(ST. PAUL, Minn.) — Eight months after being convicted of state murder charges in the death of George Floyd, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges of violating the 46-year-old Black man’s civil rights.
“At this time, guilty, your honor,” Chauvin, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, said in Minnesota U.S. District Court in St. Paul when questioned by Judge Paul Magnuson.
The 45-year-old Chauvin, who is already serving a 22 1/2-year state prison sentence for killing Floyd in May 2020, could get additional time behind bars when he is sentenced at a later date.
Federal prosecutors are asking that Chauvin be sentenced to up to 25 years in federal prison. The federal sentence is to be served concurrently with the state sentence, according to the plea agreement Chauvin signed in court.
A federal grand jury in May indicted Chauvin and three other police officers, Tou Thao, 35, J. Alexander Kueng, 27, and Thomas Lane, 38.
The four men were scheduled to go to trial in federal court together in January.
All four defendants were charged with depriving Floyd of his constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force when they held the handcuffed man on the ground on May 25, 2020, and Chauvin dug his knee into Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes even as Floyd complained he could not breathe, fell unconscious and lost a pulse.
The indictment alleges Thao and Kueng willfully failed to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force.
Lane was heard on body-camera footage played at Chauvin’s state trial this year suggesting that Floyd be turned on his side to alleviate his breathing.
Lane, Kueng and Thao are scheduled to go on trial in March 2022. The former Minneapolis police officers are also facing federal charges over the killing of Floyd that outweigh state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They have all pleaded not guilty.
In a separate federal indictment, Chauvin also pleaded guilty to willfully depriving a 14-year-old Minneapolis resident of his constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer. The charges stem from an episode in September 2017 and allege that Chauvin, without legal justification, held the teenager by the throat, struck him multiple times in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy’s neck and the upper back while he was handcuffed and in a prone position.
In April, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter stemming from Floyd’s death, which prompted protests nationwide.
“Derek Chauvin is probably trying to obtain an arrangement that would allow him to serve his sentence in federal prison instead of a state penitentiary, because federal prisons tend to be nicer,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, president and co-founder of Los Angeles-based West Coast Trial Lawyers, said in a statement to ABC News.
“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Chauvin could be transferred to federal prison or that he could serve his sentence concurrently with his state sentence,” Rahmani said. “It’s rare for a judge to sentence a defendant to consecutive prison terms for the same act.”
Matthew Barhoma, a Los Angeles criminal appeals attorney, said Chauvin change-of-plea will likely not help Thao, Kueng and Lane.
“Prosecutors will be able to inform jurors in the case against the other officers that Chauvin pleaded guilty, which will reflect badly on those defendants,” Barhoma said in a statement to ABC News.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.