Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to violating George Floyd’s civil rights.
“I really don’t know why you did what you did, but kneeling on someone until they expire is simply wrong and for that you will be punished,” US District Judge Paul Magnuson told Chauvin before handing down his sentence.
Chauvin is currently serving 22 and a half years after a state jury found him guilty of violating police policy and training when he pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds during an arrest in May 2020, killing him.
His 21-year federal sentence will be served concurrently with the state sentence.
Prosecutors argued on Thursday that the 20-year police veteran should be handed the maximum sentence of 25 years. His lawyer, Eric Nelson, asked the judge for the minimum 20-year sentence, saying Chauvin is not at risk of repeating the offense and that he won’t be a police officer anymore.
Speaking briefly in court, Chauvin addressed Floyd’s family, some of whom were in the room.
“I wish them all the best in their lives,” he said.
Floyd’s brother and girlfriend also delivered victim impact statements before the judge, as did Chauvin’s mom.
“My brother was murdered in broad daylight with a knee to his neck for nine minutes,” Philonese Floyd said. “The family and I have been given a life sentence, we will never get George back.”
His girlfriend, Courteney Ross, told the judge how she and Floyd wanted to open a restaurant together. She also addressed Chauvin directly, saying, “Mr. Chauvin, I do not hate you. I am still working to forgive you.”
In her statement, Chauvin’s mom, Carolyn Pawlenty, said her son did not intend to kill anyone that day and said the Minneapolis Police Department “failed to back their own.” She also asked the judge to sentence Chauvin to a federal prison in Minnesota or Iowa so that his family could be close by.
Floyd’s brutal murder, which was recorded by bystanders in a video that went viral, set off a reckoning against police brutality and racism across the country.
Three other former police officers who were with Chauvin during the arrest — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane — were found guilty in February of violating Floyd’s civil rights by failing to provide medical care. Their state trial, initially set for June this year, was postponed to early 2023.