Derek Chauvin Pleads Guilty to Violating Civil Rights of George Floyd and 14-Year-Old Boy

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of killing George Floyd earlier this year, has pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations.

Chauvin faced two counts of federal charges in relation to Floyd's death, whose family members were in attendance during the plea reversal. The charges alleged that Chauvin had violated Floyd's civil rights by kneeling on his neck as he was not resisting and failing to provide medical attention when he died. With the guilty plea, he will not face a federal trial in January alongside Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Kueng. Those three former officers are still scheduled to face both federal and state trials in 2022.

Chauvin also pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy in 2017 as part of his plea deal. During that incident, Chauvin held the boy by his throat, hit him with his flashlight, and held his knee to his neck while he was not resisting arrest. He was charged with depriving the boy of his right to be free of unreasonable force.

Chauvin was found guilty of killing Floyd in April 2021 and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. Federal prosecutors are arguing for him to be sentenced up to an additional 25 years, although Chauvin could face up to 33 years in prison on the federal charge.

The Floyds
Philonise Floyd (L) and Rodney Floyd (R), George Floyd's brother, and nephew Brandon Williams (C) arrive at US District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, on December 15, 2021, for the appearance of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of the murder of George Floyd. - Chauvin, 45, changed his plea from not guilty to guilty to the federal charges of violating the civil rights of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. Photo by Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Floyd's arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked mass protests nationwide calling for an end to racial inequality and police mistreatment of Black people.

In Minnesota, defendants with good behavior serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison, and the remaining one-third on supervised release, also known as parole. Under that formula, he's expected to serve 15 years in prison on the state charges, and 7 1/2 years on parole.

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.

All four former officers were charged broadly in federal court with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority, but the federal indictment broke down the counts even further.

According to a police report from that 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and after the teen, whom he described as 6-foot-2 and about 240 pounds, was handcuffed, Chauvin "used body weight to pin" him to the floor. The boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.

That encounter was one of several mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin had used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times before dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said he went too far and held the restraints "beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances."

The other three former officers are still expected to go to trial on federal charges in January, and they face state trial on aiding and abetting counts in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Update 12/15/21 11:46 ET - This story has been updated with additional information.

Chauvin June 2021
Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin addresses the court as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over Chauvin's sentencing at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis June 25, 2021. Chauvin has pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights. Chauvin’s plea Wednesday, Dec. 15, means he will not face a federal trial in January, though he could end up spending more years behind bars. Court TV via AP, Pool, File