Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who was convicted of killing George Floyd outside Cup Foods last May in Minnesota, was sentenced Friday, June 25th to 22½ years in prison.
Mainstream news outlets descended on a very secured Hennepin County District Court for the historic event. Judge Peter Cahill handed down the sentence after hearing victim-impact statements from four members of Floyd’s family, as well as hearing from Derek and his mom. Everyone in court wore face masks per court mandates of arguable nonsense.
Chauvin, 45, was convicted in April during a six-week live-streamed trial that began March 8, on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for his role in Floyd’s death.
The second-degree murder count carries a statutory maximum term of 40 years in prison, but state sentencing guidelines call for between 10 ½ and 15 years for someone’s first offense. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Grid shows recommended sentences for second-degree murder.
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Eric Nelson had asked for probation and time served, or alternately, less prison time than the 10½ to 15 years recommended by state sentencing guidelines for someone like Chauvin who has no criminal history.
“Mr. Chauvin asks the Court to look beyond its findings, to his background, his lack of criminal history, his amenability to probation, to the unusual facts of this case, and to his being a product of a broken system,” Nelson wrote in a filing.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, asked for at least 30 years, noting that there were four aggravating factors that supported a higher term. That sentence they also said “would properly account for the profound impact of Defendant’s conduct on the victim, the victim’s family, and the community,” according to a sentencing memo.
Eric Nelson, however, made a plea that mitigating factors should be taken into consideration when sentencing Chauvin.
“As I believe we are all cognizant this case is at the epicenter of a political and cultural divide,” Nelson said, adding that he has received thousands of emails and voicemails. “The impact that this case has had on this community is profound. It goes far beyond what happened on May 25 of last year, it has been at the forefront of our national consciousness and has weaved its way into nearly every facet of our lives from the entertainment that we consume to presidential politics.”
Arguably, the disparity in what is ‘just’ in this historic case speaks volumes on the judicial system, media, and society, given so much information was hidden under a proverbial rug or manipulated.
Nelson also argued in May that Chauvin should receive a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct, judicial error, and impropriety by jurors. He also requested a Schwartz hearing, a proceeding in which jurors are recalled to court and questioned about possible misconduct.
The defense team put together an impressive 64-page document outlining “cumulative errors, abuses of discretion, prosecutorial and jury misconduct that deprived him of a fair trial.”
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson argued that intense publicity around Floyd’s death tainted the jury pool and that the trial should have been moved away from Minneapolis. He also offered a range of other arguments, all dismissed by prosecutors, who said Chauvin was fairly convicted.
Nelson’s filing came after juror Brandon Mitchell went public about his role in the case, prompting many commentators to criticize him for attending last August’s 57th anniversary of the March on Washington to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech” and included events rallying support for police reform and featuring Floyd’s family members, among others. Prosecutors countered that Mitchell had been open about his views in a jury questionnaire and during the questioning of potential jurors.
Cahill ruled the defense didn’t show any evidence of juror misconduct either during the trial or during jury selection that warranted an evidentiary hearing.
Nelson also wrote that the judge abused his discretion by denying Chauvin’s request for a change of venue (more than one), rejecting a previous request Nelson made for a new trial, failing to sequester jurors for the entirety of the trial, and refusing to compel Floyd’s friend Morries Lester Hall to testify.
Incidentally, Hall also had a wad of (possibly fake) cash and had sold drugs to George in the past that had landed him in the hospital from an overdose.
Hours before sentencing, Cahill denied Chauvin’s post-verdict motion for a new trial.
On Thursday evening, he ruled that Chauvin “failed to demonstrate … the Court abused its discretion or committed error such that Defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair trial.”
The court, meanwhile, authorized to continue to restrict access to revealing jurors. Juror confidentiality will be revisited in six months.
Eight people sat in the far corner of the court on behalf of George.
The first victim impact statement came from Floyd’s seven-year-old daughter, Gianna, who said via remote video that she “asks about him all the time.”
Asking a child such questions such as ‘how does it feel that your dad is dead?’ and ‘how did your daddy get hurt?’ for the purposes of manipulating emotion, is arguably selfish and cheap.
Next up was Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, who said the family’s pain was unimaginable, but not as unimaginable as what Derek did to Floyd.
“You may see us cry but the full extent of our pain and trauma will never convey the pain we have suffered,” Williams said. ” … George’s murder, this trial, and everything in between have been tragically devastating. Our family is forever broken and one thing we cannot get back is George Floyd.”
Brother Terrence Floyd followed.
He said he spoke with George Floyd on the phone about in April 2020, “and we had a long conversation. .. He wanted to … plan play dates with Gianna and my daughter. We started to set that up. That can’t happen.”
On the topic of Chauvin’s punishment, he said, “We seek the maximum penalty. We don’t want to see smacks on the wrist. We’ve seen that already.”
