Minneapolis leaders struggle to defend timing of $27 million civil settlement 

The settlement was announced at a 90-minute press conference Friday after the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to approve the payment.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a press conference Thursday. (Minneapolis/YouTube)

City leaders struggled to explain why they agreed to a record-setting $27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family in the middle of jury selection for his alleged murderer’s trial.

“First, I would disagree with the underlying premise,” Mayor Jacob Frey said at a Thursday press conference, responding to a reporter who observed that the settlement has “clearly had a negative effect” on former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial.

The settlement was announced at a 90-minute press conference Friday after the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to approve the payment. Mayor Frey and City Attorney Jim Rowader attended and spoke at the press conference along with members of George Floyd’s family and their attorneys.

In the courtroom Monday, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill called the timing of the settlement “unfortunate” and said he wished “city officials [would] stop talking about this case so much.”

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution, agreed that the timing wasn’t ideal but said he wasn’t sure which “way it cuts.”

“The problem is, it cuts,” Cahill responded. He then dismissed two seated jurors Wednesday because of their knowledge of the settlement.

Rowader claimed at a Thursday press conference that it “remains to be seen” if the settlement will have an impact on the trial.

“But to date I would say it hasn’t had that impact,” he said. “There is no good timing to settle any case, particularly one as complex and as involved and sensitive as this. There’s no guarantee, for instance, that that deal would be available two, four, six, eight weeks from now or six months from now.”

A reporter pushed back on Rowader’s comments and said “it’s a fact” that the settlement has had an impact on the criminal proceedings.

“Again, I disagree with the underlying premise,” Rowader replied. “I think it’s also clear from the judge’s comments this week that he does not want us to talk about the settlement at this time while they are finishing jury selection. So for that reason alone we’re not going to talk about details related to the settlement.”

He also said the settlement is “still in the process of being finalized,” raising additional questions about why it was announced last week.

Judge Cahill is expected to rule Friday on motions from the defense to delay the trial and change venues.

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