Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty is requesting the authority to hire outside legal counsel at a time when a senior lawyer in her office who has been leading the prosecution of Minnesota state trooper Ryan Londregan is no longer at the helm of the increasingly controversial case.

Moriarty's office has declined repeated requests in person and email to confirm or deny that Assistant County Attorney Joshua Larson has removed himself as lead prosecutor in Londregan's case. The trooper is charged with murder, manslaughter and assault in the fatal shooting of motorist Ricky Cobb II last summer during a traffic stop in north Minneapolis.

In a statement, Moriarty's office said it is "assembling a new prosecution team to handle what is an extraordinarily resource intensive case that will involve extensive litigation prior to trial."

"While this case continues we must also maintain the critical work of prosecuting the high volume of other serious cases that are central to the safety of our community," the statement said.

In light of the news about Larson and Moriarty's request for outside legal counsel, Gov. Tim Walz's office said in a statement that it can't speak to Moriarty's reasons for doing so.

"But it raises questions about the approach she has taken in this case," the statement said. "The Governor will continue to monitor the case and has not closed the door to reassigning it."

Moriarty's office said it's "disappointing" to see Walz "further injecting politics into a criminal legal matter, without picking up the phone to gather more information first."

"The Governor knows well the extraordinary resources required for cases like this, including the prosecutions of Derek Chauvin and Jeronimo Yanez. This case should not be judged through limited information in the media, especially when we are unable to comment in detail on an active case."

Walz has not spoken personally with Moriarty about the case. He has maintained that he would only assign a case to Attorney General Keith Ellison if he requested it, and that hasn't happened.

Ellison's office said that representing Londregan and another trooper in the lawsuit filed by Cobb's family is a potential conflict of interest with the criminal case. "That's been his position and it is unchanged," spokesman John Stiles said.

When approached by a reporter earlier this week, Larson rebuffed questions about his status with regard to the case. Sources familiar with the matter who requested anonymity say that Larson initially requested help with the prosecution, but that no other colleagues wanted to take part in the case.

Larson was a member of each team that successfully prosecuted ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, and ex-Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter in the killing of Daunte Wright. Ellison's office led prosecution of both cases.

As opposed to earlier documents, the most recent filing from Moriarty's office in the case is not signed by Larson. Instead, it's the signature of Chris Freeman, who is the co-head of the adult prosecution division . Larson is no longer included in ongoing communication between the office and Londregan's legal team.

Freeman previously prosecuted Cobb in a felony gun possession case in 2017.

Moriarty submitted a request this week to the Hennepin County Board for her office — rather than the county administrator — to maintain the authority to contract "outside counsel agreements and amendments for special criminal prosecution with the allocated budget of the Hennepin County Attorney's Office," according to a copy of the request.

She was at the board committee meeting Tuesday, but left to attend a news conference that she was hosting before the item came up on the agenda. The commissioners were then unable to ask her specifics about the request, including its purpose and timing.

Commissioners and staff have not commented about the reasons for Moriarty's request.

Administrator David Hough said under the proposal Moriarty would have to notify commissioners when she hired outside counsel for criminal cases and report those costs twice a year. The county attorney would have to fund the hires out of her annual budget.

Hough also noted any outside attorneys working on criminal cases would have to abide by an outside-counsel policy that has been in place for decades. Commissioners have several questions they want Moriarty to answer before they make a decision at their next meeting Tuesday.

Commissioner Kevin Anderson wanted to make sure Moriarty would retain all authority over the cases that outside attorneys worked on.

"There needs to be accountability and transparency," Anderson said in a follow-up interview. "The public needs to know who is in charge of a case."

Commissioner Marion Greene wanted more information on past expenses for using outside lawyers.

"I'm not crazy about this, but I see its necessity," she said while the board was discussing the request. "I appreciate the inclusion of reporting requirements and want to see how it goes."

The county routinely uses outside lawyers for civil matters, but Hough noted that the county attorney is typically responsible for all criminal cases.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office is the largest public law office in the state. The previous chief prosecutor, Mike Freeman, never hired outside legal counsel from criminal prosecution in his 24-year tenure, although outside counsel was hired in cases referred to Ellison's office, such as the prosecution of Chauvin.

Londregan's legal team, state and federal lawmakers and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) have asked Walz to remove the case from Moriarty and reassign it to Ellison.

"If a fair prosecutor takes over this case, it'll be dismissed. If Moriarty appoints one of her buddies, let's roll," Londregan defense attorney Chris Madel told the Star Tribune Thursday.

MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters said in a written statement to the Star Tribune the case has been a "disaster" from the start.

"This latest news shows, once again, how this case should never have been charged. It's past time to reassign this case away from Moriarty to best serve a fair and honest judicial system — and not an unjust prosecution."

Word of Larson stepping down as lead prosecutor on the case has been circulating the courthouse in recent weeks, with the news reaching judges and defense attorneys who are not associated with the case.

Londregan appears in court Monday morning when his attorneys will argue not enough probable cause exists to charge him with murder because his use of deadly force was justified, according to motions filed this week.

In response, Moriarty's office argued in its motion that a jury is tasked with deciding whether the killing is justified.