MINNEAPOLIS – Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to 270 months, or 22.5 years, in the murder of George Floyd last year.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said the sentence was not based on “emotion” or “sympathy” but said “we need to recognize the pain of the Floyd family.”
Chauvin, earlier, offered his condolences to Floyd’s family but did not apologize for his actions last year that caused Floyd’s death.
“I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family,” Chauvin said. He said he was unable to speak further due to other ongoing litigation.
Chauvin’s mother also spoke, as well as Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter Gianna, nephew and brothers. Floyd’s family and attorneys called for the court to give Chauvin the maximum sentence.
“This is not the typical second-degree murder,” prosecutor Matthew Frank said, calling for 360 months. “This is egregious.”
Meanwhile, a small crowd was gathered outside the Cup Foods store where Floyd was killed to listen to the hearing. Some in the crowd were chanting and praying.
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Carolyn Pawlenty, Chauvin’s mother, told the court that the media, public and the prosecution team had wrongly depicted her son as aggressive, heartless, uncaring and racist.
“I want this court to know that none of these things are true and that my son is a good man,” Pawlenty said. “Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man. He has a big heart, and he has always put others before his own. The public will never know the loving and caring man he is, but his family does.”
Pawlenty said Chauvin has played the events of that day over and over in his head. “I have seen the toll it has taken on him,” she said. “I believe a lengthy sentence will not serve Derek well. When you sentence my son, you will also be sentencing me.”
Speaking directly to her son, she told him that her happiest moment was giving birth to him, followed by pinning on his police badge.
“Derek, I want you to know I have always believed in your innocence, and I will never waiver from that,” Pawlenty said. “I have read numerous letters from people around the world that also believe in your innocence.”
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said the case is “at the epicenter of a cultural and political divide” in the U.S. “We tried to keep a lot of that out of the courtroom” and focus on the facts, he said, noting how divisive people felt about the case.
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Floyd’s daughter Gianna testified remotely via cellphone camera video. Wearing a checkered shirt and purple headband, she told the court that she “asks how did my dad get hurt” and wishes she could play with him and have him help her brush her teeth, like he used to every night.
Gianna told the court that she knows her dad is still around her through his spirit. If she could say anything to him, she said would tell him that “I miss him and I love him.”
Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, and brothers, Terrence and Philonise Floyd, also spoke, asking the court to give Chauvin the maximum sentence.
“My family and I have been given a life sentence. We will never be able to get George back,” Philonise Floyd said.
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Terrence Floyd said he would ask Chauvin, who sat just several feet away from him, “Why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck?”
He paused at times with emotion and looked down.
“We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist,” he told the judge. “We’ve been through that already. … If it was us, if the rules were reverse, there would be no case, it’d be open and shut. We’d be in the jail for murdering somebody. So we ask for that same penalty for Derek Chauvin.”
Hennepin County Jude Peter Cahill on Friday morning denied a defense attorney’s request for a new trial.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, filed a motion claiming Chauvin was deprived of his Constitutional right to a fair trial, but Cahill said Nelson failed to prove any of the allegations.
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Floyd died on Memorial Day 2020 when Chauvin, 45, kneeled on him outside a Cup Foods store in Minneapolis after several officers responded to a call of a counterfeit bill. Bystanders captured the incident on video, and the murder sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
Although Chauvin was found guilty of three charges, he’ll only be sentenced on the most serious count because all the charges stem from one act, carried out against one person. For first time-offenders who have committed second-degree murder, sentencing guidelines recommend 150 months or 12½ years in prison.
Prosecutors asked that Chauvin be given a more severe prison sentence because of the aggravating factors in Floyd’s death, including that Chauvin abused his authority as a police officer and the crime was committed in the presence of children. Minnesota Judge Peter Cahill ruled last month there were four aggravating factors, which means Chauvin may face up to 30 years in prison. But Cahill could still sentence him to fewer.
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Defense attorney Eric Nelson opposed a tougher sentence, saying the state failed to prove the aggravating factors, among others, existed when Chauvin arrested Floyd. Nelson requested a new trial and a hearing to have the verdict impeached because of what he called jury misconduct.
No matter the sentence, a defendant on good behavior will likely serve two-thirds of the penalty in prison and the rest on supervised release called parole. Chauvin will also get credit for time served since he went to prison in April.
Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, the three former Minneapolis police officers accused of aiding and abetting in Floyd’s death, will face trial in March.
Meanwhile, a federal grand jury indicted Chauvin, Lane, Keung and Thao for violating Floyd’s civil rights, which could add time to the sentences the former officers may face. Those charges accuse them of violating a federal law forbidding government officials from abusing their authority.
Violating someone’s civil rights is punishable “by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty,” depending on the circumstances and injuries resulting from the crime, according to the Department of Justice.
Chauvin also faces another federal indictment stemming from a confrontation with a 14-year-old in 2017.
Hauck reported from Morristown, New Jersey.