MINNEAPOLIS – A Minnesota judge ruled Tuesday that there were aggravating factors in the May 2020 death of George Floyd, opening the door for former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin to face a tougher sentence after he was convicted last month of Floyd’s murder.
The ruling comes about two weeks after prosecutors requested an aggravated sentence for Chauvin. Legal experts have said that even with aggravating factors, the 45-year-old is unlikely to be sentenced to more than 30 years, according to The Associated Press.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd, who was Black. Chauvin has since been jailed at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights as he awaits sentencing in the case on June 25.
Even though he was found guilty of three counts, under Minnesota statutes he’ll only be sentenced on the most serious one — second-degree murder. Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, he would have faced a presumptive sentence of 12 1/2 years on that count.
Prosecutors argued that Floyd was a vulnerable victim, pointing to the fact that he was handcuffed when Chauvin held the 46-year-old down with a knee to his neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, and the fact that Chauvin had been trained in the dangers of such a position. Other aggravating factors, according to prosecutors, included that Floyd “was treated with particular cruelty,” that Chauvin abused his position of authority, that the crime was committed as part of a group of three or more people and that the murder happened in the presence of children.
In a ruling made public Wednesday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill agreed with prosecutors on all but one point: He ruled that prosecutors failed to prove that Floyd was a particularly vulnerable victim.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that the state failed to prove aggravating factors in the case, saying that Chauvin had the legal authority to assist officers trying to arrest Floyd on May 25, 2020. Nelson also said Floyd was a large, muscular man and not a vulnerable victim.
Chauvin has also been indicted on federal charges alleging he violated Floyd’s civil rights, as well as the civil rights of a 14-year-old he restrained in a 2017 arrest. If convicted on those charges, which were unsealed Friday, a federal sentence would be served at the same time as Chauvin’s state sentence. The three other former officers involved in Floyd’s death were also charged with federal civil rights violations; they await trial in state court on aiding and abetting counts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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