The Potluck

Police legal fund is paying for Potter’s defense, as it did with Chauvin

By: - December 15, 2021 3:43 pm

Defense attorney Paul Engh speaking in the courtroom during Kimberly Potter’s trial.

A statewide police legal defense fund that paid the hefty costs of Derek Chauvin’s defense is also funding the defense of Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter.

Together, these two defense efforts are expected to drain the fund of well over $1 million.

Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the shooting of the 20-year-old Black man as he tried to avoid arrest. 

Potter’s defense is being paid for by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association legal defense fund. The MPPOA also covered the cost to defend former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, and will also cover the cost to defend his three fellow former police officers. 

Attorneys Earl Gray, Paul Engh and Amanda Montgomery are in the courtroom defending Potter, who is charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing Daunte Wright on April 11 during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center.

Potter has said she thought she was firing her Taser. Wright was on his way to a car wash with his girlfriend when he was pulled over by Brooklyn Center police trainee Anthony Luckey — who was being supervised by Potter — when he noticed Wright’s blinker signaling a right turn even though he was in the left turning lane. 

Luckey said he also noticed an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror — which is technically illegal — and that the car’s registration tab was expired.

A dozen attorneys handle cases for the MPPOA, and any of them can assist with the defense. A few attorneys are on call, and if something happens, they’re assigned the case, although they can decline.

Gray was on call when the incident happened, so he got the case. He asked for assistance, and the association agreed to provide it, according to a MPPOA spokesperson.

Police officers pay dues to MPPOA through their police union and an extra amount for the legal defense fund, which provides officers with defense attorneys if they become the target of a criminal investigation, a defendant in a civil action, state discipline or are involved in a critical incident.

MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters has said he expected Chauvin’s defense to cost $1 million or more, but a spokesperson for the association declined Wednesday to say what the cost was.

Asked whether the high-profile cases were a drain on the legal defense fund, the spokesperson said, “I can’t speak to a drain, but it’s obviously expensive.”

In the Chauvin case, the attorney general had a team of 13 attorneys working on the case, including nine outside attorneys who worked for free — including former Obama administration Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

In the Potter case, five attorneys are handling the prosecution, three state and two from Hennepin County. 

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.