Derek Chauvin guilty plea expected in George Floyd federal case

Derek Chauvin has notified the federal court in Minnesota of a change of plea to charges that he violated George Floyd's constitutional rights. A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in St. Paul. 

The scheduling of the hearing signal that Chauvin intends to plead guilty to the charges. 

Chauvin is charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free of unreasonable force by a police officer when he pressed his left knee on Floyd’s neck and held his right knee on Floyd’s back and arm as Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed and not resisting, and continued to do even after Floyd became unresponsive.

What prompted the plea change is unclear. Obviously, it's possible Chauvin and his legal team reached an agreement with prosecutors on the sentence the former officer would face for the federal case.

But, Attorney Michael Bryant says accommodations could also have played a factor in the plea. The deal may include stipulations on where Chauvin would serve his time.

Federal prisons are known for having better facilities, for Chauvin in particular as a former police officer.

After plea, could Chauvin testify as a witness?

Chauvin was set to face trial with three other former Minneapolis police officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao.

Last week, a judge denied a motion to separate the federal case against the officers. A plea from Chauvin wouldn't change a ton in the case, but it would present the opportunity for Chauvin to be called as a witness.

"That may be part of the deal, that he'll testify," said Bryant. "One of the things, that when they come up with a plea agreement, they usually include in that you'll agree to testify or at least provide some kind of statement."

Chauvin's hint at future at sentencing

Chauvin spoke at his sentencing last June. He told the court that due to some additional legal matters, he was not able to give a full formal statement, but he expressed his condolences to the Floyd family.

"There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest and I hope things would give you some peace of mind," Chauvin told the Floyd family.

This was the first time Chauvin had spoken publicly on the case since Floyd’s murder. During his trial, he declined to testify in his own defense.

Chauvin in prison

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 270 months, or 22 1/2 years, in prison. Although he was convicted on three counts--second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter--he was only sentenced on the most serious charge, which was second-degree murder.  

Four officers were set to stand trial together

In November, a federal judge ruled the four former Minneapolis police officers facing civil rights charges in the murder of George Floyd will stand trial together

The judge denied a motion by J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao to separate the federal trial. Derek Chauvin along with Kueng, Lane, and Thao are accused of depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority during his killing in May of 2020

The defendants had hoped to break up the trial, similar to how Chauvin was tried separately of Kueng, Lane, and Thao in district court earlier this year. Chauvin was found guilty of murder in that case but has filed for an appeal. The other three former police officers are still awaiting trial, with their case delayed to 2022 due to the federal proceedings.

 Chauvin is also charged in a second federal indictment for a 2017 incident involving the neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy.