Ex-cop who killed George Floyd pleads guilty to civil rights charges

Months after he was convicted of murder, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has pleaded guilty in a federal US court to civil rights charges related to the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin also pleaded guilty in a separate federal case in which he was accused of depriving the rights of a 14-year-old in Minneapolis in 2017.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors requested that Chauvin be sentenced to 300 months in prison, or 25 years, to be served concurrently with his current 22-and-a-half year sentence on state murder charges.

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The appearance came nearly 18 months after the former officer held his knee on Floyd's neck and back for nine minutes and 26 seconds while the 46-year-old Black man, handcuffed and lying prone in the street, gasped for air and told Chauvin and other officers, "I can't breathe."

Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, sparked protests nationwide against police brutality and racial injustice.

In April, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for Floyd's death and was sentenced to 22 and a half years in state prison.

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Under Minnesota law, Chauvin will have to serve two-thirds of his sentence, or 15 years, and then will be eligible for supervised release for the remaining seven and a half years.

Separate from his state murder case, Chauvin was charged in two federal indictments related to his policing. He had pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in September.

But on Wednesday local time, Chauvin appeared in federal court in St Paul, Minnesota, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and admitted guilt. The hearing was not captured on video because cameras are not allowed in federal court.

Assistant US Attorney Allen Slaughter asked Chauvin to confirm details included in the plea agreement, specifically whether Chauvin held Floyd down on the ground even after Floyd became unresponsive.

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"Correct," Chauvin said to each question asked by the prosecutor.

US District Court Judge Paul Magnuson has not yet set a date for Chauvin's sentencing.

Members of the Floyd family were present in the courtroom, as was the unidentified juvenile Chauvin admitted to assaulting in 2017.

According to the pool reporter inside court, Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd turned to the juvenile after the hearing and said, "It's a good day for justice."

What the federal indictments alleged

The two federal indictments, unsealed in May, cover two separate incidents in which Chauvin kneeled on a person who was handcuffed and lying prone on their stomach.

At his murder trial, medical experts testified that this position limits a person's ability to breath in what's known as positional asphyxia.

In the first federal indictment, Chauvin was accused of two counts connected to Floyd's death, including depriving Floyd's right to be free from "unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer."

The indictment also charges Chauvin and former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane with deprivation of rights under colour of law for allegedly failing to give Floyd medical aid, the indictment states.

Thao and Kueng are also accused of failing to intervene in Chauvin's use of unreasonable force, according to the federal indictment.

In addition, the second indictment relates to a similar incident in September 2017 in which Chauvin knelt on a 14-year-old in Minneapolis.

The indictment stated that Chauvin held the teenager by the throat, struck him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the neck and upper back of the teenager even after the teen was lying prone, handcuffed and unresisting.

Thao, Kueng and Lane pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in September.

They have also pleaded not guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death.

That trial is currently set for March 2022.

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