Federal prosecutors are seeking a 25-year prison sentence for ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the earlier abuse of a 14-year-old boy.
In a memo outlining the Justice Department’s reasoning for seeking that sentence, prosecutors argued that the former veteran training officer exhibited a pattern of “cold-blooded” behavior that led to the killing of Floyd and the injury of a child who cried out in fear and pain.
“Throughout both incidents, the defendant appeared unable or unwilling to recognize the humanity of the people under his knees — a compliant young teenager and a frightened man calling out to his loved ones — no matter how many minutes passed, no matter how completely the people beneath him complied, no matter how anguished their cries of pain and fear,” wrote Assistant US Attorney LeeAnn Bell and Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel in the government’s position on sentencing memo.
Senior US District Judge Paul Magnuson has not yet set a sentencing date for Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to two counts of civil rights violations in the cases last December. Three of Chauvin’s former colleagues — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are meanwhile awaiting back-to-back federal and state trials on charges they aided and abetted Chauvin in fatally restraining Floyd.
An attorney for Chauvin did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
According to his plea agreement, both Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, and the government agreed that a sentence between 20 and 25 years was appropriate. It would be served concurrently with the 22 1⁄2 year sentence Chauvin is serving after being convicted of murder a year ago by a state jury. The government has previously said it would seek 25 years for Chauvin. This week’s memo outlines its arguments for doing so.
Federal prosecutors explained this week that they want a longer sentence than what was imposed at the state level because the previous case did not address Chauvin’s conduct toward then-14-year-old John Pope in 2017.
Like Floyd three years later, Pope was also pinned under Chauvin’s knee after Chauvin struck him in the head “multiple times with a police-issue flashlight,” according to the federal court filing. Chauvin and another Minneapolis officer being trained by him had responded to a domestic assault call at Pope’s Minneapolis home.
Chauvin struck Pope after he resisted being handcuffed by the other officer, pinned him to the wall and struck him again — opening a wound that required stitches — and later held his knee on Pope’s neck and upper back for between 15 and 16 minutes as Pope was “Face down on the floor, handcuffed and unresisting.” According to the filing, Chauvin held his knee on Pope’s neck for more than 6 1⁄2 minutes and ignored cries that hurt his neck.
Last month, Pope and 39-year-old Zoya Code filed separate federal civil rights lawsuits against Chauvin and the Minneapolis Police Department over Chauvin’s use of the dangerous neck restraint.
Prosecutors this week cited Chauvin’s 18-year career and history of using multiple abuses of his authority as reasons for a tougher sentence.
Chauvin, they wrote, “used his law enforcement career to engage in abusive conduct in which the defendant punished those who did not instantly submit to his authority.”
“Both incidents demonstrate that the defendant willfully used unreasonable force without regard to the life and safety of members of the public he was charged with protecting.”