By Ozzy Hernandez and Alex Jimenez
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Derek Chauvin, the former Minnesota police officer convicted in state court of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, was in federal court Wednesday, and pleaded guilty to two counts of civil rights violations, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
While announcing the plea deal in a press release, AG Garland affirmed the DOJ’s commitment “to holding accountable those who violate the Constitution.”
This is a major change from Chauvin’s initial plea. Back in September, he pleaded ‘not guilty’ on both counts despite being convicted by a jury for second degree murder in state court.
Legal experts speculated evidence from the previous state trial could have potentially been used in the federal trial, which may have influenced Chauvin’s sudden change.
The plea deal circumvents another lengthy trial and another round of buzzing coverage from the media. Within the deal, it provides an admission from the defendant of “willfully depriving” two victims of their constitutional rights.
In addition to using lethal force on Floyd, the DOJ also accused Chauvin of using excessive force on a teenager, similar to the restraints he used on Floyd that resulted in Floyd’s death.
In the juvenile’s case, the event “resulted in bodily injuries” on the teenager.
The federal charges brought upon Chauvin are an addition to the state charges where he was found guilty and convicted.
The FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the matter after Chauvin’s verdict on state charges of murder.
The federal inquiry into Chauvin’s failure to provide medical assistance to Floyd was central to the federal indictment on civil rights violations, after the verdict in the first trial in which he was found guilty of second degree murder.
The details of the plea agreement are very specific about Chauvin’s admission to both incidents. It states “Chauvin admitted that he failed to render medical aid to Mr. Floyd,” despite being aware that Floyd was in serious need of medical attention, which in turn resulted in Floyd’s untimely death.
Chauvin disregarded MPD policy requiring officers to perform emergency medical aid, including CPR to an arrestee if needed.
The plea agreement also states that on Sept. 4, 2017, Chauvin held a 14-year-old juvenile by the throat, striking him several times in the head with a flashlight. According to Chauvin’s admission, the actions taken on that day resulted in the juvenile’s bodily injury.
Resembling the Floyd incident, Chauvin would also admit that “he held his knee on the juvenile’s neck, shoulder and upper back for between 15-16 minutes, also resulting in the juvenile’s bodily injury.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Paul A. Magnuson accepted Chauvin’s guilty plea. A sentencing hearing is set to come at a later date. For these two counts, Chauvin faces 20-25 years in federal prison and is prohibited from working in any capacity relating to law enforcement.
However, the federal sentence is expected to be concurrent—at the same time —as the state sentence.
Wednesday’s plea was the first time that Chauvin would take any responsibility for his actions that resulted in the death of George Floyd.