A former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd appeared before a United States judge to answer a charge he violated the civil rights of a Black teenager in a 2017 case that involved a restraint similar to the one used on Floyd.
At Thursday’s arraignment hearing – held remotely via videoconference – Chauvin was presented with the accusation against him and pleaded “not guilty”.
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Court documents allege Chauvin used unreasonable force on the boy – then 14 years old – when he held the teen 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.
Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder earlier this year in a Minnesota state court and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. Chauvin had placed his knee with the force of body weight on Floyd’s neck for more than minutes as the Black man was handcuffed, facedown on the pavement and pleading for air.
Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests and a new movement for police reform in the US. The Department of Justice is investigating the Minneapolis police force and others for patterns of racial discrimination and excessive use of force. National legislation has stalled in the US Congress.
According to a police report from that 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and after the teen, whom he described as 6-feet-2-inches tall (188 cm) and about 240 pounds (108.8kg), was handcuffed, Chauvin “used body weight to pin” him to the floor. Afterwards, the boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.
Chauvin and three other former officers — Thomas Lane, J Kueng and Tou Thao — were arraigned on civil rights violations in Floyd’s death on Tuesday. All four pleaded not guilty to those charges.
The 2017 encounter with the unnamed teen was one of several mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin had used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times prior to Floyd’s death dating back to 2014. In four instances, state prosecutors said Chauvin had gone too far and held the restraints “beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances”.
According to the US federal charges in Floyd’s death, the officers allegedly deprived Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority.
The indictment alleges Chauvin violated Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck. All four officers are charged with depriving Floyd of his rights when they failed to provide medical care.
Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe as Chauvin pinned him to the ground. Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd; Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, and Lane held Floyd’s legs, according to evidence in state court.
Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening.