ST PAUL, Minn. — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin formally changed his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty" Wednesday on a federal charge of depriving George Floyd of his civil rights, related to Floyd's murder in May 2020.
Chauvin, who is currently serving a state prison sentence following his conviction for Floyd's murder, was charged in May 2021 with two federal counts of "Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law."
Federal prosecutors told the judge that as part of a plea agreement, Chauvin would plead guilty to one count of violating George Floyd's civil rights, and one count in a separate incident involving a neck restraint used on a teenager in 2017; other charges connected to those cases would be dismissed.
Prosecutors said they will ask for a 300 month sentence, or about 25 years, served in a federal prison, which would run concurrently with Chauvin's state prison sentence. A judge will issue the final sentence at a later hearing, following a pre-sentence investigation.
KARE 11's Lou Raguse, who was in the courtroom for the hearing, reports the plea agreement shows Chauvin would be expected to serve 85% of any sentence, which could result in 17 to 21 1/4 years, depending on the ultimate sentence.
The federal plea agreement includes stipulations that Chauvin never again serve as a licensed law enforcement officer, and that he must disclose his financial assets.
In court, Judge Paul A. Magnusson told Chauvin that his plea means he waives his rights to a trial, and he will have limited options to appeal.
George Floyd's family had a mixed reaction following Chauvin's change of plea.
"The possibility of him getting more time, serving more time, that's a good thing," Floyd's nephew Brandon Williams said after the hearing.
"I'm still feeling the same things, the anger I felt in the beginning, " Floyd's brother Rodney said. "Feeling the same pain I've been feeling."
"While in many ways today is a victory for the interest of justice, we will never forget its cost. George Floyd was a son, a brother, and a father – a father who, as Gianna Floyd put it, ‘changed the world,;'" Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement. "We all play a role in keeping his legacy alive. We must all keep marching. We must all keep fighting against injustice. We must do this for George, to ensure that his one life and shocking death will change the future for countless others."
“Today, Derek Chauvin took responsibility and admitted his guilt in open court, under penalty of perjury, for depriving George Floyd and a boy, then just 14 years old, of their civil rights. This is important and historic," said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office led the state case against Chauvin. "His admissions mark another important moment of accountability and another step on the road to justice. Although the Floyd family’s loss can never be healed, I hope this historic admission of wrongdoing brings them some comfort. I also hope it brings more trust and healing to the relationship between law enforcement and community."
The teenager involved in Chauvin's other federal case was in the courtroom for the hearing with his attorney; in the courtroom afterward, Floyd's brother Philonise could be heard telling the teen, "It's a good day for justice."
In the original federal charges, the first count alleged violation of George Floyd's constitutionally protected right to be free from unreasonable seizure and use of force when Chauvin held his knee across Floyd's neck as he lay handcuffed on the ground. The second count alleged that Chauvin and three other former MPD officers, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane, deprived George Floyd of his right to "liberty without due process of law" by failing to provide medical care.
Thao and Kueng, are charged separately with depriving George Floyd of the right to be free from unreasonable seizure by "willfully" failing to intervene while Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck.
All four men were scheduled to go to trial together in federal court in January. The case is now expected to move forward for the other three former officers, without Chauvin.
Thao, Kueng and Lane had previously asked to be tried separately from Chauvin, but a federal judge denied that request.
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