Ruling paves way for longer sentence in George Floyd's death

Alonzo Simpson
May 13, 2021

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin faces the prospect of a lengthier prison sentence after a judge this week agreed with prosecutors that he abused his position of authority while arresting George Floyd past year.

In his ruling made public Wednesday, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill found that Chauvin abused his authority as a Minneapolis police officer when he restrained Floyd in May 2020, and that he treated Floyd with particular cruelty.

The judge also sided with prosecutors on two other aggravating factors - that Chauvin committed the crime with the "active participation" of the three officers at the scene and that Floyd was killed in front of children, including a 9-year-old girl.

Chauvin's defense had argued the state had not proved any aggravating factors in Floyd's killing. Chauvin's sentencing is now set to take place in June.

But Cahill said one of the other officers twice checked Floyd's pulse and told Chauvin he detected none, while another officer suggested rolling Floyd to his side and said he was passing out.

Cahill also agreed with prosecutors that Chauvin had been "particularly cruel" to Floyd, ignoring his cries for breath during his lengthy restraint.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, seen here in an April 21 booking photo, may face a longer sentence after Judge Peter Cahill found aggravating factors in the case.

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It has not been proven that Floyd was particularly vulnerable, according to the ruling.

Even though he was found guilty of three counts, under Minnesota statutes he will only be sentenced on the most serious count - second-degree murder, said Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

Cahill said when it became clear to bystanders that Floyd was in distress and stopped breathing, Chauvin continued to abuse his position of authority by not rendering aid.

But prosecutors last fall and again last month asked Cahill for what is known as an "upward sentencing departure", citing several factors they argued should open Chauvin up to a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Three other former officers have been charged in Floyd's death on May 25 and are set to go on trial this summer.

Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old Floyd for more than nine minutes until he passed out and died.

Nelson last week filed a motion for a new trial, alleging misconduct by the judge, prosecutors and jurors. Minnesota convicts serve two-thirds of their sentence in jail and the other one-third outside of jail.

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