Updated: February 11, 2021 06:16 PM
Created: February 10, 2021 08:35 PM
Less than a month before the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is set to begin, a new report states Chauvin was prepared to plead guilty to murder and avoid a trial before his agreement was blocked by federal officials.
A report published by The New York Times on Wednesday night states that Chauvin believed the case against him in George Floyd's death was so bad that he agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder and was willing to go to prison for more than 10 years.
But, as anger grew in the community and local officials worked to announce the plea deal, the report states former Attorney General William Barr rejected the arrangement because he worried it would be viewed as too lenient by protesters. The New York Times, citing three law enforcement officials, said Barr also wanted to allow state prosecutors to make their own decisions about how to proceed.
The deal needed federal approved because Chauvin reportedly asked to serve his time in a federal prison and wanted assurances that he wouldn't face federal civil rights charges.
"This is the most outrageous disclosure I've ever seen," said Joe Friedberg, a Twin Cities defense attorney not involved in the case.
Friedberg said he believes the statements made by the three anonymous law enforcement officials in The New York Times report will have an impact on the proceedings and the possibility of Chauvin having a fair trial.
"Can you imagine, you put somebody on the witness stand as a potential juror and say, 'Have you read an article that says Mr. Chauvin was willing to admit that he committed murder? Now can you be fair?' Well, you can't," Friedberg said.
Selwyn Jones, George Floyd's uncle, said the fact that Chauvin may have been willing to plead guilty to third-degree murder speaks volumes.
"We knew he's guilty. He knows he's guilty, he's just trying to figure out a maneuver," Jones said. "He basically just pretty much said, 'Hey, I killed him but I killed him with extenuating circumstances, so would you give me a pass?' He don't need a pass."
Jones said he is relieved the plea deal fell through and believes Chauvin should get the maximum charge and a maximum sentence.
"Would you like to see an individual that took your nephew's life deliberately, maliciously, get a lesser charge? No," Jones said. "All we can do is hope, cross our fingers that he gets what's coming to him."
The trial for the other three former Minneapolis police officers — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng — is set to begin on Aug. 23.
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