deadline on that.

In the back.

REPORTER: Attorney General, (INAUDIBLE). The Floyd family had asked for a first-degree murder charge as well as their attorney. You decided to charge second degree, unintentional murder, while committing a felony.

Can you explain what that charge means, unintentional murder, versus second degree, intentional murder, please?

ELLISON: Well, according to Minnesota law you have to have premeditation and deliberation to charge first-degree murder. Second- degree murder, you have to intend for death to be the result. For second degree felony murder, you have to intend a felony and then death be the result without necessarily having it be the intent.

So that is the -- that's the state of the law. The felony would be -- we would contend that George Floyd was assaulted and that -- and so that would be the underlying felony.

REPORTER: Would you accept any plea deals in this or do you expect all four to go to trial? And secondly, when will the body camera footage be released?

ELLISON: You know, I really don't have any idea of what plea negotiations or anything like that, it's simply way too early to begin that conversation. At this point, we are preparing to try this case. If something else happens along the way, we'll see. But at this point, we don't have any -- we don't have any plans in that direction.

REPORTER: Camera footage?

ELLISON: You know, that is something that I will -- I don't have anything to report right now. At this time we're focused on the investigating case. And so, I think at this time, I will consult with the BCA and other partners on the case and we'll come to a conclusion about that.

Again, we believe in transparency but we also believe in a thorough investigation, most importantly.

REPORTER: Have the three officers been taken into custody?

ELLISON: I'll allow Mr. Drew Evans to address that issue.

DREW EVANS, SUPERINTENDENT, MINNESOTA BUREAU OF CRIMINAL APPREHENSION: Good afternoon. My name is Drew Evans. I'm the superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

We're in the process of taking the officers into custody. I can report that one is in custody now, and the other two, we are in the process of taking into custody and expect them to be this afternoon.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

EVANS: I will -- as the attorney general said, we can't speak about all the details in the case other than what's really in the complaint at this time. I will tell you with any investigation, as I've told you all from the very beginning, we have teams of investigators from the BCA jointly investigating this with the FBI, trying to obtain all information.

In this case, I will tell you that is a regular course of all of our investigations, to attempt interviews with all of the officers. We have interviewed numerous individuals in this case and additional information will be provided as we move forward.

REPORTER: Mr. Attorney General, we've already seen from outside counsel, special counsel as you're authorized to do under the law.

ELLISON: At this time, I believe we have the team to complete this work.

I would like to just introduce David Voigt as well. He is a deputy at the attorney general's office. He heads the criminal division. And he has the lawyers to get this done.

And also we have some experienced lawyers in the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. We're working on this thing together.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) information on the charges before the memorial tomorrow. How did that factor into your decision as well as the protests across the country? ELLISON: I can say that I did not allow public pressure to impact our

decision-making progress. I was prepared to withstand whatever calls came. We made the deter -- we made these decisions based on the facts that we have gathered since this matter occurred, on the law that we think this applies.

[16:20:06]

So that's my answer.

Yes?

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

ELLISON: It's going fine, it's going great. I spent a lot of time in Hennepin County when I was a trial lawyer myself and I know a lot -- I know all these -- I know all the lawyers there, respect them all, I admire them all. And we're going on fine.

That answers you? OK.

OK. Andy LeFevre, he represents the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. He's first deputy at -- for Mike Freeman, right?

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

ELLISON: No, I'm going to let the people who prosecute cases every single day to prosecute this case.

Now, it is true that I've tried a lot of cases and I've tried homicide cases, but on the other side of the courtroom. The people who know how to prosecute, I'm going to let them do that work.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

ELLISON: You know, I think it helps me anticipate what some of the -- some of the attacks on our case might be.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

ELLISON: I see no reason why we can't get a fair trial here.

REPORTER: The charges that were just filed, if my math is correct, three officers now face the personal same maximum sentence as Officer Chauvin.

ELLISON: Yes. Well, yes, sir?

REPORTER: I apologize if you addressed this before, but does your involvement in this case now put you on the sidelines in terms of the legislative process in working for police reform legislation?

ELLISON: No. I'll continue to do all the duties that I have, which involve legislative, which involve a lot. We've been very active in the civil space. We've been active in representing state agencies and government. We'll be -- I'll continue to supervise that as I always do.

But I feel -- I feel very confident in it because I have excellent professionals who are going to be focused on this, like a laser beam, every single day.

REPORTER: Attorney General, could you just take us into that room when the decision was made, where you first (INAUDIBLE), the moment you had first (ph)?

ELLISON: I feel a tremendous sense of weight. I feel that this -- I feel this is a very serious moment. I can honestly tell you I take no joy in this. But I do feel a tremendous sense of duty and responsibility.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

ELLISON: I don't know the answer to that question. Maybe --

EVANS: I would just answer that in terms of, that is left up to the various sheriffs that we work with on this, they make us commissioners know (ph) the other day security decisions, and the best place for everybody in light of everything that's going on right now in the Twin Cities.

