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Derek Chauvin faces federal sentencing for violating George Floyd's civil rights

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd will spend several more years in prison on top of his initial sentence for murder. Derek Chauvin is already serving a 22 1/2-year state sentence. And today, a federal judge gave him additional time for violating Floyd's civil rights. Reporter Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio News joins us now to explain more. Hi, Matt.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Hello.

CHANG: OK. So in state court, a Minnesota jury convicted Chauvin of murder and manslaughter after a trial that a lot of people watched last year. Can you just explain - exactly what does this federal sentence address?

SEPIC: Well, a few weeks after jurors delivered their verdict in the state case, federal prosecutors here charged Chauvin and three other former officers with a crime known as deprivation of rights under color of law. That's the government's way of saying that the four men violated George Floyd's civil rights by using excessive force while detaining him. In 2020, Chauvin was seen on bystander and body camera video kneeling on Floyd's neck for 9 1/2 minutes, even after he lost consciousness. Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal charges in December. And as part of his agreement with prosecutors, he also admitted to using excessive force against a teenager, John Pope, back in 2017. In that incident, Chauvin struck the then-14-year-old with a flashlight and kneeled on his neck and back as he lay handcuffed.

CHANG: Mmm. So with this additional sentence today, how long will Chauvin actually be behind bars, total?

SEPIC: Well, under Minnesota law, Chauvin only has to serve two-thirds, or about 15 years, of his state sentence in prison, with the rest on supervised release. The federal system is different. If he doesn't have any behavior problems, Chauvin can expect to serve around 85% of his sentence in federal prison, so he could be out in about 17 years. Going to a federal lockup means Chauvin is less likely to run into people he's arrested over his nearly two-decade career as a police officer.

CHANG: And I'm just curious - did Chauvin say anything during the sentencing hearing today?

SEPIC: Yes, he read a brief statement, but he did not apologize to either John Pope or the Floyd family. He told Pope, quote, "I hope you have a good relationship with your mother and also your sister, and I hope that you have the ability to get the best education possible to lead a productive and rewarding life." And to Floyd's children, Chauvin said, quote, "I just want to say that I wish them all the best in their life and have excellent guidance in becoming great adults."

CHANG: Now, Matt, I know the sentencing today means that the legal proceedings against Chauvin are essentially over, but what about the other three former police officers who were on duty with Chauvin the night he killed George Floyd? Like, what's ahead for them?

SEPIC: Well, a federal jury convicted J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao of those same civil rights charges back in February following a trial. The judge has not scheduled the sentencing hearings yet for them.

CHANG: All right. That is Matt Sepic with Minnesota Public Radio News. Thank you, Matt.

SEPIC: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Matt Sepic

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