Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman convicted of killing George Floyd, has pleaded guilty in a federal civil rights case, eight months after a jury found him guilty of his death in a case that placed a global focus on police abuse and led to months of massive demonstrations.
According to CBS Minnesota, Chauvin, 45, signed a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Wednesday morning. He had previously pleaded not guilty in September, but reports surfaced this week that he would be changing that plea.
Chauvin, along with three other former Minneapolis officers, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng, was indicted by a federal grand jury, accusing them of depriving Floyd, 46, of his rights while exercising the authority of a government agency. Floyd died on May 25, 2020 when, in an attempt to arrest him, he was pinned to the ground under Chauvin’s knee for nearly nine minutes. The other three officers present were also charged in Floyd’s death and will stand trial on state charges beginning in March 2022.
During a hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors asked Chauvin if he willfully deprived Floyd of his civil rights, to which he answered “correct.” He also admitted that he had his knee on his neck even after Floyd was unconscious.
Chauvin was also facing another federal indictment in which he was accused of unlawfully subduing a teenager by his throat. But as a condition of this new plea deal, the indictment will be dismissed, CBS Minnesota reports. Also as part of the deal, Chauvin will never again be able to work in law enforcement, and will have to pay restitution, the amount of which has not been determined.
If Chauvin had not entered the plea and was convicted in the federal trial, he could have faced a life sentence in a federal penitentiary. He had already been sentenced after his state conviction to 22 ½ years in prison.
But with this new deal, it means that Chauvin could get out of prison at some point, Mike Brandt, a local criminal defense attorney not connected with the case, told CBS Minnesota. Chauvin is expected to testify in both the state trial and the federal trial of the other three officers.
“The question becomes, after Mr. Chauvin is convicted, he no longer has a right against self-incrimination, so he’s available to testify. He could testify on behalf of the other officers, or against them. We don’t know,” Joe Tamburino, another Minneapolis based attorney, also not linked to the case, told the news station.
The attorneys representing Floyd’s family, Benjamin Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms, responded in support of Chauvin’s new plea, hoping that he is fairly sentenced in his federal case.
“Derek Chauvin callously knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds, clearly violating his civil and human rights by robbing him of breath and life, the attorneys said in a statement. “For that, he should spend the rest of his life behind bars, just as a Black man would for a similar act. Likewise, Chauvin’s accomplices, who will face trial in January of next year, should be held accountable for their actions to the fullest extent of the law.
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