Again, those are decisions based on the analysis of the sheriff and they work closely with the Department of Corrections to make sure that they have everybody in their custody where they should be based on safety assessments.

(INAUDIBLE)

ELLISON: Thank you all very much.

I will say to them that I pledge and I promise to hold all -- everyone accountable for the behavior that we can prove in a court. And that if I don't charge it, it means we did not have the facts to do that. So I'll simply say that as the people who are legal professionals, professional prosecutors, we are taking our duties seriously, and we are working with the people who gather the facts. And this is -- and we have -- we have done the work that we believe is possible, ethical, and right.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

ELLISON: Yeah, well -- I mean, look, let me be honest here, our country has had -- has under-prosecuted these matters, in Minnesota and throughout the country. So I think the trust is a result of historically not holding people who are public guardians accountable for their behavior in situations where we should have.

[16:25:07]

So that I think is the origin of the trust problem. But we can't -- we can't control the past. All we can do is take the case that we have in front of us right now and do our good faith best to bring justice to the situation. And we will. TAPPER: You were just listening to Minnesota Attorney General Keith

Ellison, a Democrat, announcing that a new charge of second-degree murder has been added for the officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck, killing him, and also charges for three other officers. They've been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Let's talk about this now with CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson and Laura Coates.

Joey, let me start with you. Officer Chauvin was first charged with third degree murder. Now prosecutors are charging him with second- degree murder, unintentional, it says. What exactly does that mean? Why is it significant?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's significant, Jake -- good to be with you -- for a number of reasons. Let's start here. The first significance I think of this whole press conference is the significance of accountability. People talk about legislation in federal -- you know, in Congress, legislation in state legislatures.

The best thing you can do in order to resolve and help move this problem forward is to prosecute cases when you have evidence to do so.

To your question, here they believe they have that evidence. Now, there's a distinction, people are wondering, should it be first degree, should it be second, should it be third. Let's talk about what that means.

If you're going to prosecute as a prosecutor first degree, you have to, number one, show that he intended, that is, the officer intended to kill him. But not only intended to kill George Floyd, you have to show it was planned, it was premeditated. That's punishable by life. That's a very hard push.

The second issue now, to what he did charge, is the second degree. You simply have to demonstrate intent to kill but you don't have to show a design or a plan or a premeditation to do so. That was upgraded, Jake, from third degree.

What is that? It's when you're engaged in something that is very serious, right? You're engaged in serious conduct and you do it callously with a depraved heart. What conduct is that? Well, when you have your foot, or -- excuse me, your knee on the neck of someone for an extended period of time, that seems pretty (INAUDIBLE). It was upgrading of the charges as it related Officer Chauvin.

Last point, Jake, and that's this. We also saw accountability to the other officers who people might suggest were standing by. No, they weren't just standing by. They were doing something a lot more.

Here's why it's relevant. If a person is merely present, they have no legal liability or culpability at all if they were merely present. But they were not merely present. The prosecutor's argument is that they participated, they aided, they abetted, they importune, they allowed this to happen through their active conduct.

And there's other -- the other video that would suggest that they were also kneeling on him and holding him down.

And the final point is when they were doing so, he was saying things, like what, like "I can't breathe," like "I'm going to die," like calling for his mother.

So this prosecutor is very motivated to find the truth, it appears, and finding that active truth, he believes he can sustain those charges. And that's where we are today.

TAPPER: And, Laura, you're more than family with Minnesota law, you're from Minnesota, you can practice in the state. Now, the charging document says, quote, charge second-degree murder unintentional while committing a felony.

What does that mean under the law, unintentional, if second-degree murder also requires intent?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Minnesota is distinct from probably a lot of other states. They actually have two ways to prove second-degree murder. You can either intend to kill somebody or you can be in the unintentional category. As long as you are attempting to or committing a felony and somebody is killed in the process.

Those felony ranges in Minnesota that would allow you to charge someone, even if you cannot prove that they intended to kill the person, include about five different degrees of assault. The most important ones here are the first two. First degree assault is a felony, essentially it's codified in the statutes to say, listen, you have to cause great bodily harm so somebody is close to death. Second degree assault, what it's usually using a weapon, but the person has substantial bodily harm.

So, under either of those two types of felony assault, which would be the basis to say if you are attempting to committee either of those or you actually did commit either of those, you don't have to prove intent for second-degree murder in Minnesota. As far as the idea of what this speaks to, Joey is absolutely right, you charge the highest charge you can likely prove. And it's very difficult, oftentimes, to get into the mind of a --

[16:30:00]