Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Violating George Floyd’s Rights

The guilty plea is likely to lengthen the imprisonment of Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is already serving a prison sentence of 22 and a half years for murder.,

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a federal charge that he used his position as a Minneapolis police officer to violate George Floyd’s constitutional rights, a move expected to extend Mr. Chauvin’s time in prison beyond a decades-long sentence for murdering Mr. Floyd.

Mr. Chauvin, 45, pleaded guilty in the U.S. courthouse in St. Paul, an appearance that was most likely among the longest periods he has spent outside a prison cell since a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in April. Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement in Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison, where he is allowed out of his 10-foot by 10-foot cell for one hour a day.

A federal prosecutor said that as part of a plea agreement reached with Mr. Chauvin, prosecutors would ask a judge to sentence him to 25 years in prison, a term that would be served in federal prison. The sentence would run concurrent to the state sentence of 22 and a half years for murder, meaning the guilty plea on Wednesday would add about two and a half years to his sentence. Mr. Chauvin appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit and, seated next to his lawyer, answered a judge’s questions about whether he understood the terms of the agreement.

Asked how he wanted to plead, Mr. Chauvin replied, “At this time, guilty, your honor.”

When a judge sentenced Mr. Chauvin to prison for murder in June, Mr. Chauvin appeared to refer to a potential plea deal with federal prosecutors during his condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family, saying that he hoped future events would give the family “some peace of mind.”

In pleading guilty to the federal charge, Mr. Chauvin, who is white, admitted he had violated the constitutional rights of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, to be free from unreasonable seizures, which include unreasonable force from a police officer. Mr. Chauvin had knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes in May 2020 as a handcuffed Mr. Floyd lay face down on a South Minneapolis street corner.

Mr. Chauvin’s guilty plea will most likely add to the time he serves in prison. A judge will ultimately decide how much more time he spends in prison. Many legal experts said the federal government’s case was strong, and a conviction at trial could have resulted in a life sentence. Mr. Chauvin may now be able to complete his sentence in a federal prison, which is generally considered to be safer and could separate Mr. Chauvin from prisoners he may have arrested.

The plea will also spare Mr. Chauvin, Mr. Floyd’s family and Minneapolis residents from the specter of an additional trial, though there are still several more legal proceedings related to Mr. Floyd’s death.

Mr. Floyd was a grandfather, a former rapper and a security guard who had lost his job at a nightclub when it closed at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The harrowing footage of him gasping for air beneath an impassive Mr. Chauvin ignited protests in cities around the world, and led to the firing and arrest of Mr. Chauvin and three other officers at the scene.

Federal prosecutors have charged the three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — with violating Mr. Floyd’s civil rights in a case that is expected to go to trial in January.

Mr. Chauvin’s guilty plea may be welcome news to those officers, who had sought to remove Mr. Chauvin from their joint trial because they feared he would prejudice the jury. Those officers also face state charges that they aided and abetted both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after responding to a 911 call from a convenience store clerk who said that Mr. Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

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