Derek Chauvin sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for violating George Floyd's civil rights


Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to 21 years in a federal prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights. Chauvin, who pleaded guilty in December, will also be required to pay restitution. 

During the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson said that Chauvin “must be held responsible” for his actions, including destroying the lives of the other three officers involved in Floyd’s death.

“I really don’t know why you did what you did,” the judge said. “To put your knee on a person’s neck until they expired is simply wrong. … Your conduct is wrong and it is offensive.”

Chauvin’s plea deal, which Magnuson accepted in May, called for a sentence of 20 to 25 years. Magnuson shaved seven months off of the 21-year sentence for time already served — last year, Chauvin was convicted in a state court on murder and manslaughter charges related to Floyd’s May 2020 death and sentenced to 22 1/2 years. He will serve the state and federal sentences concurrently in a federal prison.

Chauvin, who is White, killed Floyd by pinning the unarmed Black man to the pavement with his knee for 9 1/2 minutes, despite Floyd’s fading pleas of “I can’t breathe.” Floyd’s death sparked protests worldwide and forced a national reckoning over police brutality and racism.

Prior to his sentencing Thursday, Chauvin wished Floyd’s children “all the best in their lives” and that they have “excellent guidance in becoming good adults,” CBS Minnesota reports. He did not offer an apology.

Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, asked the judge for a life sentence, adding that he has had nightmares since his brother’s death, according to CBS Minnesota.

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Prosecutors pushed for the former police officer to serve all 25 years on the grounds that his actions during Floyd’s death were cold-blooded and needless. They also argued that he had a history of misusing restraints — Chauvin’s plea included an admission that he violated the rights of a then-14-year-old Black boy whom he restrained in an unrelated case in 2017.

The defense instead asked for 20 years, saying Chauvin accepts responsibility for what he did and has already been sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison by a state court in Floyd’s murder. Attorney Eric Nelson wrote that Chauvin’s “remorse will be made apparent to this Court.”

In pleading guilty to violating Floyd’s civil rights, Chauvin admitted for the first time that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck — even after he became unresponsive — resulting in his death. The former officer admitted he willfully deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, including unreasonable force by a police officer.

Chauvin is appealing his murder conviction, arguing that jurors were intimidated by the protests that followed and prejudiced by heavy pretrial publicity.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane — were convicted in February on federal civil rights charges in Floyd’s killing. Magnuson has not set sentencing dates for them.

Lane is also due to be sentenced on Sept. 21 after pleading guilty in state court to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Thao and Kueng turned down plea deals and are due to be tried in state court Oct. 24 on aiding and abetting charges.

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