Wearing an orange jumpsuit and speaking via livestream from Oak Park Heights prison, Derek Chauvin appeared in U.S. District Court on Tuesday afternoon on federal charges that he abused his position as a police officer to violate the civil rights of George Floyd and a 14-year-old boy during arrests.
It was Chauvin's first time in court on the federal charges, and a role reversal for a man who spent nearly two decades in law enforcement. Chauvin sat behind a window in a secure block-wall room, listening as Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson read him his Miranda rights. Thorson then asked if he agreed to skip his detention hearing.
"In light of my current circumstances, I believe that would be a moot point," replied the ex-officer, who has rarely spoken in public over the past year, referring to his confinement in the maximum-security facility while awaiting sentencing on convictions of the murder and manslaughter of Floyd.
Thorson remanded Chauvin into the custody of U.S. marshals, though it wasn't immediately clear if he will leave the prison.
Last month, a grand jury voted to indict Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis officers on the federal charges, which come in addition to the state's cases against all four. The charges say Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao used the "color of the law" to deprive Floyd of his constitutional rights to be "free from the use of unreasonable force" when Chauvin pinned Floyd down with a knee on his neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, and the other three did nothing to stop him. "This offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of George Floyd," the charges state.
Chauvin also faces a separate two-count indictment alleging he willfully deprived a boy of his civil rights during a 2017 arrest. Chauvin pinned the teenager down and struck him on the head with his flashlight, then grabbed him by the throat and hit him again, according to court documents. Prosecutors in the state case say video of the arrest shows Chauvin applying a neck restraint to the boy, who briefly went unconscious, and then placing him in a prone position with a knee in his back for about 17 minutes until paramedics arrived.
Kueng, Lane and Thao made their first appearances on the federal charges on May 7. They are also preparing for trial on charges of aiding and abetting the murder and manslaughter of Floyd, scheduled for March 2022.
The first appearances are the beginning of a lengthy process moving toward federal trials, which have not been scheduled. At Tuesday's hearing, Thorson appointed Eric Nelson, who represented Chauvin in the state trial, to continue to act as his defense attorney, citing Chauvin as "financially unable" to employ his own counsel. Chauvin spoke sparingly, answering Thorson's questions.
Chauvin will appear in court next for an arraignment, with a date yet to be set.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036