Correction and update: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) as having “declined to prosecute” Derek Chauvin over a 2006 police-involved shooting while she served as Hennepin County’s top prosecutor from 1999 to 2007. As clarified by the Hennepin County attorney’s office on Friday, “Sen. Klobuchar’s last day in the office here was December 31 2006, and she had no involvement in the prosecution of this case at all.” Klobuchar likewise addressed the claim Friday, describing it as “absolutely false” in an interview with MSNBC. This article has been revised to reflect this correction and include Klobuchar’s response.
In an interview with MSNBC on Friday, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) — one of the leading names on presumptive Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden’s vice presidential list — refuted the claim that while serving as Hennepin County’s top prosecutor from 1999 to 2007 she declined to prosecute the officer charged Friday over the death of George Floyd.
Floyd died on Monday after an arrest that involved four Minneapolis police officers. One of the officers, Derek Chauvin, is seen in a video taken by a bystander as holding his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while Floyd tells the officers he cannot breathe. The four officers were fired on Tuesday and Chauvin was arrested and charged Friday on 3rd-degree murder and manslaughter charges for the death of George Floyd.
Amid scrutiny over her former office’s handling of a 2006 case against Chauvin, Klobuchar slammed the claim that she “declined” to prosecute.
“This idea that I somehow declined a case, which has been reported on some news blogs … against this officer is absolutely false,” the senator told MSNBC Friday, as reported by The Hill. “That investigation continued into a time where I was already sworn into the U.S. Senate,” Klobuchar explained. “It was handled and sent to the grand jury by my successor.”
“I never declined [Chauvin’s] case,” she said. “It was handled and sent to the grand jury. When I was county attorney, cases we had involving officer-involved shootings went to a grand jury. I think that was wrong, now. It would have been much better if I took responsibility and looked at cases and made a decision myself.”
Klobuchar’s assertion was confirmed by the Hennepin County attorney’s office on Friday. “Sen. Klobuchar’s last day in the office here was December 31 2006, and she had no involvement in the prosecution of this case at all,” the office said in a statement.
Klobuchar’s record as prosecutor has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the tragic death of Floyd. The claim that she declined charges against Chauvin followed a report by The Guardian on Chauvin’s police record published Thursday.
In the report, the outlet highlights a 2006 officer-involved shooting case in which Chauvin was one of the officers named in a complaint, and which occurred while Klobuchar was still serving as the county’s top prosecutor.
“Between 1999 and 2007, Klobuchar, the state’s then top prosecutor, declined to press charges against more than a dozen officers accused of killing civilians,” The Guardian reported Thursday. “In 2006, Chauvin was one of several officers involved in the shooting death of a man who stabbed others before turning on the police. Although Klobuchar was the Hennepin county attorney at the time of an October 2006 police shooting involving Chauvin, she did not prosecute and instead the case went to a grand jury that declined to charge the officers with wrongdoing in 2008.”
WXII 12 News reported Thursday that Chauvin “had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs.”
Klobuchar’s record as a prosecutor came under fire while she was campaigning for president earlier this year after The Associated Press reportedly uncovered new evidence in an investigation into the death of an 11-year-old girl who was killed by a stray bullet while she was at home.
“The senator has repeatedly highlighted Mr. [Myon] Burrell’s conviction in the 2002 case, in which an 11-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet, as evidence of her history of being tough on crime and seeking justice for African-American communities shaken by gun violence,” The New York Times reported. “But the A.P. article quoted one of Mr. Burrell’s co-defendants as saying that he was in fact the gunman responsible for the murder of the girl, Tyesha Edwards. Mr. Burrell, The A.P. reported, has insisted that he is innocent and has rejected all plea deals.”
The Washington Post highlighted another racially charged case that Klobuchar declined to bring charges in that involved the death of 44-year-old Christopher Burns, an unarmed black man, who died after he was put in a choke hold by law enforcement officers who were responding to a domestic violence call.
“The focus of the community’s anger was Amy Klobuchar, the up-and-coming attorney of Hennepin County, who had declined to prosecute police accused of using excessive force against black suspects,” The Washington Post reported. “At the same time, she aggressively prosecuted smaller offenses such as vandalism and routinely sought longer-than-recommended sentences, including for minors.”
At the beginning of March, while she was still running for president, Klobuchar had to cancel a campaign rally in Minnesota after a large number of protesters stormed the stage demanding that she drop out of the race due to her record as a prosecutor.
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