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Ex-cop Chauvin gets 20-plus years for violating George Floyd's civil rights

As part of his federal plea agreement, Chauvin will serve his state and federal sentences at the same time in federal prison.

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In this still image from video, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, and his defense attorney Eric Nelson attend closing arguments on April 19, 2021, during Chauvin's trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Reuters file photo
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced Thursday to more than 20 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty late last year to federal charges that he violated George Floyd’s civil rights when he took Floyd’s life in May 2020.

Chauvin is currently serving a 22½-year sentence for his conviction on state murder and manslaughter charges at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights. As part of his federal plea agreement, Chauvin will serve his state and federal sentences at the same time in federal prison.

Chauvin’s federal plea deal reached last year also admits guilt for a 2017 incident where he repeatedly struck 14-year-old John Pope and kneeled on his neck and upper back for about 15 minutes. Pope, now 19 years old, sued the city of Minneapolis in May.

“I hope he takes this time to think about what he could have done differently and what he did to others,” Pope told the court Thursday, noting that Chauvin's brutality went unchallenged for three years until Floyd’s killing.

‘You must be substantially punished’

Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd’s murder sparked unrest in the Twin Cities and across the country, as well as calls to re-envision American policing.

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Prosecutor LeeAnn Bell told the court prior to sentencing that Chauvin’s sentence “needs to reflect the intentionality. He wasn’t a rookie. He’d been a police officer for years. He knew what his training was. He knew what he was doing was wrong and he did it anyway.”

Just before sentencing, Chauvin gave a brief statement where he addressed the Pope and Floyd families, although he did not apologize to either family for his actions.

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George Floyd. Special to The Forum.

"To the Pope family, Mr Pope: I hope you have a good relationship with your mother and also your sister, and I hope that you have the ability to get the best education possible to lead a productive and rewarding life,” Chauvin said.

To Floyd's children, he said: "I just want to say that I wish them all the best in their life and have excellent guidance in becoming great adults.”

Before handing down the verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson told Chauvin, “I really don’t know why you did what you did. But to put your knee on another person’s neck until they’re deceased is wrong. And for that you must be substantially punished.”

‘Speaks to his character’

Prosecutors asked Magnuson last month to sentence Chauvin to 25 years in prison, arguing that Chauvin’s actions against Floyd were “cold-blooded,” and that Chauvin deserves a higher sentence for an earlier incident where he used a similar tactic on a 14-year-old boy.

Prosecutors also argued that a higher sentence would send a message to other police officers “that although they undoubtedly have a difficult job, and one that sometimes carries life and death responsibilities, their role in our criminal justice system is a limited one, and does not include imposing punishment.”

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, asked the court last month to sentence Chauvin to no more than 20 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.

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Derek Chauvin booking photo, April 20, 2021. (Photo courtesy Minnesota Department of Corrections)
Derek Chauvin booking photo, April 20, 2021.
Minnesota Department of Corrections

Nelson cited sealed letters from friends and family and “thousands” of letters of support he says Chauvin received from across the country that “speaks to his character and qualities as a human being.” Nelson argued that it’s clear Chauvin has expressed remorse for his actions and is ready to “continue to atone for his wrongdoing.”

‘I don’t hate you, Mr. Chauvin’

During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, the victim impact statement from Courteney Ross, Floyd’s girlfriend, was read to the court. "I don’t hate you, Mr Chauvin,” it read. “I’m working on forgiving you because that’s what George Floyd would want me to do."

Carolyn Pawlenty, Chauvin's mother, thanked supporters and denounced the "misinformation" in the media that her son is racist and has no heart. "Everyone in Minnesota needs to heal and realize that all lives matter, no matter the color of your skin. Every life matters.”

She asked for federal prison placement in Minnesota or Iowa, close to family.

Three other former Minneapolis officers charged in Floyd’s killing were convicted in federal court in February of violating Floyd’s civil rights. They’ve yet to be sentenced.

Former officer Thomas Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in state court in May. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Former officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng’s trial on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter is scheduled for October. Both men rejected plea deals from prosecutors.

Magnuson on Thursday made a point of telling Chauvin of the collateral damage he’d caused to Kueng, Lane and Thao. By taking control of the Floyd arrest scene that day, the judge told Chauvin he’d “absolutely destroyed the lives of three other young officers.”

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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