Derek Chauvin was sentenced Thursday to just over 20 years in prison, nearly seven months after pleading guilty to federal charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9½ minutes while holding him in May 2020.
Federal prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson to sentence Chauvin to 25 years, at the high end of the 20 to 25-year range of the plea deal, for saying Chauvin abused his police authority and acted insensitively.
The defense had asked for 20 years and said Chauvin was remorseful for what he did and that he was taking responsibility.
Magnuson sentenced Chauvin to 21 years in prison, with credit for the time he has already served, bringing his sentence to 20 years and five months.
Chauvin is already serving a 22½-year sentence after being found guilty in April 2021 of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in a state case for Floyd’s death. His federal sentence will be served at the same time.
Chauvin initially pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, but he changed his plea in December. At the time, he also pleaded guilty in a separate federal suit over allegations that he deprived a 14-year-old boy of his civil rights during a meeting in September 2017.
The guilty plea allowed Chauvin to avoid another high-profile trial. The sentence reflects 20 years for the charges related to Floyd and five months for the other case.
Speaking shortly before his sentencing, Chauvin told the Floyd family he wished them “the very best in their lives,” but made no apologies.
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, was one of those who spoke in court before the conviction. He called for Chauvin to get the maximum sentence, because he hasn’t really slept since his brother was “killed in broad daylight.”
He said his family has been given “life imprisonment” because they will never get his brother back.
John Pope, the boy at the center of the 2017 incident, said he feared for his life during his encounter with Chauvin, who “changed my life forever”.
Pope said he was a “smart kid with dreams,” but those dreams started slipping after he witnessed police brutality at the hands of Chauvin.
Three other former officers at the scene of Floyd’s death — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — were convicted in February on federal charges of depriving Floyd of his civil rights. Kueng and Thao were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin from using excessive force. Their sentencing dates are not scheduled.
Kueng and Thao also face a state trial due in October on charges of complicity in accidental murder and second-degree manslaughter. Lane pleaded guilty to the state charge of complicity in second-degree manslaughter, avoiding trial. A charge of complicity in first-degree murder was dismissed as part of the plea deal.
The meeting of four officers with Floyd in May 2020 was captured on video, recorded by a bystander, a traffic camera and the officers’ body cams. The footage shows Thao standing among spectators as his fellow officers pin Floyd to the sidewalk. Lane and Kueng sit on top of Floyd while Chauvin puts pressure on Floyd’s neck. The officers responded to a call from a supermarket about a counterfeit bill.
Floyd’s murder at the hands of the police sparked protests against systemic racism and police brutality around the world.
Minneapolis Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the case that led to Chauvin’s conviction on state charges, called the federal conviction “another step in accountability toward justice.”
“Federal prosecutors took this case because it was not a typical crime: it was a willful deprivation of life and liberty punishable under federal law, so it was appropriate and right for them to intervene,” Ellison said in a statement. “In getting this conviction and verdict, they sent a message to Minnesotans, all Americans and law enforcement agencies across the country that crime like this will not be tolerated and that we need to do better.”