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Derek Chauvin Has Pleaded Guilty To A Federal Charge That He Violated George Floyd's Civil Rights

The former Minneapolis police officer changed his plea in federal court, eight months after he was convicted of murdering George Floyd in 2020.

Last updated on December 15, 2021, at 11:55 a.m. ET

Posted on December 15, 2021, at 10:21 a.m. ET

Court TV via AP, Pool, File

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a federal charge that he violated George Floyd's civil rights when he killed him in 2020.

The disgraced former officer will avoid another trial but potentially extend the amount of time he serves in prison on a state sentence.

He and three other former officers were indicted in May on charges of violating Floyd's constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure and force by a police officer. Alongside the three other former officers, Chauvin had originally pleaded not guilty in the federal case in September 2021. But he changed his plea Wednesday, eight months after he was convicted of murder in a state trial.

As part of his plea deal, prosecutors recommended 300 months in prison, to run concurrently with Chauvin's murder sentence.

Chauvin pleaded guilty to one count of violating Floyd's civil rights and another count of violating the civil rights of a 14-year-old in 2017. He had been facing another federal trial for the 2017 incident in which he grabbed the teenager by the neck and beat them with a flashlight. Chauvin held the teen down by placing his knee on the teen's neck while they were handcuffed, a similar tactic that was found to have killed Floyd.

Prosecutors said other charges involving those cases would be dropped, according to the Associated Press.

Chauvin appeared Wednesday morning in an orange jumpsuit in the US District Court of Minnesota, with members of his family and Floyd's family present. The teenager involved in the 2017 case was also sitting in the courtroom.

When US District Judge Paul Magnuson asked whether he understood what he was going forward with.

"Yes, your honor," Chauvin said.

"You understand that there is no right to appeal to a higher court? This is the end of it?” Magnuson followed up, according to the court pool.

“Yes, your honor,” Chauvin replied.

When the judge asked how Chauvin wanted to plead, he said, "At this time, guilty, your honor."

Video of Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd's neck as the man yelled out that he couldn't breathe helped galvanize a nationwide social movement aimed to draw attention to and stop excessive use of force by police against Black people. Floyd's cries of "I can't breathe" were stamped on flags and signs that were carried in street protests across the country.

Chauvin's conviction in April, a rare outcome for law enforcement officers, was applauded by civil rights leaders who have been calling for local, state, and federal reforms for law enforcement agencies.

He was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison and has been held in solitary confinement since then. The guilty plea will likely add about two and a half years to his sentence, but it will be up to a judge to decide any additional time served.

Magnuson didn't set a date for sentencing. Per the plea deal, Chauvin will now serve time in a federal prison facility.

Attorneys representing the Floyd family said in a statement that Chauvin's guilty plea shows "significant change is afoot" in holding officers accountable.

“George Floyd was a son, a brother, and a father … who changed the world,” they said. “We all play a role in keeping his legacy alive. We must all keep marching. We must all keep fighting against injustice. We must do this for George, to ensure that his one life and shocking death will change the future for countless others.”

Jerry Holt / AP

The three other former Minneapolis police officers, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane, will go to trial early next year for allegedly failing to provide Floyd with medical care at the scene.

The trio had petitioned the court hoping to be tried separately from Chauvin, arguing they could not receive a fair trial if they faced a jury alongside him, but a federal judge ruled the four ex-officers would be tried together. Now that Chauvin has pleaded guilty, he will not be tried with the other officers.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.