Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges in Floyd's Death

Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges in Floyd's Death
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, arrives at U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday for the appearance of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of the murder of George Floyd. (Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, averting a trial but likely extending the time he is already spending behind bars on a state conviction.

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted this spring of state murder and manslaughter charges for pinning his knee against Floyd’s neck during a May 25, 2020, arrest as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in that case.

The federal charges included two counts alleging that Chauvin deprived Floyd of his rights by kneeling on his neck as he was handcuffed and not resisting, and then failing to provide medical care.

Chauvin appeared in person Wednesday for the change of plea hearing in an orange short-sleeve prison shirt. He said “Guilty, your honor” to confirm his pleas.

Federal prosecutors recommended up to 300 months, or 25 years, in prison. A judge will determine his sentence later, but a 25-year federal sentence would likely extend Chauvin's time behind bars by about six years if he earns credit for good behavior.

Judge Paul Magnuson didn’t set a date for sentencing.

Three other former officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — were indicted on federal charges alongside Chauvin earlier this year. They are still on course for trial early next year on those charges, with a state trial still to come.

Floyd’s arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked mass protests nationwide calling for an end to racial inequality and police mistreatment of Black people.

In Minnesota, defendants with good behavior serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison, and the remaining one-third on supervised release, also known as parole. Under that formula, he’s expected to serve 15 years in prison on the state charges, and 7 1/2 years on parole.

Under sentencing guidelines, Chauvin could get a federal penalty ranging from 27 years to more than 33 years in prison, with credit for taking responsibility, said Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. But the guidelines are not mandatory, and Osler estimated Chauvin would be sentenced toward the lower end of the range.

As part of the plea deal, Chauvin also pleaded guilty to violating the rights of a then-14-year-old boy during a 2017 arrest in which he held the boy by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy’s neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and not resisting.

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