Derek Chauvin and the three other former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s death have now been indicted on federal charges for violating his civil rights.
A federal grand jury indicted Chauvin, 45, Thomas Lane, 38, J. Alexander Kueng, 27, and Tou Thao, 35, accusing them of willfully violating Floyd’s civil rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air.
All four cops have been charged with failing to provide medical care to Floyd last May.
Chauvin, Thao and Kueng are also charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force.
If convicted, all four disgraced officers could face the federal death penalty or life in prison.
Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, over a 2017 incident where he knelt on a black 14-year-old boy’s neck for nearly 17 minutes and allegedly repeatedly hitting him over the head with a flashlight.
This is the first time the convicted killer has ever faced charges over this incident.
The federal civil rights charges – akin to hate crimes – are separate to the state’s charges which led to Chauvin’s trial and murder conviction last month.
The other three officers face trial together on August 23 on state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane left to right in booking photos in June
Floyd pictured above died last Memorial Day when Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than
The two separate indictments were unsealed Friday.
The first indictment contained three counts relating to Floyd’s death – one charging all four cops, one charging Thao and Kueng and the third charging only Chauvin.
The second indictment contained two counts charging Chauvin over the 2017 incident.
Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Kueng appeared via videoconference in US District Court in Minneapolis. They were all released on $25,000 bond.
Chauvin was not part of the court appearance as he remains behind bars in a high-security prison in Minneapolis.
‘Count One of the indictment alleges that on May 25, 2020, Chauvin held his left knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck, and his right knee on Floyd’s back and arm, as George Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, and kept his knees on Mr. Floyd’s neck and body even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive,’ the indictment reads.
This violated Floyd’s constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer and resulted in Floyd’s injury and death, says the indictment.
The second count charges Thao and Kueng for failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force.
The third count alleges all four cops saw Floyd lying on the ground in clear need of medical care and failed to aid him.
‘By doing so, all four defendants willfully deprived Mr. Floyd of his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which includes an arrestee’s right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical need,’ according to the indictment.
‘This offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of, Mr. Floyd.’
Each of the three counts in this indictment fall under the federal civil rights statute ‘Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.’
If the crime results in death – which each of the three counts say they did in Floyd’s case – punishment includes being ‘fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death’, the FBI website states.
Thao, Lane and Kueng are only charged over Floyd’s death.
Meanwhile, a second unsealed indictment also charges Chauvin with willfully depriving the rights of a black teen back in 2017 to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer.
The teen is not named in the indictment and is only referred to as ‘Juvenile 1.’
Chauvin is charged with two counts over this incident.
The first count alleges Chauvin held the boy by the throat and struck him multiple times in the head with a dangerous weapon – a flashlight – causing him injury.
Surveillance video shows Minneapolis police Officers from left, Tou Thao, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are seen attempting to take Floyd into custody
Chauvin is led away in handcuffs after being convicted of all charges in the criminal case last month
The second count charges that Chauvin held his knee on the neck and the upper back of the teen even after the 14-year-old was lying prone, handcuffed, and unresisting, also causing him bodily injury.
The new federal indictments will now send the four cops to a criminal trial in federal court.
They are separate to the criminal charges already brought by the state of Minnesota against them.
The case will be prosecuted by DOJ officials in Minnesota.
Civil rights group the National Action Network welcomed the news of the charges Friday.
‘For many years we have tried to get the federal government to make it clear that these crimes are not only state crimes but violate civil rights on a federal level when police engage in this kind of behavior,’ the group said in a statement.
‘What we couldn’t get them to do in the case of Eric Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, we are finally seeing them do today and this is a significant development for those of us who have been engaged in the struggle and police reform movement.’
The Justice Department’s investigation had been running in parallel to the state’s with evidence being presented before a grand jury of 23 citizens who ultimately decided if there was probable cause to bring charges.
Chauvin is pictured in his booking photo after being convicted of Floyd’s murder
The federal indictment had been expected with sources last week saying investigators were preparing to bring charges soon.
But it had been unclear whether they would wait until after the criminal trial of Thao, Kueng and Lane was wrapped up.
Federal prosecutors had reportedly been concerned about jeopardizing the state’s case against Chauvin by announcing charges while his state trial was ongoing.
This was evident in the timing of the announcement of a separate DOJ probe into the Minneapolis Police Department – less than 24 hours after Chauvin was convicted.
The Justice Department announced it had opened a civil rights investigation, to determine whether the police department engages in a pattern or practice of policing that violates federal civil rights laws.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said this will involve ‘a comprehensive review of the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies, training, supervision and use-of-force investigations.’
This investigation is also separate to the criminal federal charges filed Friday.
Chauvin has never faced any charges over the 2017 incident, details of which surfaced last year as state prosecutors asked a judge to allow them to use the case as evidence of the former cop’s use of force in his trial.
The judge banned prosecutors from telling jurors about the 2017 incident.
