The head judge for Ramsey County District Court’s civil division has been assigned to preside over the trial of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Judge William H. Leary III will handle the high-profile case of the officer facing two felonies in the shooting of Philando Castile, according to a court order signed Tuesday by Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann.

Leary takes over for Ramsey County District Judge Edward Wilson, who initially was assigned to the case, then removed after a request from Yanez’s three attorneys.

The defense’s notice filed in December to remove Wilson cited a rule of Minnesota criminal procedure that allows defense or prosecuting attorneys to ask for the removal of one assigned judge per case without citing a reason. Such requests are automatically granted.

Yanez, 28, was charged Nov. 16 in Ramsey County with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm in the fatal shooting of Castile, 32, during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

Leary was appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura in 2002, and subsequently elected in 2004, 2010 and 2016, according to the state courts website. His term expires in January 2023.

In November, Leary issued an order allowing transgender people on medical assistance the right to gender transition surgeries, lifting a decadelong ban by the state.

Leary is a 1979 graduate of William Mitchell College of Law, and alumnus of the University of St. Thomas. Leary is chairman and on the board of HOPE International Adoption and Social Services and the Office of Conciliation, St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese.

He was an attorney at Geraghty, O’Loughlin & Kenney, P.A. from 1980 to 2002.

One Yanez attorney, Earl Gray, said in December that they wanted Wilson, Ramsey County’s second-most senior judge, removed based on their research. “We felt that we had to remove him,” Gray said. “Simple as that.”

Gray declined to say whether race was a factor. Wilson, like Castile, is black. Leary is white.


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