Let’s unpack this. It’ll take a few minutes, but when you’ve read everything below, you’ll know the facts.
Derek Chauvin, 44, is a 19-year veteran with the Minneapolis Police Department. Chauvin is the central officer in the death of George Floyd. In a video shot by a bystander this month, Chauvin is seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Flash back to Oct. 29, 2006. That day, Chauvin and five other officers shot and killed Wayne Reyes, 42, when he allegedly pulled a shotgun on officers after stabbing his girlfriend and another man.
Enter Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The Democrat is on Joe Biden’s short list of potential running mates. She wants the job, bad. Klobuchar was also the former local attorney in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and several other cities and towns.
So when reports emerged that Klobuchar had failed to prosecute Chauvin back in 2006 — which she did — Klobuchar went to a friendly “news” network to refute the charges.
Here’s what she said Friday on MSNBC in its entirety:
This idea that I somehow declined a case, which has been reported on some news blogs and then set out on the internet, against this officer is absolutely false. It is a lie, I don’t know what else to say about it than it is a lie. The case went — was investigated. That investigation continued into a time where I was already sworn into the U.S. Senate. I never declined the case.
It was handled and sent to the grand jury by my successor. And he has said that. His office has said that it was not my place to make the decisions because the decisions were made when I was in the U.S. Senate, in fact nine months after I was in the U.S. Senate is when it went to the grand jury.
Now let me address the bigger issue. I have said repeatedly, back when I was the county attorney, the cases that we had involving officer-involving shootings, went to a grand jury. That was a [sic] true in every jurisdiction across our state, and that was true in many jurisdictions across the country.
I think that was wrong now. I think it would have been much better if I took the responsibility and looked at the cases and made the decisions myself. But let me make this clear, we did not blow off these cases. We brought them to a grand jury, presented the evidence for a potential criminal prosecution and the grand jury would come back with a decision. That is how we handled the cases.
Some of what she said is true — although MOST of it is false.
Klobuchar WAS in the Senate by the time a grand jury decided not to charge Chauvin — she had left her job as Hennepin County attorney on Dec. 31, 2006, after winning her Senate seat. It wasn’t until October 2007 that a grand jury decided not to charge Chauvin in Reyes’ death.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s office on Thursday issued a statement seeking to clear Klobuchar: “A Hennepin County Grand Jury returned a no-bill in the death of Wayne Reyes on Oct. 25, 2007. All prosecutorial decisions were made under the direction of Mike Freeman.”
Mike Freeman, for the record, succeeded Klobuchar as Hennepin County attorney.
Now guess who decided to charge Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter? Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney!
So Klobuchar is clearly lying when she said “… back when I was the county attorney, the cases that we had involving officer-involv[ed] shootings, went to a grand jury. That was a [sic] true in every jurisdiction across our state.”
“That’s my job.” Indeed it is. Grand juries — in Minnesota and elsewhere — are not always convened, and prosecutors make many decisions on whether to charge suspects all by themselves. Klobuchar could have — but didn’t. She “declined” the case — or refused to charge, anyway, claiming on Friday that she only grand juries make those decisions.
But the MinnPost elaborated about the use of grand juries, which are secretive bodies convened to weigh evidence.
Minnesota prosecutors are required to summon a grand jury when seeking a life sentence for felony crimes, though otherwise they have the ability to decide when to use them on a case-by-case basis. For police shootings, the choice has become increasingly controversial; Critics call them problematic since their proceedings are confidential at a time when the public needs greater transparency into the process of deciding if or when police officers should be using excessive force. Supporters of the grand jury process say that involving a group of citizens in the charging decision adds a layer of fairness. California was the first state to ban them in police-involved shootings, in 2015.
A website called Lead Stories posted this piece on Friday, headlined: “Fact Check: Amy Klobuchar Did NOT Decline To Prosecute Cop at Center Of George Floyd Death.” The site, it’s worth noting, was co-founded by editor-in-chief Alan Duke — who worked for CNN for 26 years.
“Did Amy Klobuchar decline to prosecute Derek Chauvin, the cop at the center of George Floyd’s death? No, that’s not true: Klobuchar was not involved in the prosecutorial decisions in the October 2006 police shooting of Wayne Reyes, which happened just weeks before her election to the U.S. Senate. She had already been out of the job as Hennepin, Minnesota, County Attorney for a year when a grand jury returned a no-bill in the case against six Minneapolis officer involved in Reyes’s death,” said the piece.
The only reason Klobuchar was “not involved” is because she — as the county prosecutor — did not file charges. Again, she could have — her successor did against Chauvin, in just four days. He didn’t need a grand jury.
After Floyd died, Freeman said that an investigation into the case would take time. “We’re going to investigate [Floyd’s death] as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands,” Freeman said on Thursday. “Sometimes, that takes a little time and we ask people to be patient. We have to do this right.”
On Friday, after rioters burned down parts of Minneapolis, Freeman — and Freeman alone — brought charges against Chauvin. No grand jury, the prosecutor simply did his job: prosecute.
County attorneys in Minnesota have that power.
Klobuchar surely did — even though now, she’s trying to rewrite history to say she didn’t.
And the mainstream media is buying it — hook line and sinker.