In court documents, prosecutors said body cam video showed Chauvin and another officer responding to a domestic assault September 4 2017 after a mother said she was assaulted by her teenage son and daughter.
The body cam footage has not been released nor has the teen’s identity.
The officers arrived to find the 14-year-old boy lying on the floor of his bedroom while on his phone.
They ordered him to get up because he was under arrest.
The first indictment contained three counts relating to Floyd’s death – one charging all four cops, one charging Thao and Kueng and the third charging only Chauvin
Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment (above), over a 2017 incident where he knelt on a black 14-year-old boy’s neck for nearly 17 minutes. This is the first time the convicted killer has ever faced charges over this incident
When he refused, Chauvin grabbed him and struck the teen in the head with his flashlight multiple times, the court documents say.
Chauvin then grabbed him by the throat before hitting him again with the flashlight.
Prosecutors had argued this all occurred less than a minute after the officers first encountered the boy.
Chauvin then applied a neck restraint to the boy, who briefly went unconscious, and then placed him in a prone position with a knee in his back for about 17 minutes until paramedics arrived, court documents state.
He held his knee on the boy, who was bleeding from the ear, even after he said he was in pain and couldn’t breathe, prosecutors said.
According to the court documents, the boy’s mother asked Chauvin four separate times to take his knee off her son. On one occasion she pointed out her son said he couldn’t breathe.
She also noted that her son was in handcuffs and couldn’t do anything to Chauvin. At one point, the mother said Chauvin had hit her son with the flashlight for no reason.
Chauvin took his knee off the teenager after paramedics arrived.
A paramedics who assessed the boy briefly while he was held down noted that he would likely need stitches for the wound on his ear.
The teenager was arrested for domestic assault and obstruction with force.
State prosecutors said Chauvin’s use of force regarding the boy was similar to the incident involving Floyd, after he knelt on the black man’s neck for more than nine minutes as he begged him to stop saying ‘I can’t breathe’ during an arrest in Minneapolis last May.
‘As was true with the conduct with George Floyd, Chauvin rapidly escalated his use of force for a relatively minor offense. Just like with Floyd, Chauvin used an unreasonable amount of force without regard for the need for that level of force or the victim’s well-being,’ prosecutors argued in the court documents.
In his response, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson had argued there were no comparisons because he acted according to MPD policy and was allowed to use a neck restraint in the 2017 incident.
The judge ended up ruling in the defense’s favor and banned prosecutors from telling the jury of the arrest.
Federal prosecutors had witnesses testify before a grand jury two months ago regarding the 2017 incident.
Multiple sources told the
They had planned to move in and detain the white cop on federal counts moments after a not guilty verdict was delivered or in the event of a mistrial.
Ultimately, the backup plan did not have to be used, after Chauvin was found guilty on all counts.
Chauvin was convicted last month on state charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and taken to Minnesota’s maximum security prison Oak Park Heights.
Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes (above) until he died last May 25
He will be sentenced on June 25 after the court pushed it back from its initial date of June 16. He faces up to 40 years in prison.
The three other cops face trial together on August 23 on state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
They have all pleaded not guilty, and were fired from their jobs at Minneapolis PD in the wake of Floyd’s death.
The Minnesota AG’s Office wants to also add a charge of aiding and abetting third-degree murder to each of their cases.
They are free on bond and were allowed to remain free after Friday’s federal court appearance.
Floyd, 46, died May 25 after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.
Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd – state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down Floyd’s legs.
State prosecutors say Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably in the situation and that Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use.
He filed a motion for a new trial on multiple grounds this week including ‘jury misconduct’ and abuse of discretion by the court, just two weeks after his conviction.
Chauvin in court during his state trial with his attorney Eric Nelson (left). Nelson filed a motion for a new trial this week claiming the cop did not get a fair trial
Juror Brandon Mitchell attended a rally last summer where George Floyd’s relatives addressed the crowd, despite telling the court he’d never been at a protest. Mitchell (far right) was pictured at the March on Washington event wearing a T-shirt with a picture of King and the words, ‘GET YOUR KNEE OFF OUR NECKS’ and ‘BLM’
Nelson claimed the court deprived Chauvin of a fair trial, citing many issues including the judge’s refusal to move the trial due to publicity.
It came just one day after it emerged that juror Brandon Mitchell attended a rally last summer where George Floyd’s relatives addressed the crowd, despite telling the court he’d never been at a protest.
Mitchell, a high school basketball coach, was pictured at the March on Washington event wearing a T-shirt with a picture of King and the words, ‘GET YOUR KNEE OFF OUR NECKS’ and ‘BLM’.
The juror has defended his attendance as he said the event was to commemorate the March on Washington and was not explicitly a protest against police or Floyd’s death.
Nelson had no comment on the federal charges Friday. Messages left with attorneys for two of the other officers were not immediately returned, and an attorney for the fourth officer was getting in an elevator and disconnected when reached by The Associated Press.
Floyd’s arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked protests nationwide and widespread calls for an end to police brutality and racial inequities.
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