NBC News confirms that the Department of Justice rejected the possible appeal just days after George Floyd’s death.
NBC News has confirmed a report that former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin offered to plead guilty of third degree murder in the days following George Floyd’s death, but then Attorney General William Barr declined the possible appeal.
The story was first reported on Wednesday by the New York Times.
According to the Times report, when riots broke out in Minneapolis three days after Floyd’s death, Chauvin offered to plead guilty of third degree murder and serve more than ten years in jail for “believing the case was against him was so devastating “. Chauvin reportedly asked to serve the sentence in a federal prison and wanted to avoid federal civil rights charges.
However, a former Justice Department official told NBC News that “both political-appointed officials and Justice Department officials had rejected the idea.”
“His lawyers tried to rush us and we didn’t want to be rushed,” the official told NBC News.
According to the Times report, Attorney General Barr feared that such a plea this early in the investigation might be viewed as too lenient.
Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison oversees the prosecution of Chauvin and three other former officials in the event of Floyd’s death. However, a spokesman for Ellison’s office told KARE 11 that they had no comments to make as the reported failed plea deal took place before Ellison was involved in the case.
A spokesman for the Hennepin public prosecutor told KARE 11 that such discussions are frequent.
“As is customary in many cases, early negotiations can take place between all parties involved,” said a statement by the public prosecutor of the Hennepin district. “Often times a defendant will examine his options with a trial. It is also common for these types of discussions to take place at the beginning of a case and then not to agree on negotiations. This case was no different. Negotiations were discussed, nothing developed . “
However, legal experts say it rarely happens that the US Attorney General gets involved in such cases.
“It is very unusual for federal officials, let alone the United States attorney general, to enter into a state plea agreement,” said Rachel Moran, associate professor at St. Thomas School of Law.
On Thursday, Hennepin District Court judge Peter Cahill denied a state motion to bring a third degree murder charge against Chauvin when his trial begins next month. The judge also denied bringing the same charges against the other three former officials in the case.
RELATED: Judge Denies District Attorney’s motion to increase the murder of George Floyd’s death to 3rd degree
In its motion, the state cited a Minnesota Appeals Court ruling in another high-profile case against a former Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor. Noor appealed his third-degree murder conviction when Justine Ruszczyk Damond was shot.
The appeals court ruled in Noor’s case that “third-degree murder can occur even if the fatal act only endangers one person”. Ellison argued that the verdict had priority and could now be used to reopen the indictment against Chauvin.
Chauvin’s attorney, however, opposed the motion, saying that the case was not yet “priority” and may never be as the court’s orders will not become final until the defendant has had the opportunity to try the Minnesota Supreme Court Submit request for review. Noor’s attorney has indicated that he plans to do so.
Moran found the judge’s decision to deny Chauvin’s third degree indictment a surprise.
“I think it makes it all the more inappropriate to go to court on March 8th after a few weeks, as there is no chance the Noor appeal opinion will prevail until then,” said Moran. “What the judge is effectively doing in forcing the state to go to trial in March is denying them the opportunity to pursue a charge that has a significant likelihood of being appropriate.”
RELATED: Noor will call on MN’s Supreme Court to review the decision upholding the conviction of 3rd degree murder
Chauvin is charged with second degree murder and second degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. His trial is scheduled to begin on March 8th.