Federal grand jury indicts 4 ex-officers in George Floyd's death

Henrietta Strickland
May 7, 2021

Four former Minneapolis police officers, including convicted murderer Derek Chauvin, were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges that they violated George Floyd's constitutional rights when they restrained him on the pavement during the fatal encounter previous year, according to court documents. All four are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care.

The federal charges are separate from those brought against the former officers by the state of Minnesota.

Floyd's death prompted protests against racism and police brutality previous year in many cities across the United States and around the world. Thao, 35, Kueng, 27, Lane, 38, appeared in a virtual court hearing Friday morning to hear the charges against them and were allowed to remain free on bond, the Associated Press reported.

Thao, Kueng and Lane also face state charges, including aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. His lawyers have requested a new trial, saying that there was prosecutorial and jury misconduct and errors of law at trial and that the verdict was contrary to the law.

The indictment says Derek Chauvin - who was convicted last month on state murder charges in the Black man's death - deprived Floyd of the right to be free from "unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer". Two of the men, Kueng and Thao, are accused of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin.

CNN has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department and the city's police union for comment on the federal charges against the former officers.

Roy Austin, who prosecuted such cases as a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, said prosecutors have to prove the officers knew what they were doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.

A separate federal indictment charged Chauvin with using unreasonable force against a 14-year-old Minneapolis resident in a 4 September, 2017 incident.

Such federal charges are rare, in part because it is hard to meet the high legal bar they require.

Conviction on a federal civil rights charge is punishable by up to life in prison or even the death penalty, but such sentences are extremely rare and federal guidelines rely on complicated formulas that indicate the officers would get much less if convicted.

Chauvin is to be sentenced on 25 June and faces up to 40 years in prison on the most serious charge -second-degree murder.

Osler said the guidelines are clear that any federal sentence would be served at the same time as a state sentence - the sentences wouldn't stack.

"Chauvin, without legal justification, held the teenager by the throat and struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight", the indictment alleges, resulting in "bodily injury to the teenager". Floyd's young daughter met President Joe Biden on the campaign trial, and he often repeats her statement that her "daddy changed the world". At the time, it was the most significant civil rights prosecution undertaken by Biden's Justice Department.

The current Attorney General, Merrick Garland, told ABC News he was "shocked" by the video of Floyd's death and saddened by the persistence of racial discrimination in housing, education and the justice system.

But the U.S. Justice Department has weighed in with federal charges in other cases, including the brutal police beating of Rodney King in California in 1991; the murder of nine Black parishioners during a Bible study at a historic church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015; and the death of a young woman protesting against hate groups in a vehicular assault in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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