Another brother, Philonise Floyd, closed out the family’s statements, saying, “I began to speak to the word for George for the United Nations, Africa, Canada, Japan, and so many other countries. Every day, I have begged for justice to be served for the execution of George, while others begged and pleaded for George to take a breath.”
“My family and I have been given a life sentence. We will never be able to get George back. … He will never be able to walk Gianna down the aisle at her wedding.”
Prosecutor Matthew Frank, who first thanked the Minneapolis police officers who testified against Derek versus hiding behind the “blue wall of silence,” argued for a sentence well above what state guidelines recommend. He called for a 30-year prison sentence for Chauvin, double what is called for.
He also commended the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for going “above and beyond the call of duty” in investigating Floyd’s death.
Many critics would highly disagree.
Frank also outlined each of the four aggravating factors to justify giving Chauvin a lengthier sentence.
“This case wasn’t about all police officers, it wasn’t about policing; this case was about Derek Chauvin disregarding all that training he received and assaulting Mr. Floyd until he suffocated to death,” he said.
Noting Floyd’s killing involved “particular cruelty,” Frank said, Chauvin employed “a particularly aggressive use of force. … I think torture is the right word.”
Although, the defense established during the trial that Derek and the other officers were justified in using more force such as a hobble, which they opted against since an ambulance was on the way. Meaning, they didn’t want to waste time taking the hobble off.
Frank said to Cahill that the defense’s argument for probation was “so outside the realm of possibility.”
“This is murder.”
The Pleas From The Chauvins
For the first time that I know, Derek’s parents were present to show their support along with ex-wife Kellie May (whose maiden name is either Thao or Xiong), and her two children from a previous marriage.
According to Star Tribune journalist Chao Xiong, who served as a pool reporter, Eric Nelson said in a June memorandum, that Chauvin had the support of his ex-wife and possibly the support of her children.
Xiong also remarked that throughout the hearing Kellie looked as though she was on the “verge of tears.”
“When you sentence my son, you will also be sentencing me,” Derek’s mom Carolyn Pawlenty told the court.
She was the only witness for the defense to make a case for leniency. “Derek devoted 19 years of his life to the Minneapolis Police Department. It has been difficult for me to read and hear what the media, public, and prosecution team believe Derek to be an aggressive, heartless, uncaring person. I can tell you that is far from the truth,” she said.
She shared that her happiest moment other than giving birth to Derek was pinning his police badge on him.
“When you sentence my son, you will also be sentencing me,” Pawlenty, 73, told the court. “My son’s identity has also been reduced to that as a racist,” she said in her first public comments since Floyd’s death. “I want this court to know that none of these things are true and my son is a good man … He has a big heart and always puts others ahead of his own.”
Pawlenty who revealed that Derek is her favorite son, also said she believes in his innocence, and “will never waver from that.”
Later, his mom would be criticized and called a ‘Karen’ for not mentioning the Floyd family’s pain.
Meanwhile, Chauvin, who was allowed to wear civilian clothing for the hearing, gave a brief remark, which included a cryptic message.
“At this time due to some additional legal matters at hand, I’m not able to really give a full formal statement,” said Chauvin, dressed in a gray suit and donning a newly shaven head. “Briefly though, I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There’s gonna be some other information in the future that would be of interest, and I hope things will give you some peace of mind. Thank you.”
“There will be other information in the future that will be of interest and give you peace of mind.”
— Maryam Henein/ #Shadowbanned (aka BeeLady) Sassy (@MaryamHenein) June 25, 2021
What the hell did that mean? Some on Twitter that maybe he is foreshadowing his death.
Ironically, Derek wasn’t supposed to even work that day, said Nelson. Additionally, he was about to have lunch at the station with Tou when the dispatch called for backup. It was then canceled but it was Tou who decided they should go anyway, given that Officer Thomas Lane and Officer Alexander Kueng were rookies and Cup Foods is situated in gangland.
The three other officers who were on scene during Floyd’s fatal arrest — Thao, Lane, and Kueng — have pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding and abetting. Their trial was pushed for March 2022 instead of August 2021.
Chauvin is expected to appeal his conviction.
Chauvin is the second officer in Minnesota history to be sentenced to prison time for killing a civilian on the job.
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced in 2019 to 12½ years in prison on second-degree murder for fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond while responding to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault in an alley.
Post-Hearing News Conference
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the same person who sat on the officer’s body-worn footage for more than two months, held a press conference in the lobby of the courthouse with his prosecution team standing behind him, including Blackwell, Schleicher and others.
He expressed that the sentence wasn’t enough.
Floyd’s family along with purported “civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump,” and Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the public as well.
Crump would later tell CourtTV’s Vinnie Politan that he had no idea what Derek Chauvin was referring to in his talk, other than possibly pending federal charges. But as the Floyd family articulated on many occasions, he said, there is nothing to change their perception.
“It was one of those pregnant, just, pauses… where no one knew what he was talking about as we sat in the courtroom.”
Maryam Henein is the author of the upcoming book George Floyd: A Multi-layered Psyop Explained.
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