Kim Potter turned down plea deal after Daunte Wright shooting, says first prosecutor on case
Disgraced former police officer Kim Potter turned down a plea deal in the early days after shooting dead Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, according to the first prosecutor on the case.
Imran Ali, who was Washington County assistant criminal division chief and director of the Major Crime Unit at the time, said that he had reached out to Potter’s attorney Earl Gray to discuss reaching a plea agreement soon after charging the police officer with second-degree manslaughter.
Mr Ali said Mr Gray instantly rebuffed the offer and, not long after, the prosecutor was off the case and Potter’s charges were upgraded.
“I said to him, ‘Hey, let’s sit down. I think this is a case that should resolve,’” he toldFox9.
“And I was not met with, ‘Give me a moment. Let me, you know, look over things.’ I was met with a ‘No.’”
Mr Ali said it was the first time in his career that a defence attorney has rejected a potential plea deal without even discussing the offer first and, given the outcome of Potter’s trial, may have been a missed opportunity.
In December, Potter was found guilty of both first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for Mr Wright’s death.
She now faces up to 25 years in prison at her sentencing on 18 February.
Mr Gray told Fox9 that the potential plea deal had come before his team had received any evidence.
“A defense lawyer with a brain would not discuss a plea deal without receiving any discovery,” he said.
“I believe I told Ali that when he wanted to talk about a plea way before I received thousands of pages of reports. Ali then quit.”
Mr Gray added that the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, which then took over the case from the Washington County Attorney’s office, did not offer Potter a plea deal after that.
Potter, a white Brooklyn Center police officer, shot dead 20-year-old Black man Mr Wright during a traffic stop in Minnesota on 11 April after pulling him over for expired licence plate tags and an air freshener hanging in his rear-view window.
The veteran officer of 26 years said she mistook her firearm for her Taser when she fired one fatal shot that struck and killed Mr Wright.
Bodycam footage of the incident shows her shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before opening fire.
Mr Wright’s death took place just 10 miles from the courtroom where another Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was on trial for the murder of another Black man George Floyd.
Chauvin was convicted of murder days later in the same courtroom where Potter was later convicted.
Mr Ali had charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter three days after Mr Wright’s death on 14 April.
In a statement at the time, he vowed to “vigorously prosecute this case” saying that the veteran police officer “must be held accountable” for the “unlawful killing” of the young father-of-one.
“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer,” he said.
“With that responsibility comes a great deal of discretion and accountability.
“We will vigorously prosecute this case and intend to prove that Officer Potter abrogated her responsibility to protect the public when she used her firearm rather than her taser.”
Mr Ali said he has received hate mail ever since - from both people who felt the second-degree manslaughter charge was too lenient and from those who felt Potter shouldn’t face any charges.
Mr Wright’s family described his death as an “execution” and wanted Potter to be charged with murder.
Around one month later, the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office took over the case.
His office added the first-degree manslaughter charge.
Mr Ali resigned from his role as assistant county attorney days later.
Ms Potter faces up to 15 years in prison for the first-degree manslaughter charge and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.
Under Minnesota law, people with no prior criminal record – like Potter – typically receive far lower than the maximum sentences. Sentencing guidelines recommend between 6 and 8.5 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and between 3.5 to nearly 5 years for second-degree manslaughter.
However, prosecutors intend to seek a more severe sentence than the recommended, arguing that there were aggravating factors in the case.