Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to a U.S. federal charge Wednesday of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, admitting for the first time that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, even after he stopped respond, which resulted in the black man’s death.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted this spring on state murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years.
In his federal guilty plea on Wednesday, Chauvin admitted that he deliberately deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable attack, including unreasonable force on the part of a police officer, by kneeling on Floyd’s neck despite the fact that he was handcuffed and did not resist. A second federal charge in Floyd’s death was dropped, but Chauvin pleaded guilty to another count in an unrelated 2017 case.
Chauvin appeared in person for the plea change hearing in an orange short-sleeved prison shirt and was brought in and out of court in handcuffs. He said “Guilty, Your Honor” to confirm his allegations and acknowledged that he committed the denounced acts.
Chauvin could have faced life in prison on federal charges, a possible incentive to avoid trial. Under the plea deal, both parties agreed that Chauvin should face a sentence of 20 to 25 years, and prosecutors said they would seek 25. The final sentence will rest with Federal District Judge Paul Magnuson, but Chauvin will likely face more time of delay. bars than you would with just state charges.
Through a combination of good behavior and probation, Chauvin’s state sentence is likely to amount to 15 years behind bars. A federal sentence would run at the same time, and good behavior can also cut time, but inmates generally serve about 85% of their sentences.
That means if Chauvin gets the 25 years prosecutors want, he would likely spend 21 years and three months in prison, or just over six years beyond his state sentence.
Three other former officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, were indicted on federal charges along with Chauvin.
Floyd’s arrest and death, captured on cell phone video by a bystander, sparked mass protests across the country calling for an end to racial inequality and police mistreatment of blacks.
Chauvin also pleaded guilty to violating the rights of a 14-year-old boy during an arrest in 2017 in which he held the boy by the neck, hit him on the head with a flashlight and held his knee to the neck and top of the child’s back while he was face down, handcuffed and without resistance.
That was one of several cases mentioned in state court documents that prosecutors say showed Chauvin used restraints on the neck or head and upper body seven times since 2014, including four times that state prosecutors said. They went beyond the point where strength was needed.
Several members of Floyd’s family were present Wednesday, as was the teenager at the 2017 arrest. As they left the courtroom, Floyd’s brother Philonise told the teenager: “It’s a good day for the Justice”.
Nine people came to support Chauvin, including family members. He waved and smiled at them as they entered and left the courtroom.
George Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, later called Chauvin a “monster” who should have been arrested in 2017.
“If he had been responsible for what he did to that minor in 2017, George Floyd would still be here,” Williams said. “Today he had the opportunity to throw kisses and hugs to his family. We cannot do that.”
An attorney for Floyd’s family, Jeff Storms, said they planned to go to Minneapolis later Wednesday to support the family of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man who was fatally shot at a traffic stop during state trial. by Chauvin. The police officer in that case, Kim Potter, is on trial on murder charges.
To file federal charges for deaths involving the police, prosecutors must believe that an officer acted under the “color of the law” or government authority and intentionally deprived someone of their constitutional rights. It is a high legal standard and an accident, bad judgment or negligence are not enough. Prosecutors have to show that the officer knew what he was doing was wrong at the time, but did it anyway.
Chauvin admitted that he knew what he did to Floyd was wrong and that he had a “callous and lewd disregard” for Floyd’s life, the plea deal said. He also said that Chauvin “was aware that Mr. Floyd not only stopped resisting, but also stopped talking, stopped moving, stopped breathing and lost consciousness and pulse.”
According to the evidence in the state case against Chauvin, Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd, 46, while he was on the ground: Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held onto Floyd’s legs. Thao restrained bystanders and prevented them from intervening during the 9½ minute restriction.
The four former officers were widely charged in federal court with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority.
The other three former officers are expected to go to trial on federal charges in January, and face a state trial for complicity in the charges in March.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism