Criminal Justice

Derek Chauvin pleads guilty to violating George Floyd’s civil rights

“Nobody is above the law, and nobody is beneath it,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, calling Chauvin’s change of plea “important and historic.”


Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listens to verdicts at his trial on April 20, 2021, for the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. On Wednesday, Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal charges that he violated Floyd’s civil rights.

Derek Chauvin has pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of George Floyd, the man he was found guilty of murdering. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is white; Floyd was Black.

Chauvin is currently in prison, serving a 22 ½-year sentence that a Minnesota judge handed down in June. Chauvin appeared in court Wednesday to change his plea in the federal case, which had been poised to go to trial next month.

In addition to the charges he faced in relation to Floyd’s murder in 2020, the federal case accused Chauvin of violating an unnamed 14-year-old’s civil rights in late 2017, when he “held Juvenile 1 by the throat and struck Juvenile 1 multiple times in the head with a flashlight,” according to court documents.

Chauvin’s guilty plea also applies to those charges, which accused him of unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer.

“Federal prosecutors are recommending a sentence of up to 25 years” for the civil rights violations, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Floyd’s brother called it “a good day for justice”

Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, after Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges in George Floyd’s murder.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison welcomed Chauvin’s change in plea, which he called “important and historic.”

“Nobody is above the law, and nobody is beneath it,” Ellison said in a statement sent to NPR. “While Floyd’s life is lost to his family and all of us, I hope Chauvin’s change of plea will mark a new beginning for equal justice under the law, respectful treatment for every person in our society, and greater trust in our system of justice.”

As Chauvin entered his new plea, Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told another man in the courtroom, “It’s a good day for justice,” according to MPR News.

Three former officers still face charges

Still facing federal charges are J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, the three former police officers who were with Chauvin when he pinned Floyd’s chest and face to the asphalt and knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, resulting in his death.

Kueng, Lane, and Thao have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, as well as to state charges related to Floyd’s death. They’re slated to go on trial for the state charges in March of 2022.

In a federal indictment issued in May, a grand jury said Chauvin and the other officers “willfully deprived George Floyd of the right, secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which includes an arrestee’s right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.”

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