Minnesota Media Companies Rally Against Draconian Court Restrictions in Trooper Murder Case, Citing Violation of First Amendment Rights

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – A coalition of media companies in Minnesota is urging a judge to reject strict limitations on public access to court documents in the murder case against state trooper Ryan Londregan. The media coalition argues that these restrictions would violate the press freedoms protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The media attorney representing the coalition, Leita Walker, filed the court motion on Friday, following Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty’s request to seal filings in the case temporarily. Moriarty’s office claimed that this step was necessary to prevent the disclosure of confidential or prejudicial information.

Typically, court documents become available to the public and the press immediately after being filed. However, Moriarty’s request would establish a “screening period” for attorneys to review the records before public access is granted.

The county attorney’s office expressed concerns that pretrial publicity initiated by the defense could impact the fairness of Londregan’s trial. The state trooper is facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder, first-degree assault, and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the fatal shooting of Ricky Cobb II during a traffic stop last year.

In response, Walker challenged the prosecutor’s motivation for such broad sealing requests, arguing that they had failed to provide evidence of the necessity for this measure. Walker emphasized that pretrial proceedings are typically open to the public and heavily covered by the media.

The media coalition pointed out that other high-profile cases involving law enforcement defendants have managed to empanel unbiased juries, despite extensive pretrial media coverage. The coalition cited cases such as the trials of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd and Kim Potter for the manslaughter of Daunte Wright.

The media coalition, which includes media organizations like the Star Tribune and the Associated Press, among others, signed onto Friday’s motion. Londregan’s attorney, Chris Madel, also opposed the sealing of records, arguing that it was an attempt to create a false narrative before the trial.

A hearing has been requested to address the media coalition’s concerns and make a ruling on the matter. This is not the first time local media outlets have sought greater access to criminal trials in Minnesota. In the high-profile Mohamed Noor trial of 2019, the media coalition successfully fought for the public’s right to view key body camera footage in the courtroom.

The media coalition’s motion raises concerns about a recent order from Judge Tamara Garcia, which prohibits parties from attaching exhibits to motions and instead requires them to bring the exhibits to future hearings. The coalition argues that this order could allow attorneys to selectively present evidence, potentially biasing the jury pool.

The case against Ryan Londregan is ongoing, and the media coalition will continue to advocate for openness and transparency in the proceedings.