A federal judge sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 21 years in prison on federal civil rights charges Thursday in the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin had previously pleaded not guilty to the civil rights charges but changed his plea to guilty in December 2021, admitting for the first time that he held his knee on Floyd’s neck even after he became unresponsive.
Chauvin’s plea agreement called for a 20- to 25-year sentence and for him to serve the federal sentence in federal prison while serving his state sentence, The Associated Press reported. Chauvin will now be transferred from Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison to federal prison.
Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson had asked for a 20-year sentence, arguing that Chauvin was remorseful and had made that clear to the court. Federal prosecutors sought the complete 25-year sentence, arguing that Chauvin murdered Floyd in cold blood.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson made the final decision on the sentence.
The former officer was already found guilty in April 2021, on state charges for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, for suffocating George Floyd to death by pressing his knee against his neck for more than 9 minutes.
He was sentenced to 270 months for the state charges, minus time served, which equals about 22 1/2 years in prison.
Inmates qualify for parole earlier in Minnesota’s state prison system than in the federal prison system, so the federal sentence will add at least a few years to the time Chauvin must serve for his murder conviction.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the civil rights organization NAACP, applauded the federal sentence of Chauvin and called for justice in other instances of police violence in the U.S.
“While today’s federal sentence for George Floyd’s murderer is a step toward accountability, America’s policing crisis continues to crush and devastate Black families,” Johnson said. “Holding police officers accountable is crucial. But meaningful justice, for the countless Black people murdered by police, is desperately needed. Police should serve and protect, not lynch. We need to reform policing in America.”
Former Minneapolis officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao were also charged with federal civil rights violations for their part in George Floyd’s death. The three of them pleaded not guilty but were convicted by a jury.
The four former police officers attempted to arrest George Floyd for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store in May 2020 when the incident resulting in Floyd’s death occurred.
Thao and Kueng are awaiting a state trial for charges of aiding and abetting in murder and aiding and abetting in manslaughter. The two have pleaded not guilty.
Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in exchange for the charge against him of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder being dropped.
Under the agreement, a sentence of 36 months, or three years in prison, will be recommended by both prosecutors and Lane’s legal team. If the other two officers are convicted on both counts, they could face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.