Judge Finds Aggravating Factors In Chauvin Case, Paving Way For Longer Sentence

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is placed in handcuffs watched by Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill after a jury found him guilty on all counts in his trial for second-degree murder third-degree murder and second-degree mansla

A Minnesota judge has ruled that there were aggravating factors in the death of George Floyd, paving the way for the possibility of a longer sentence for Derek Chauvin, according to an order made public Wednesday.

Cahill also sided with the prosecution in agreeing that Chauvin treated Floyd "with particular cruelty", that children were present during the time Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd's neck and back, and that Chauvin committed the crime as a group with the active participation of at least three other persons. The ruling also found that Chauvin committed his crime as part of a group with the active participation of at least three other officers and acted with children present, including a 9-year-old girl and her 17-year-old cousin whose cellphone video of Floyd's arrest brought worldwide attention to his death. Floyd's murder sparked a massive wave of protests in the USA against police brutality and racism. Floyd, 46, a Black father, repeatedly said he couldn't breathe.

Chauvin's sentencing is scheduled for late June.

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty last month of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in May 2020. "Both sides will argue on whether a departure is appropriate, and how long it should be".

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While Cahill accepted most of the prosecutors' arguments that aggravating circumstances were present, he rejected one of them, finding that they had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Floyd was "particularly vulnerable". He said prosecutors did not prove that Floyd was particularly vulnerable, noting that even though he was handcuffed, he was able to struggle with officers who were trying to put him in a squad auto. Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, said those factors did not apply.

The most serious charge that Chauvin was convicted of - second-degree murder - carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Chauvin notoriously knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes before the captive lost consciousness. He found that (1) Chauvin abused a position of trust and authority, and (2) he treated Floyd with particular cruelty. Minnesota convicts serve two-thirds of their sentence in jail and the other one-third outside of jail.

Cahill's ruling that there were aggravating factors will allow him to impose a stiffer sentence on the 45-year-old Chauvin, who also faces separate federal civil rights charges in connection with Floyd's death.

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