Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday to 270 months, or 22 1/2 years, in prison for the murder of George Floyd last year.
Chauvin, 45, is expected to serve about 15 years behind bars.
“What the sentence is not based on is emotion or sympathy, but at the same time, I want to acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family,” Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said in court.
In his memorandum opinion, Cahill said two of four aggravating factors were at play in the sentence – that Chauvin abused trust and authority and acted with particular cruelty toward Floyd. His “gratuitous infliction of pain and psychological cruelty” while he was “imbued with the authority of the state” justified the sentence, Cahill wrote.
Chauvin will be required to register as a predatory offender and provide a DNA sample, according to Cahill’s memo.
Floyd family members, attorneys and activists said they were not satisfied with the sentence but hoped an ongoing federal indictment would put Chauvin away for life. Many called on lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“Twenty-two-and-a-half is not enough,” George Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, said at a press conference after the hearing, surrounded by lawyers and family members of several Black people shot by police. “What kind of message are we sending to our country?”
Many said the sentence was “not justice.”
“It is not justice because George Floyd is in a grave tonight even though Chauvin will be in jail,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said. “Justice would have been George Floyd never having been killed. Justice would have been the maximum (sentence). We got more than we thought only because we’ve been disappointed before.”
In a separate press conference, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called the sentencing “an important moment for our country.”
“The outcome of this case is critically important, but, by itself, it’s not enough,” he said. “My hope for our country is that this moment gives us pause and allows us to rededicate ourselves to the real societal change that will move us much further along the road to justice.”
At the sentencing hearing, Chauvin offered his “condolences” to Floyd’s family but did not apologize for his actions. He said he was unable to speak further due to other ongoing litigation.
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, spoke at the hearing – the first family member to testify on Chauvin’s behalf. She told the court that the media, public and the prosecution team had wrongly depicted her son as aggressive, heartless, uncaring and racist.
“I want this court to know that none of these things are true and that my son is a good man,” Pawlenty said. “Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man. He has a big heart, and he has always put others before his own. The public will never know the loving and caring man he is, but his family does.”
Pawlenty said Chauvin has played the events of that day over and over in his head.
“I have seen the toll it has taken on him,” she said. “I believe a lengthy sentence will not serve Derek well. When you sentence my son, you will also be sentencing me.”
Several of Floyd’s family members also offered comment at the hearing and called on the court to give Chauvin the maximum sentence.
Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, testified remotely via cellphone camera video. Wearing a checkered shirt and purple headband, she told the court that she “asks how did my dad get hurt” and wishes she could play with him and have him help her brush her teeth like he used to every night.
Gianna told the court that she knows her dad is still around her through his spirit. If she could say anything to him, she said would tell him that “I miss him and I love him.”
Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, spoke to the court with a tissue in his hand, wiping away tears. He said his brother’s death changed his life and that he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since.
“My family and I have been given a life sentence. We will not be able to get George back,” he said.
Terrence Floyd, another brother, said he would ask Chauvin, who sat just several feet away from him, “Why? What were you thinking? What was going through your head when you had your knee on my brother’s neck?”
He paused at times with emotion and looked down.
“We don’t want to see no more slaps on the wrist,” he told the judge, adding, “If it was us, if the rules were reverse, there would be no case. It’d be open and shut. We’d be in the jail for murdering somebody. So we ask for that same penalty for Derek Chauvin.”
In George Floyd Square on Friday afternoon, the crowd watched Cahill announce Chauvin’s sentence on the smartphone of Jennifer Starr Dodd. The intersection of 38th and Chicago where Floyd was killed was opened to traffic by the city earlier this month, but activists are still occupying the space with artwork and barricades.
Although many were hoping for a longer sentence, many like Jia Starr Brown felt 22 1/2 years was still reason to celebrate because the case sets a precedent for future cases of police brutality.
“I’m glad that there’s some accountability,” she said. “I’m choosing to celebrate. I’m going to continue to celebrate.”
A joint statement from attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Chris Stewart said the sentence “brings the Floyd family and our nation one step closer to healing by delivering closure and accountability.”
“For once, a police officer who wrongly took the life of a Black man was held to account,” the statement said.
Toshira Garraway, an organizer for Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, said she and other local organizers would continue to call for justice for other victims of police violence in Minneapolis.
“Our families are just going through so much right now, sitting here, watching these people slightly give George Floyd justice, and knowing that’s something we’re hoping and praying for,” Garraway said. “We will continue on because we don’t have a choice.”
Courteney Ross, George Floyd’s former girlfriend, spoke at the press conference to ask Minneapolis residents to protest peacefully Friday night and to continue to push for change.
“I pray, Minneapolis, that we have a nonviolent evening,” Ross said.
Earlier Friday, Cahill denied a defense attorney’s request for a new trial. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, filed a motion claiming Chauvin was deprived of his Constitutional right to a fair trial, but Cahill said Nelson failed to prove any of the allegations.
Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, the three former Minneapolis police officers accused of aiding and abetting in Floyd’s death, will face trial in March.
Meanwhile, a federal grand jury indicted Chauvin, Lane, Keung and Thao for violating Floyd’s civil rights, which could add time to the sentences the former officers may face. Those charges accuse them of violating a federal law forbidding government officials from abusing their authority.
Violating someone’s civil rights is punishable “by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty,” depending on the circumstances and injuries resulting from the crime, according to the Department of Justice.
Chauvin also faces another federal indictment stemming from a confrontation with a 14-year-old in 2017.