The released Minneapolis policeman, who held his knee to George Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, agreed to plead guilty to third degree murder days after Floyd’s death, but then Attorney General William Barr turned down the deal.
Derek Chauvin and the three other officers involved were fired and later arrested on May 25 days after Floyd’s death. Chauvin precedes the second degree Murder charges and is slated for Trial in March. The other three are charged with aiding and abetting and are due to be tried together this summer.
The details of the failed deal were first reported on Thursday by The New York Times.
A former Justice Department official confirmed the failed deal to NBC News, saying that both politically appointed officials and Justice Department officials had rejected the idea.
“His lawyers tried to rush us and we didn’t want to be rushed,” said the officer.
Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson declined to comment on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who leads the case, said he was unable to comment as it covered a period before Ellison was assigned to the case.
Lacey Severins, a spokeswoman for the Hennepin County law firm handling the case at the time, said: “As is the custom in many cases, early negotiations can take place between all parties involved. Often times a defendant will examine their options with a trial. It is also common for these kinds of discussions to take place at the beginning of a case and then no agreed negotiation emerges. This case was no different. Negotiations were discussed, nothing developed. “
Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests and once again called for an end to police brutality and racial inequalities.
“As part of the deal, officials now say he was ready to go to jail for more than 10 years,” the Times reported. “Local officials, trying to end the growing anger in the community, scheduled a press conference to announce the deal.”
But the deal fell apart, the Times reported, citing three law enforcement officers because Barr feared it was too early in the investigation and felt too lenient. Barr also wanted to allow state officials taking on the case to make their own decisions, the Times reported.
Chauvin had asked to serve his time in federal prison, and the deal was subject to federal government approval as Chauvin wanted reassurance that he would not face federal civil rights charges, the Times reported.
It would be highly unusual for the Justice Department to agree in advance to stop a civil rights investigation and forego possible federal prosecution before state proceedings are fully completed.
The Floyd incident was recorded by a viewer and shared widely on social media.
The video shows Floyd pleading, “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can’t breathe,” before trailing off.