George Floyd killer Derek Chauvin sentenced to 21 years on federal charges

Former US police officer was convicted of the crime in April 2021 but has appealed for a shorter prison term

Former police officer Derek Chauvin addresses the court in Minneapolis in June 2021. AP
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Derek Chauvin, the former US police officer who sparked global protest after murdering George Floyd in May 2020, has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for violating the unarmed black man's civil rights.

The US federal judge's decision came after Chauvin, who is white, agreed to a plea deal that means he will serve 20 to 25 years.

Prosecutors said the sentence should be near the high-end of that range because he murdered Floyd in cold-blood by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Footage of the incident, which showed Chauvin pressing Floyd’s neck with his knee until he was unable to breathe, shocked the world and led to an international protest movement calling for an end to human rights abuses by police in the US.

Handing down the sentencing, US District Judge Paul Magnuson said Chauvin's actions were "simply wrong" and "offensive".

During his hearing on Thursday, Chauvin said he wished "all the best" for Floyd's children, but did not make a direct apology or expression of remorse to his victim's family.

Chauvin is already serving a 22.5-year prison sentence from a state court for murdering Floyd, who was 46 at the time of his death.

The plea deal called for him to serve his sentences at the same time and to be transferred from a state prison in Minnesota to a federal prison, which experts say would be safer.

For his own protection, Chauvin has been held in isolation in a room measuring three by three metres at the state's maximum security prison, which he is allowed to leave for an average of one hour a day for exercise.

In entering his federal plea, Chauvin for the first time admitted that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, even as the victim pleaded “I can't breathe” then became unresponsive, resulting in his death.

Chauvin admitted that he wilfully deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure and used unreasonable force as a police officer during the May 2020 arrest.

Floyd's killing sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the world in a reckoning over police brutality and racism.

With credit for good time in the federal system, he could serve between 17 years and 21 years, three months.

In the state system, Chauvin could have become entitled to parole after about 15 years.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers — Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — were convicted in February of federal civil rights charges in Floyd's killing.

Mr Magnuson has not set sentencing dates for them.

Lane is also due to be sentenced on September 21 after pleading guilty in state court to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Thao and Kueng turned down plea deals and are due to be tried in state court on October 24 on charges of aiding and abetting.

Updated: July 08, 2022, 5:29 AM