Federal prosecutors are planning to indict Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers on civil rights violations for their roles in the murder of George Floyd, The Star-Tribune reported. Justice Department officials spent months gathering information on Chauvin and the other officers in connection with Floyd’s death but did not make investigations public as they feared publicity would disrupt the state’s case.
According to The Star-Tribune, if Chauvin was not found guilty by the jury, federal prosecutors had a contingency plan to arrest Chauvin at the Minnesota courthouse. Under that backup plan, the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office would have charged Chauvin by criminal complaint, a process known to be quicker for federal charges as it does not require a grand jury, sources told The Star-Tribune. In that situation, the arrest would be immediate and a grand jury would later be asked for an indictment.
But the plan was not needed as Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges against him on April 20. He was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020. Now that the trial is over, they no longer have to worry about disrupting the case and can move forward with charging all four officers, including J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, with federal civil rights violations.
Federal prosecutors not only want to indict Chauvin in connection with Floyd’s death, but for a violent arrest he conducted in 2017. According to ABC News, the Justice Department was already considering these charges after court documents found that Chauvin allegedly struck a 14-year-old boy on the head with his flashlight, then grabbed him by the throat and hit him again.
He also held the child in a prone position for at least 17 minutes, The Star-Tribune reported. The incident was described in court documents by prosecutors in Floyd’s murder case to serve as evidence of Chauvin’s pattern of behavior. Like Floyd, Chauvin ignored the child’s complaints that he could not breathe.
The DOJ plans to proceed with their case by asking a grand jury to indict the ex-officers. If indicted, the four men will face new federal charges on top of the current state charges. According to The New York Times, the department impaneled a federal grand jury in February. The federal case is set to be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys in Minnesota and Washington, D.C.
Additionally, the department is investigating the practices and policies of both the Minneapolis and Louisville Police Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced. The investigation, announced a day after Chauvin’s verdict, will look for unlawful behavior and patterns within the police departments.
Under Minnesota statutes, Chauvin will only be sentenced for the most serious crime: second-degree murder. Facing up to 40 years in prison, his sentencing is scheduled for June while Kueng, Lane, and Thao, who will also be charged by the state with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, have their trial set to begin on Aug. 23.