A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Derek Chauvin to 21 years in prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, a move that adds a few years to the time the former Minneapolis police officer is serving for his murder conviction while transferring him to federal custody.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson’s sentence came after Chauvin agreed to a plea deal that called for a sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years. Federal prosecutors had sought the top end of that range, arguing that Chauvin, who is white, killed Floyd in cold blood when he pressed his knee Floyd’s neck, pinning the Black man to the pavement outside a Minneapolis corner store on May 25, 2020, for more than 9 minutes as Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe.
Chauvin’s attorney had sought 20 years, arguing that Chauvin was remorseful.
During Thursday’s hearing, Chauvin told Floyd’s family that he “wishes all the best” for Floyd’s children. But Chauvin’s brief remarks included no direct apology or expression of remorse to Floyd’s family.
Chauvin is already serving a 22½-year sentence on state murder and manslaughter convictions.
The plea deal called for Chauvin to serve the sentences at the same time and to be transferred from a Minnesota state prison to a federal prison, where experts say he likely will be safer and may be held under less restrictive conditions.
In entering his federal plea, Chauvin for the first time admitted that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck — even as Floyd pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” and then became unresponsive — resulting in Floyd’s death. Chauvin admitted he willfully deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, including unreasonable force by a police officer, during the May 2020 arrest.
Floyd’s killing sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the world in a reckoning over police brutality and racism.
That was one of several cases mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said they went beyond the point force was needed.
For his own protection, Chauvin has been held in isolation in a 10-by-10-foot room at the state’s maximum security prison that he’s allowed to leave for an average of one hour per day for exercise.
However, experts say Chauvin might be safer, and live under fewer restrictions, in a federal prison. His security level and final destination will be up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which could send him anywhere in the country.