Update: Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, averting a trial but likely extending the time he's already spending behind bars on a state conviction. Chauvin appeared in person Wednesday for the change of plea hearing in an orange short-sleeved prison shirt. He said "Guilty, your honor" to confirm his pleas. Federal prosecutors recommended up to 300 months, or 25 years, in prison. The AP notes a 25-year federal sentence would likely extend Chauvin's time behind bars (he's serving 22 1/2 years for state murder and manslaughter) by about six years if he earns credit for good behavior. Judge Paul Magnuson didn't set a date for sentencing. Our original story from Dec. 13 follows:
Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin appears to be on the verge of pleading guilty to violating George Floyd 's civil rights, a move that would remove him from a federal trial but could significantly increase the amount of time he’ll spend behind bars, the AP reports. A notice sent out Monday by the court's electronic filing system shows a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday for Chauvin to change his not guilty plea. These types of notices typically indicate a defendant is planning to plead guilty, though nothing will be official until it happens in court. Chauvin has already been convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges for pinning his knee against Floyd’s neck as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe during a May 25, 2020, arrest. He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in that case.
Chauvin and three other former officers—Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao—were indicted earlier this year on federal charges alleging they willfully violated Floyd’s rights. They were set to go to trial in late January. Chauvin’s plea could be a positive for the other three. They had asked the court to separate their trials from Chauvin’s, arguing that his presence would hurt them before a jury, but that request was denied. Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney not connected to the case, said a trial without Chauvin could reduce some of the inflammatory evidence jurors would see. Brandt has also said that if Chauvin pleads guilty, he can be compelled to testify—which could benefit the others if he says he was the veteran officer who made the decision to do what he did.
The information sent out Monday gives no indication that the other officers intend to plead guilty. Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, said any potential prison time that Chauvin would face in the federal case would likely be served at the same time as his state sentence—but the federal term has the potential to be much longer, up to life in prison. By claiming responsibility, Chauvin can reduce his federal sentence. Though rare, Osler said he could also arrange to serve his sentence in the federal system, which could benefit him since he has been in solitary confinement in Minnesota. Brandt added that Chauvin would still have notoriety in the federal system and might still need to be segregated.
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