The Justice Department announced today that Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty in federal court to two violations of a federal civil rights statute.
Chauvin pleaded guilty to willfully depriving, while acting under color of law, George Floyd of his constitutional rights, resulting in Floyd’s bodily injury and death on May 25, 2020. Chauvin also agreed that the appropriate sentencing base offense level for this crime is second-degree murder because he used unreasonable and excessive force that resulted in Floyd’s death, and he acted willfully and in callous and wanton disregard of the consequences to Floyd’s life.
Chauvin also pleaded guilty to willfully depriving, while acting under color of law, a then 14-year-old juvenile of his constitutional rights, resulting in the juvenile’s bodily injury.
Family members of both Floyd and the juvenile were at the hearing.
“He knew what he was doing,” said Brandon Williams, George Floyd’s nephew. “He had nine minutes and 29 seconds to understand what he was doing and to stop kneeling –he chose not to. That guy’s a monster, he should have been arrested in 2017”
“It’s a good day for justice,” said Bob Bennett, the attorney for the then 14-year-old juvenile.
“Today, Derek Chauvin took responsibility and admitted his guilt in open court, under penalty of perjury, for depriving George Floyd and a boy, then just 14-years-old, of their civil rights,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. “This is important and historic. His admissions mark another important moment of accountability and another step on the road to justice. Although the Floyd family’s loss can never be healed, I hope this historic admission of wrongdoing brings them some comfort. I also hope it brings more trust and healing to the relationship between law enforcement and community.
“I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota and the Department of Justice for their important work here. George Floyd’s life mattered. That young man’s matters. Nobody is above the law, and nobody is beneath it. While Floyd’s life is lost to his family and all of us, I hope Chauvin’s change of plea will mark a new beginning for equal justice under the law, respectful treatment for every person in our society, and greater trust in our system of justice,” said Ellison.
“Defendant Chauvin has pleaded guilty to two federal civil rights violations, one of which led to the tragic loss of George Floyd’s life,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “While recognizing that nothing can repair the harm caused by such acts, the Justice Department is committed to holding accountable those who violate the Constitution, and to safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans.”
In the plea agreement, Chauvin admitted that on May 25, 2020, he willfully violated Floyd’s constitutional right to be free from an officer’s use of unreasonable force. Specifically, he a admitted that he held his left knee across Floyd’s neck, back and shoulder and his right knee on Floyd’s back and arm. The plea agreement states that Floyd remained restrained, prone and handcuffed on the ground for approximately 10 minutes.
Chauvin further admitted that he continued to use force even though he was aware that Floyd had stopped resisting, talking and moving, and even though he was aware that Mr. Floyd had lost consciousness and a pulse. Chauvin also admitted that Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) policy and training requires officers to stop using force when a subject is not resisting and to move an arrestee from the prone position into a side recovery or seated position because the prone position may make it more difficult to breathe. Chauvin admitted that his willful use of unreasonable force resulted in Floyd’s bodily injury and death because his actions impaired Floyd’s ability to obtain and maintain sufficient oxygen to sustain Mr. Floyd’s life.
Additionally, according to the plea agreement, Chauvin admitted that on Sept. 4, 2017, he willfully violated a then 14-year-old juvenile’s constitutional right to be free from an officer’s use of unreasonable force. He admitted that he held the juvenile by the throat and struck the juvenile multiple times in the head with a flashlight, resulting in the juvenile’s bodily injury. In the plea agreement, Chauvin also admitted that he held his knee on the juvenile’s neck, shoulders and upper back for between 15 and 16 minutes, even though the juvenile was face-down on the floor, handcuffed and not resisting. Chauvin admitted that these actions resulted in the juvenile’s bodily injury.
Chauvin will be sentenced at a hearing to be scheduled at a later date. According to the plea agreement, he faces a sentence of between 20- and 25-years imprisonment. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Chauvin will serve his sentence in federal custody and will not be eligible to work in any law enforcement capacity following his release.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel and Trial Attorney Tara Allison of the Civil Rights Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Samantha Bates, LeeAnn Bell, W. Anders Folk, Evan Gilead, Manda Sertich and Allen Slaughter of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.