Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Violating George Floyd’s Rights
A federal prosecutor said he would ask a judge to sentence Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, to 25 years in prison, extending his state prison term by two and a half years.,
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 state 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 in court that the government had reached a plea deal with Mr. Chauvin under which prosecutors would seek to have him imprisoned for 25 years. That sentence would run concurrently with his state sentence, meaning it would lengthen Mr. Chauvin’s prison term by about two and a half years.
Under the proposed sentence and rules about credit for good behavior, the earliest Mr. Chauvin would be released from prison would likely be around 2042, when he would be in his mid-60s. The sentence will ultimately be up to a judge at a later hearing.
When Mr. Chauvin entered the courtroom, wearing an orange jumpsuit, he acknowledged his mother and other family members sitting in court. During the proceedings, Mr. Chauvin answered a series of questions from Judge Paul Magnuson and a prosecutor about the terms of the agreement.
Allen Slaughter, a federal prosecutor in Minnesota, asked Mr. Chauvin: “As Mr. Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, you kept your knees on Mr. Floyd’s neck and body even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive, correct?”
“Correct,” Mr. Chauvin responded. He also agreed that his actions had caused Mr. Floyd’s death.
The terms of the plea agreement call for Mr. Chauvin to serve his time in a federal prison, which is generally considered to be safer and could separate Mr. Chauvin from prisoners he may have arrested. The agreement would also prohibit Mr. Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department one day after Mr. Floyd’s death, from ever working as a police officer again.
Mr. Chauvin, who is white, admitted in court that he had violated the constitutional right of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, to be free from unreasonable seizures, which include unreasonable force by a police officer. Mr. Chauvin 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 also pleaded guilty on Wednesday to another federal charge of violating the constitutional right of a 14-year-old boy in 2017, and agreed that he had held the boy by the throat, struck him in the head with a flashlight and pressed his knee on the neck of the teenager, who is Black, without justification. The teenager, who has not been publicly identified, sat in the courtroom during the proceedings, as did relatives of Mr. Floyd.
Outside of the courthouse, Mr. Floyd’s relatives said they were glad that Mr. Chauvin had accepted accountability and would likely serve more time in prison, but they added that little had changed for their family. Brandon Williams, one of Mr. Floyd’s nephews, said prosecutors should have charged Mr. Chauvin in 2017 for the assault on the teenager, rather than in May, when they also charged him for Mr. Floyd’s death.
“Had he been held accountable for what he did in 2017 to that minor, George Floyd would still be here,” Mr. Williams said. “Today, he had a chance to blow kisses and give air hugs to his family. We can’t do that to our loved one who’s not here.”
Mr. Floyd’s relatives left the courthouse to return to Minneapolis, where they have been supporting the family of Daunte Wright, a Black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb in April. Kimberly Potter, the officer, who later resigned, was charged with manslaughter and is currently on trial.
Mr. Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, who defended her son when a judge sentenced him for murder in June, did not respond to a reporter’s questions as she left the courthouse on Wednesday.
The Aftermath of George Floyd’s Murder
At that June sentencing hearing, Mr. Chauvin appeared to refer to a potential plea deal with federal prosecutors when he gave condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family and said that he hoped future events would give the family “some peace of mind.”
Many legal experts said the federal government’s case against him was strong, and a conviction at trial could have resulted in a life sentence.
The plea will also spare 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 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 federal 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.