Judge accepts plea deal in Derek Chauvin civil rights case

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The judge handling the federal civil rights cases of four former Minneapolis police officers in the killing of George Floyd said Wednesday he has accepted the terms of Derek Chauvin’s plea deal and will sentence him to 20 to 25 years in prison.

Chauvin pleaded guilty on December 15 to violating Floyd’s civil rights, admitting for the first time that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck – even after he became unresponsive – resulting in the death of the black man on May 25, 2020. The former white officer admitted that he deliberately deprived Floyd of his right to be protected from unreasonable seizure, including unreasonable force by a police officer.

Under the plea deal, which Chauvin signed, both sides agreed that Chauvin should be given a sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years, with prosecutors saying they would seek 25. He could have faced prison life on the federal charge. With good time credit in the federal system, he would serve 17 to 21 years and three months behind bars.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson withheld acceptance of the deal pending the completion of a pre-sentence investigation. He said in a one-page command on Wednesday that the report had been released, so it was now appropriate to accept the deal. He did not set a sentencing date for Chauvin.

Chauvin is already serving a 22.5-year sentence for his murder conviction in state court last year, though he is appealing that conviction. He would serve the federal sentence concurrently with the state sentence.

The federal plea deal means Chauvin will likely spend more time in prison than he faced on his state sentence. Minnesota state prisoners typically serve a third of their sentence on parole, which for him would mean 15 years in prison.

Chauvin waived his right to challenge his federal conviction if Magnuson accepted the plea deal.

Magnuson also did not set sentencing dates for three other former officers who were convicted of federal civil rights charges in February. Investigations into the presence of Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are still ongoing. They are due to stand trial next month in state court for aiding and abetting Chauvin in the murder of Floyd.

Prosecutors revealed in a preliminary hearing last month that the three had rejected plea agreements on the charges against the state. Terms were not disclosed. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said it was difficult for the defense to negotiate when the three still did not know what their federal sentences would be.

On Wednesday, Gray renewed his pleas for a change of venue and for the trial to be postponed after the federal convictions, possibly until next year. He wrote that it is “fairly clear” from the questionnaires returned by potential jurors that a fair and impartial jury for the trial can never be seated in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, due to the “public hatred” of the defendants.

“It is clear that the vast majority of the Hennepin County community has a deep and bitter prejudice against the accused officers and this case,” Gray wrote.

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