A United States federal court has sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 21 years in prison for violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a Black man killed when Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes in an incident that sparked mass protests.
US District Judge Paul Magnuson rebuked Chauvin at the sentencing hearing on Thursday, calling the ex-policeman’s actions when he killed Floyd in May 2020 “offensive”.
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“I really don’t know why you did what you did,” Magnuson said. “To put your knee on a person’s neck until they expire is simply wrong … Your conduct is wrong and it is offensive.”
In brief remarks to the court on Thursday, Chauvin made no direct apology or expression of remorse to Floyd’s family, The Associated Press news agency reported.
Chauvin is already in jail in Minnesota after he was sentenced in a state case last year to 22.5 years for murdering Floyd; he will serve both sentences concurrently at a federal detention facility.
But Thursday’s sentence means that he will likely spend more time behind bars because inmates become eligible for parole earlier in Minnesota than in federal custody.
The former officer had pleaded guilty to federal charges late last year. Three other former Minneapolis police officers who were involved in the incident also were convicted in federal court in February for violating Floyd’s civil rights. They are awaiting sentencing.
“While recognizing that nothing can repair the harm caused by such acts, the Justice Department is committed to holding accountable those who violate the Constitution, and to safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement after Chauvin’s guilty plea in December 2021.
It remains unclear where Chauvin will be sent after his sentencing. His lawyer has said that he had been in solitary confinement for his own safety since going to jail last year.
Bureau of Prisons Spokesperson Scott Taylor said “a number of factors” go into placement decisions.
“Some of the factors include the level of security and supervision the inmate requires, any medical or programming needs, separation and security measures to ensure the inmate’s protection, and other considerations including proximity to an individual’s release residence,” Taylor, who refused to comment on Chauvin’s case specifically, told AP.
As part of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors last year, Chauvin also admitted to violating the rights of John Pope Jr, who was 14 when the former officer used excessive force against him during an arrest in 2017.
“I was treated as if I was not a human being at the hands of Derek Chauvin,” Pope told the court.
The killing of Floyd, which was videotaped by a bystander, spurred nationwide and international outrage and calls for racial justice and police reform.