Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has admitted to violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that killed Floyd in May 2020, sparking mass racial justice protests across the US and beyond.
Chauvin appeared in federal court in person on Wednesday morning to change his plea to guilty.
He is charged with two counts of depriving Floyd of his rights for pinning his knee against Floyd’s neck as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe and for failing to provide medical care to Floyd during a 25 May 2020 arrest that resulted in Floyd’s death. Chauvin, who is white, has already been convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges and is serving a sentence of 22 1/2 years.
He also faces two more counts in a separate case involving the restraint of a Black teenager in 2017.
Floyd’s arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked mass protests nationwide that called for an end to racial inequality and police mistreatment of Black people.
Chauvin and three other former officers – Thomas Lane, J Kueng and Tou Thao – were indicted earlier this year on federal charges alleging they willfully violated Floyd’s rights. A federal trial for the other three men still appears to be scheduled for January.
To bring federal charges in deaths involving police, prosecutors must believe an officer acted under the “color of law”, or government authority, and willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights. That’s a high legal standard. An accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer’s part isn’t enough to support federal charges. Prosecutors have to prove the officer knew what he was doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.
According to evidence in the state case against Chauvin, Kueng and Lane helped restrain the 46-year-old Floyd as he was on the ground – Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down Floyd’s legs. Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.