Accused cop killer Brian G. Fitch allegedly conspired to have a witness killed before he or she could testify at his upcoming murder trial, according to documents filed this week in Dakota County District Court.
Criminal charges have not been filed in connection with the allegations. But prosecutors filed a notice Monday that they will offer evidence at trial that Fitch, 40, conspired from his prison cell to commit murder and tamper with a witness.
Fitch is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death last July of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, and attempted murder for shooting at police during a gunfight shortly before his arrest in St. Paul later the same day.
Jury selection for his trial will begin Monday in Stearns County District Court in St. Cloud, with opening statements and testimony scheduled for Jan. 20.
Fitch’s attorney, Lauri Traub, said the defense would be filing several motions this week in response to the prosecutors’ notice and other matters. She said Tuesday that she would probably ask the judge to hear them Monday after potential jurors are given questionnaire to fill out.
When asked to elaborate on the alleged offenses, Phil Prokopowicz, chief deputy in the Dakota County Attorney’s office, said “I’m not going to comment on that at all.” He did confirm that the alleged offenses were unrelated to Fitch’s actions on July 30, 2014, the day Patrick was killed and Fitch engaged in the shootout with St. Paul police.
The prosecutors’ notice said the offenses happened in December while Fitch was in the Oak Park Heights prison, where he is serving time for an unrelated burglary conviction after he violated conditions of his supervised release.
Patrick was shot shortly after noon July 30 after making a routine traffic stop about three blocks into the city of West St. Paul. A massive manhunt ensued and Fitch, driving a friend’s SUV, was cornered in a parking lot on St. Paul’s North End.
He was wounded in the shootout with police and captured.
He was later charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and unlawfully possessing a firearm in connection with that incident.
Patrick’s killing and the shootout occurred only about five miles apart, but in separate counties.
As a result, Dakota and Ramsey counties took the rare step of convening a multicounty grand jury, which handed up the indictments and allowed the charges to be tried together.
District Judge Mary Theisen granted a change of venue after Fitch’s attorneys argued that it would be nearly impossible to get an impartial jury because of extensive publicity and because so many residents knew Patrick or knew of him.
The notice did not name the witness Fitch allegedly targeted. On Dec. 31, Prokopowicz filed an updated witness list with the names of 67 potential witnesses the prosecution may call.
Many of those potential witnesses are law enforcement officers.
Fitch’s son, Brian G. Fitch Jr., also is among the witnesses.
The defense has not filed a witness list.
“If I do not receive written notice I will conclude that your only defense will be not guilty and your only witness will be the defendant,” Prokopowicz wrote to the defense in the witness list letter.