MINNEAPOLIS, (AP) — A former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on the verge to plead guilty to violating George Floyd’s civil rights. This would not only remove him from a federal court but could also significantly increase his time behind bars.
The court’s electronic filing system sent Monday a notice indicating that Chauvin will be appearing in court on Wednesday to change his not guilty plea. These notices usually indicate that a defendant plans to plead guilty. However, nothing will be finalized until the case is heard in court.
Chauvin was convicted of state murder as well as manslaughter for holding Floyd’s knee against his neck during an arrest on May 25, 2020. The Black man claimed he couldn’t breathe and that Chauvin had pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck. In that case, he was sentenced to 22 and 1/2 years.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney did not return a message. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to our request.
Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao were all indicted on federal charges earlier this year. They are accused of willfully violating Floyd’s rights. They were scheduled to stand trial in January.
The plea of Chauvin could be a positive sign for the three others. They asked for a separation of their trials and Chauvin’s to be considered, arguing that Chauvin’s presence would harm them in front of a jury. However, that request was rejected by the court. Mike Brandt, a local defense lawyer, stated that a trial without Chauvin would reduce the amount of inflammatory evidence jurors would view.
Brandt also stated that Chauvin can be made to testify if he pleads guilty. This could prove beneficial to the other officers if he claims that he was the veteran who made the decision to do the things he did.
Information sent Monday does not indicate that any of the officers are going to plead guilty. Not immediately returned messages left for their lawyers.
Mark Osler, University of St. Thomas School of Law professor, stated that any possible prison time Chauvin would face in federal cases would likely be served at his state sentence. However, the federal term could be longer and may even lead to life imprisonment.
Chauvin’s federal sentence can be reduced by claiming responsibility. Osler suggested that he could arrange for his federal sentence to be served. This would be beneficial since he was previously in Minnesota solitary confinement. Brandt said that Chauvin might still be a well-known federal prisoner and may still require segregation.
Brandt stated, “I think he actually negotiated something which would allow him see the light before he leaves this earth.”
Chauvin could be sentenced to a longer time in prison if the federal system does not allow parole.
Minnesota law allows defendants who are good conduct to serve two-thirds in prison and one-third on supervision. The remainder is known as parole. He’d be expected to spend 15 years in prison for state charges and 7 1/2 years on parole under that formula.
Osler stated that Chauvin could be sentenced to a federal penalty of 27 years to 33 years, with credit for his or her responsibility under sentencing guidelines. Osler said Chauvin would likely be sentenced at the lower end of this range, but the guidelines aren’t mandatory.
According to the evidence in the state case against Chauvin’s 46-year old victim, Floyd was restrained by Kueng and Lane as he lay on the ground. Kueng placed his back on Floyd and Lane held Floyd’s legs. During the 9 1/2 minute restraint , Thao kept bystanders at bay and prevented them from intervening.
Floyd’s arrest, and his death, which was captured by a witness on cell phone video, led to mass protests across the country calling for an end of racial inequalities and police mistreatment Black people.
Federal court charged all four officers with Floyd’s deprivation of rights while they were acting under government authority. However, the federal indictment reorganized the charges further. One count against Chauvin claimed that he had violated Floyd’s right to be free of unreasonable seizure or from unreasonable force by police officers.
Thao and Kueng were charged with Floyd’s right not to be subject to unreasonable seizure. They did not stop Chauvin from knelting on Floyd’s neck. All four officers were charged with failing to provide Floyd medical care.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Chauvin would plead guilty to any or all of the federal charges in Floyd’s murder.
Osler stated that he was not surprised that the three other former officers didn’t agree to this plea deal, as they would likely receive much lower sentences than Chauvin.
Osler stated that if they plead guilty to the charges, Osler indicated that the three other defendants would want “a plea agreement that would end both state and federal charges.”
In state court, the other men were also charged with aiding and abiding murder and manslaughter. The men are due to stand trial in this case in March.
Chauvin is also indicted in a second case, stemming out of the 2017 use of force and neck restraint on a 14-year old boy.
The indictment claims that Chauvin deprived the boy, who was Black, of his right not to be subject to unreasonable force. He held him by his throat, hit him with a flashlight, and placed his knee on his neck while he was lying down, handcuffed, and resisting. The court did not provide any indication that Chauvin would change his plea.