Derek Chauvin pleads guilty in George Floyd civil rights case, sentencing still undetermined

Minnesota federal judge ordered Chauvin held without bond

Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges in the civil rights case of George Floyd Wednesday, meaning the former Minneapolis officer can serve time in a federal lockup. 

Chauvin was convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges for pinning his knee against Floyd’s neck as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe on May 25, 2020. He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in that case and has been in solitary confinement in state prison. 

Chauvin and three other ex-officers – Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao – were indicted earlier this year on federal charges alleging they willfully violated Floyd’s rights. 

As part of the plea deal, Chauvin also pleaded guilty to violating the rights of a 14-year-old boy during a 2017 arrest in which he held the boy by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy’s neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and not resisting. 


Chauvin’s guilty plea Wednesday means he might be transferred to a federal lockup – though his notoriety could mean he will still be separated from the rest of the prison population. 

Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for the death of George Floyd.  (POOL)

During the hearing in St. Paul, Minnesota, Judge Paul A. Magnuson asked Chauvin if he understood "this is the end of it," WCCO reported, and he would not have any right to an appeal. Chauvin said he understood and waived his right to a trial in the federal case. 

According to the conditions of his plea deal, Chauvin will never be allowed to work in law enforcement again and will pay restitution – though the amount has not been determined. Magnuson ordered Chauvin held without bond Wednesday. The judge said he would not sentence Chauvin yet as he waits for a pre-sentencing report. 

This combination of photos shows from left, Minneapolis Police Officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

Prosecutors for the U.S. District Court for Minnesota indicated they would ask for a 300-month, or 25-year, sentence for the federal charges. Sentencing guidelines recommend between 240 and 300 months and five years of supervised release to be served concurrently with his 22 ½ state sentence. 

Because the federal system has no parole, even with a reduced federal sentence, Chauvin could spend more time behind bars. In Minnesota, defendants with good behavior serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison, and the remaining one-third on supervised release. Therefore, Chauvin was expected to serve 15 years in prison on the state charges, and 7 1/2 years on parole.

Chauvin’s plea could be a positive for the three other officers at the scene of Floyd’s death. They had asked the court to separate their trials from Chauvin’s, arguing that his presence would hurt them before a jury, but that request was denied. 

George Floyd died May 25, 2020, after an encounter with four Minneapolis police officers. 

Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney not connected to the case, told The Associated Press a trial without Chauvin could reduce some of the inflammatory evidence jurors would see. Brandt has also said that if Chauvin pleads guilty, he can be compelled to testify – which could benefit the others if he says he was the veteran officer who made the decision to do what he did.

Floyd’s family members and civil rights attorney Ben Crump listened in the courtroom. 


Chauvin also waived his right to have the full agreement read out in court, WCCO reported. The ex-cop, seated at the defendant’s table in an orange jumpsuit, signed the agreement. Without the agreement, the judge said Chauvin would have faced life in prison. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.