Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Violating George Floyd’s Civil Rights

Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Violating George Floyd's Civil Rights

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who already is serving more than 20 years for the murder of George Floyd in police custody, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to violating Floyd’s civil rights, thus avoiding a trial on the separate federal charge.

The plea means Chauvin could face more jail time.

Chauvin was sentenced in June to 22.5 years in prison — or 270 months — on state charges for killing Floyd, a Black man whose 2020 death caught on viral video sparked the nation’s largest civil rights protests in decades along with continuing conversations about police brutality and racial injustice.

Federal prosecutors independently charged Chauvin with multiple federal civil rights violations in two cases — one involving Floyd, and another involving a then 14-year-old in a 2017 case. In both instances, Chauvin held his knee on the neck of the victim in police custody, displaying what the federal charges alleged was “unreasonable force by a police officer.”

Floyd pleaded guilty to one count of violating the person’s civil rights in each case, in exchange for prosecutors’ agreement to dismiss other related charges, reports The Washington Post.

Prosecutors indicated they will recommend a sentence up to 25 years, to be served concurrently with Chauvin’s prison time for the state conviction — but lasting up to 30 months longer.

george floyd

george floyd
George Floyd

In court Wednesday, Chauvin was asked by Judge Paul Magnuson if he understood that without the plea deal, he faced a sentence of life in prison if convicted of the civil rights charges, reports Minnesota Public Radio.

Chauvin said he understood.

In the state case, Chauvin, 45, was convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in April after pinning Floyd to the ground with a knee to his neck for about nine minutes.

Floyd, 46, was killed May 25, 2020, during his detention in Minneapolis for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner convenience store. The verdict followed a prosecution that replayed over and over what millions around the world had seen, propelling them into the streets in protest: a bystander’s video of Chauvin, his hands in his pockets and his sunglasses perched atop his head, with Floyd underneath him crying out for his dead mother and repeatedly gasping, “I can’t breathe.”

Chauvin was fired a day after the murder.

President Joe Biden called Chauvin’s murder conviction “a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America,” and met with members of Floyd’s family at the White House after the verdict. The response to Floyd’s death also led Congress to consider legislation bearing Floyd’s name that would ban police chokeholds in certain cases and create a national registry of police misconduct.

Three other former officers with Chauvin at the scene of Floyd’s murder — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — still await trials on related state and similar federal civil rights charges. All have pleaded not guilty.