Derek Chauvin could receive a significantly lengthier sentence under a judge’s ruling issued Wednesday that found four aggravating factors in the killing of George Floyd.
Hennepin County Court Judge Peter Cahill’s decision will allow prosecutors to seek additional prison time for the 45-year-old Chauvin, who was convicted by a jury April 20 of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Judge Cahill agreed to four aggravating factors: That Chauvin, who was a Minneapolis police officer, “abused a position of trust and authority”; that he treated Floyd with “particular cruelty”; that children were present during the offense, and that he committed the crime as part of a group.
Three other Minneapolis officers were at the scene May 25 when Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck or upper back for nine minutes and 29 seconds even as Floyd said he could not breathe.
“The slow death of George Floyd occurring over approximately six minutes of his positional asphyxia was particularly cruel in that Mr. Floyd was begging for his life and obviously terrified by the knowledge that he was likely to die but during which the Defendant objectively remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s pleas,” said the ruling.
All four officers were fired shortly after Floyd’s death, which triggered mass Black Lives Matter protests as well as rioting and looting last summer in major U.S. cities.
Under state sentencing guidelines, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge, although they recommend a 12.5-year sentence for a perpetrator with no prior criminal history.
In addition, the guidelines recommend that the perpetrator serve sentences for multiple crimes concurrently, not consecutively, meaning that the most severe charge would determine the prison time.
His sentencing is scheduled for June 25. The other three ex-officers are scheduled to go on trial Aug. 23.
The judge rejected a fifth aggravating factor—that Floyd was “particularly vulnerable”—sought by the prosecution.
Attorneys for the Floyd family—Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and L. Chris Stewart—applauded the judge’s ruling, saying it “could significantly and appropriately lengthen his sentence.”
The application of justice in this case offers hope that we will see real change in the relationship between police and people of color by holding officers properly accountable for egregious behavior and for failing to honor the sanctity of all lives,” they said in a statement.
A federal grand jury indicted Chauvin and the three other ex-officers—Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao—on charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.