A Minneapolis police officer charged with shooting into a car full of people near Target Field last November has asked for a change of venue, saying pretrial publicity and a $150,000 settlement the city paid to the victims has biased potential jurors.
The motion, filed late Monday by the lawyer for Efrem Hamilton, also asks that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman be disqualified from prosecuting the case. It cites the professional relationship Hamilton, as an officer, has had with Freeman's office in prosecuting crimes. The motion asks that Hamilton's trial be moved out of Hennepin County.
Hamilton has been on paid administrative leave. The new requests will likely delay his September trial.
A spokesman for the Hennepin County attorney's office said it is reviewing the motion and will have a response by the next court date, a pretrial hearing April 11.
Hamilton, 42, was off duty Nov. 19, but was in uniform and driving a marked squad car, so was acting under color of law.
Hamilton's attorney, Fred Bruno, says in the motion that since Hamilton was charged as a civilian criminal, and not under statutes governing police, prosecutors should not introduce internal police policies or other professional regulations.
On the night of the shooting, Hamilton was working at a downtown bar when he heard a report of a brawl with shots fired near Target Field, and drove to assist. At the scene, a BMW with six people was trying to leave the area, as instructed, but rammed into Hamilton's squad car. Hamilton jumped out and shot at it. The shot hit the driver's door but no one was injured.
In January Minneapolis agreed to pay the car's six occupants $150,000 to settle civil claims.
Later that month Hamilton was charged with second-degree assault and intentional discharge of a firearm, both felonies. Freeman told reporters Hamilton was reckless and had no reason to fire his weapon.
In filing the motion, Bruno said, "Now that the county attorney has seen fit to treat cops like criminals, we will defend them with the full arsenal of tools traditionally used in the defense of 'real' criminals."
An internal affairs investigation is pending.