November 30, 2018 10:10 PM
Prosecutors are seeking to add a second-degree murder charge against the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk.
A court filing states that since Mohamed Noor is already charged with third-degree murder, three of the four elements of a second-degree charge are satisfied. The filing argues the shooting also satisfies the fourth element - that Noor intended to kill Ruszczyk.
"The circumstances surrounding the crime show that the defendant acted with the intent to kill," prosecutors wrote. "He fired at Ms. Ruszczyk from no more than six feet away. He fired with tragic accuracy, managing to send a 9 millimeter bullet across his partner's body and through the narrow space of the open driver's side window. His bullet struck Ms. Ruszczyk in her torso, five inches above her waistline, and caused nearly immediate death.
"As a trained police officer, the defendant was fully aware that such a shot would kill Ms. Ruszczyk, a result he clearly intended."
"I don't think the government has anything to lose by doing what they've done here," said Rachel Paulose, former United States Attorney and current partner of DLA Piper law firm.
Paulose has no ties with the case, but was surprised to see the new charge and theory brought up this late in the process.
"It's highly unusual in violent crime cases where the facts are usually well-known to the government at the time they charge the case," she said. "To see them go back and return with additional or new theory of what they think happen, which is what they did here."
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Noor is already charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
A third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, while the maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 40 years.
Robert Bennett, the attorney for the Ruszczyk family, released the following statement:
"Adding the charge of Murder in the Second Degree-Intentional is well within the prosecutor’s prerogative and will likely be allowed. It may well have been provoked by Noor’s defense team’s admission of Noor’s 'intent,' previously unknown to the prosecutor or the public because of Noor’s refusal to speak. It doubles the recommended sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines for Noor if convicted. Such charges often are a catalyst for pleas to the lower charges to avoid the longer sentence."
Noor and his partner responded to a 911 call from Ruszczyk the night of July 15, 2017 about a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home.
Noor's partner, officer Matthew Harrity, said he heard a thump on the hood of the car before Noor reached across Harrity and fired at Ruszczyk.
Updated: November 30, 2018 10:10 PM
Created: November 30, 2018 01:51 PM
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