By Angelina Sang and Jeanine Grimes
ST. PAUL, MINN – U.S. District Judge Peter Cahill Thursday sentenced Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, to 21 years in prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights (human rights).
The federal judge told the former police officer that what he did to Floyd was “simply wrong” and “offensive.”
Previously, the U.S. District Judge Magnuson heavily criticized Chauvin for what he did on May 25, 2020, asserting “when the white officer pinned Floyd to the pavement outside a Minneapolis store for more than nine minutes,” it was unspeakable.
This incident sparked demonstrations worldwide that called out police brutality and racism.
Chauvin had pleaded guilty, a plea that included unreasonable force and the admission that he willfully deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
Chauvin’s guilty plea also included a count from a separate 2017 case for violating the rights of John Pope, a Black 14-year-old who Chauvin also restrained.
“By the grace of God I lived to see another day,” Pope said. “It will continue to be a part of me for the rest of my life.”
The U.S. District Judge questioned Chauvin: “I really don’t know why you did what you did” as Chauvin continued to place his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Judge Magnuson declared the actions of the former police officer as “simply wrong” and that “your [Chauvin’s] conduct is wrong and offensive.”
In fact, Judge Magnuson presided over the convictions of the other three officers of the incident and blamed Chauvin for everything that happened. The judge noted Chauvin was the senior officer at the occurrence and clearly ignored the questions from one of the other officers to flip Floyd towards his side.
Judge Magnuson admonished Chauvin, claiming that he “absolutely destroyed the lives of the three young officers” by commanding them on the day George Floyd was murdered.
“He knew what his training was…he admitted before this court that his conduct was wrong and he did it anyway,” prosecutor LeeAnn Bell said, adding that “he wasn’t a rookie.”
Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson had utilized Chauvin’s remorse to advocate for a 20-year sentence, but Chauvin never directly apologized to Floyd’s family in the hearing. Nelson argued that Chauvin would make his remorse clear to the court, yet Chauvin simply wished Floyd’s children “all the best in their life.”
Nevertheless, Chauvin’s sentence was at the low end for 20 to 25 years through a plea agreement, where he will serve the federal sentence while he serves the 22 ½ year sentence on state charges of murder and manslaughter.
Due to the nature of Chauvin’s crimes–violating Floyd’s civil rights–Chauvin’s offenses fell under federal crimes. Because of this, Chauvin must serve 18 years behind federal system bars before he is eligible for parole, instead of the 15 years a mandatory state sentence would carry.
Yet Floyd’s brother Philonise, who had asked Judge Magnuson for a maximum possible sentence, was not appeased. Philonise told the court Floyd’s family “had been given the maximum sentence,” and said he was upset that Chauvin’s sentence was not longer.
Carolyn Pawlenty, Chauvin’s mother, told the court, “Many things have been written about him that are totally wrong such as he’s a racist, which he isn’t, (and) that he has no heart.”
“I believe it is God’s will for all of us to forgive,” Pawlenty said, and told the court her son did not go to work with the intention to murder.
The three officers who were with Chauvin at the scene of Floyd’s murder—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung, and Thomas Lane—were convicted in February of federal civil rights charges.
Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and is due to be sentenced Sept. 21. Thao and Kueng are due to be tried on their aiding and abetting charges on Oct. 24 after declining plea deals.