Ruling paves way for longer sentence in George Floyd's death

Full Screen
1 / 3

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file image from video, Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill addresses the court after the judge put the trial into the hands of the jury, in the trial of Chauvin, in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. In a ruling May 12, 2021, Judge Cahill finds aggravating factors in death of George Floyd, paving way for tougher sentence for Chauvin. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS – A Minnesota judge has ruled that there were aggravating factors in the death of George Floyd, paving the way for the possibility of a longer sentence for Derek Chauvin, according to an order made public Wednesday.

In his ruling dated Tuesday, Judge Peter Cahill found Chauvin abused his authority as a police officer when he restrained Floyd last year and that he treated Floyd with particular cruelty. He also cited the presence of children and the fact Chauvin was part of a group with at least three other people.

Cahill said Chauvin and two other officers held Floyd handcuffed, in a prone position on the street for an “inordinate amount of time” and that Chauvin knew the restraint was dangerous.

“The prolonged use of this technique was particularly egregious in that George Floyd made it clear he was unable to breathe and expressed the view that he was dying as a result of the officers’ restraint,” Cahill wrote.

Even with the aggravating factors, legal experts have said Chauvin, 45, is unlikely to get more than 30 years when he is sentenced June 25.

Ben Crump and the team of attorneys representing Floyd's family applauded the ruling, saying in a statement that it “offers hope that we will see real change in the relationship between police and people of color by holding officers properly accountable for egregious behavior and for failing to honor the sanctity of all lives.”

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes as the Black man said he couldn’t breathe and went motionless. Floyd's death, captured on widely seen bystander video, set off demonstrations around the United States and beyond as protesters demanded changes in policing.

Even though Chauvin was found guilty of three counts, under Minnesota statutes he’ll only be sentenced on the most serious one — second-degree murder. Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, he would have faced a presumptive sentence of 12 1/2 years on that count, and Cahill could have sentenced him to as little as 10 years and eight months or as much as 15 years and still stayed within the guideline range.