Seeing actions actually have consequences for cops is a continually bizarre experience. A federal grand jury has indicted Derek Chauvin and the three other officers involved in the death of George Floyd on U.S. civil rights charges.
According to the Star Tribune, documents that were unsealed on Friday reveal that former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao have been charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure, with Chauvin also being charged with unreasonable force by a police officer. All four officers were also charged with failing to provide medical care for Floyd. Chauvin was also charged with an additional civil rights violation stemming from a 2017 incident where he put a 14-year-old boy in a neck restraint during an arrest.
Last May, Floyd was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a Cup Foods in Minneapolis. A struggle ensued after Floyd was placed into custody that ended with Derek Chauvin placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and back for over 9 minutes and 29 seconds, killing him.
From Star Tribune:
To bring federal charges in deaths involving police, prosecutors must believe that an officer acted under the “color of law,” or government authority, and willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights, including the right to be free from unreasonable seizures or the use of unreasonable force. That’s a high legal standard; an accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer’s part isn’t enough to support federal charges.
Roy Austin, who prosecuted such cases as a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said prosecutors have to prove that the officers knew what they were doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.
Conviction on a federal civil rights charge is punishable by up to life in prison or even the death penalty, but those stiff sentences are extremely rare and federal sentencing guidelines rely on complicated formulas that indicate the officers would get much less if convicted.
Last month, a jury found Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd, and he is currently awaiting sentencing. The three other officers in the case are currently out on bond and will stand trial this August. Should Chauvin be found guilty on the federal charges, the sentences won’t stack and will instead run concurrently. The Department of Justice is currently conducting a civil investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department.