Former Minneapolis police officer pleads guilty to US federal charges linked to the fatal arrest of Floyd last year.
Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of the murder of George Floyd earlier this year, has pled guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Chauvin, 45, had already pled not guilty to the federal courts, but if convicted, he risked a life sentence in jail. His guilty plea on Wednesday avoids a trial, but it will almost certainly lengthen the time he is currently incarcerated.
In an arrangement with prosecutors, the former cop appeared in US District Court in St Paul, Minnesota, wearing an orange jumpsuit to relinquish his right to a trial by changing his plea to guilty. When asked how he pled, Chauvin told US District Judge Paul Magnuson, “At this moment, guilty, your honour.”
After switching his plea and stating that he would be sent to federal prison, prosecutors proposed a 25-year sentence for Chauvin.
Chauvin has been detained in solitary confinement in a Minnesota jail since last year when he was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
During an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, Chauvin, who is white, was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Floyd’s death sparked months of Black Lives Matter demonstrations and demands for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States.
Judge Magnuson said a sentence hearing would be held at a later date, and Chauvin and Floyd’s family would be able to speak to the court.
Prosecutors questioned Chauvin on Wednesday about whether he wilfully denied Floyd a constitutional right and whether he had his knee on Floyd even after he was knocked out. “You’re right,” Chauvin said.
Chauvin struck a plea deal in court that compels him to pay an undisclosed sum of money and bars him from ever working as a law enforcement officer again.
Lawyers for Floyd’s family said Chauvin’s plea made them “hopeful for our future”.
Significant change is afoot, thanks to marches and calls for justice resounding through our streets, as well as the courage and wisdom of a jury,” attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci, and Jeff Storms said in a joint statement.
“Not only did we see that in a Minnesota state court conviction, but we’re now seeing it at the federal level in the shape of significant civil rights charges.”
The first federal charge against Chauvin claimed that he violated Floyd’s right to be free from excessive search and seizure by a police officer by keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck long after Floyd was unconscious.
In a second count, Chauvin was accused of depriving Floyd of his liberty without due process, including the right to be free from “deliberate disregard to his significant medical requirements.”
According to CBS’s Minneapolis station WCCO-TV, prosecutors announced further federal allegations against Chauvin of violating the civil rights of a juvenile teenager he detained in 2017 will be dismissed.
Three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are still facing state and federal charges after being dismissed from the Minneapolis Police Department following the event.
Floyd faces a federal trial in January on claims that Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao violated his constitutional right to be “free from undue seizure.” They also face accusations of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder in a state trial set to begin in March.
According to testimony in Chauvin’s state case, Kueng and Lane assisted Floyd in restraint while he was on the ground; Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back while Lane kept Floyd’s legs down. Bystanders were held back by Thao, who prevented them from intervening during the restraint.