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Officer charged in George Floyd death was reportedly ready to plead guilty to murder

Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in booking photo.
(Hennepin County [Minn.] Sheriff’s Office / Associated Press)

Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was prepared to plead guilty to third-degree murder in George Floyd’s death before then-U.S. Atty. Gen. William Barr personally blocked the plea deal last year, officials said.

The deal, which `would have averted any potential federal charges, including for any civil rights offenses, was part of an effort to quickly resolve the case to avoid more unrest after protests and riots damaged a swath of South Minneapolis, according to two law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the talks. The officials spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks.

Barr rejected the deal in part because he felt it was too early in the investigation of Floyd’s death, which was still in its relative infancy, the officials said.

That Chauvin had been in plea talks has been previously reported, and those talks appear to have delayed a May 28 news conference called by the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis for nearly two hours as they were ongoing. But the detail that Chauvin agreed to plead guilty to a specific charge is new and was first reported late Wednesday by The New York Times.

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Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after the white officer knelt on his neck for several minutes even as Floyd, who was in handcuffs, cried out that he couldn’t breathe. Widely seen bystander video sparked protests in the city, including violence, arson and theft, and quickly spread around the country.

Chauvin was fired soon after Floyd’s death. He is scheduled for trial March 8 on charges including second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene, also since fired, are scheduled for trial later this year.

Tom Kelly, Chauvin’s attorney at the time of the plea talks, said Thursday he could not discuss the case. Chauvin is now represented by Eric Nelson, who declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Separately, the judge handling Chauvin’s case on Thursday declined a prosecution request to reinstate a third-degree murder charge.

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Prosecutors argued that a recent Minnesota Court of Appeals decision upholding a third-degree murder conviction for Mohamed Noor, a Minneapolis officer convicted in the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed 911 caller, established precedent that supported reinstatement of the charge. Judge Peter Cahill ruled that the Noor ruling won’t have the power of precedent until further proceedings before the state Supreme Court.


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