Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to just more than 20 years in prison Thursday for violating George Floyd’s civil rights when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while detaining him in 2020. The sentencing comes about seven months after Chauvin pleaded guilty to violating Floyd’s rights, according to NBC News.
“U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sharply criticized Chauvin for his actions on May 25, 2020, telling him, “I really don’t know why you did what you did…To put your knee on a person’s neck until they expired is simply wrong…Your conduct is wrong, and it is offensive.” The judge continued, “You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene.”
Chauvin already received a 23-year sentence from the state, and now he’s received additional time at the federal level. A Minnesota Public Radio News reporter Matt Sepic commented on what this means, “Under Minnesota law, Chauvin only has to serve two-thirds, or about 15 years, of his state sentence in prison, with the rest on supervised release. The federal system is different. If he doesn’t have any behavior problems, Chauvin can expect to serve around 85 percent of his sentence in federal prison so that he could be out in about 17 years. Going to a federal lockup means Chauvin is less likely to run into people he’s arrested over his nearly two-decade career as a police officer.”
At the sentencing hearing, Chauvin did read a short statement but neglected to apologize to the Floyd family, only addressing Floyd’s children, saying, “I just want to say that I wish them all the best in their life and have excellent guidance in becoming great adults.”
This hearing resulted from a plea deal that Chauvin had accepted earlier this year in May, which initially slated him for a 20-25 year-long sentence. He will now “serve the state and federal sentences concurrently in a federal prison” with “seven months [shaved] off…for time already served.”
While Chauvin’s legal defense team had asked for 20 years because he accepted responsibility for his actions and was incredibly remorseful, ultimately, the judge’s 21-year judgment was at the lower end of the spectrum, which brought Chauvin’s sentence down to 20 years, and five months.
When Chauvin pleaded guilty to these crimes, he “admitted for the first time that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck — even after he became unresponsive — resulting in his death. The former officer admitted he willfully deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, including unreasonable force by a police officer.”
This victory for justice is bittersweet in that prosecutors had pushed for Chauvin to serve “all 25 years on the grounds that his actions during Floyd’s death were cold-blooded and needless. They also argued that he had a history of misusing restraints — Chauvin’s plea included an admission that he violated the rights of a then-14-year-old Black boy whom he restrained in an unrelated case in 2017.”
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane are the three other ex-Minneapolis policemen who were also convicted on federal civil rights charges in Floyd’s killing and are awaiting sentencing dates. Lane entered a guilty plea on abetting and aiding second-degree manslaughter, whereas Kueng and Thao declined to accept a plea deal and are awaiting their trial in the fall.