The death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in the spring of 2020 sparked a nationwide movement against racism and police brutality that remains strong to this day.
Now, the four former officers involved in Floyd’s death are facing federal civil rights charges for their roles in the tragedy — and according to The Daily Wire, all four pleaded not guilty in a Tuesday hearing.
The four ex-officers include Derek Chauvin, who has already been convicted and sentenced to more than two decades in prison for Floyd’s murder, along with J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, as The Daily Wire notes.
All four appeared remotely in the courtroom, with Chauvin streaming from a maximum-security prison in Minnesota.
Federal civil rights violations
USA Today reported that the four Minneapolis officers were first indicted by a federal grand jury in May for allegedly violating Floyd’s civil rights while attempting to arrest him in May 2020. Video of the incident showed Floyd being pinned face-down and handcuffed on the street — with Chauvin kneeling on his back and neck — for nearly 10 minutes until the 46-year-old ultimately perished, after repeatedly complaining of an inability to breathe.
All four men stand accused of abusing their authority as government officials to willfully deprive Floyd of his civil rights, as well as failing to provide medical aid to Floyd once it became clear he was in medical distress.
Kueng and Thao are also facing separate charges for failing to intervene to stop Chauvin from keeping Floyd pinned to the ground.
If convicted, the four men would face up to 10 years in prison each as well as hefty fines, according to USA Today.
“Actions resulting in death can lead to a life sentence or the death penalty,” USA Today notes, but the outlet cited experts who said such a sentence would be unlikely.
Officers seek separate trials
In addition to accepting the not guilty pleas, U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung also used the Tuesday hearing to begin addressing some 40 separate pretrial motions that have been filed by prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case, NPR reported.
One of the main issues is a request from attorneys for Kueng and Thao to separate their trials from Chauvin’s, a move that prosecutors oppose. Attorneys for Lane have also asked to be included in that motion, and Judge Leung advised that he would hear oral arguments from all sides on the matter at a future date.
Meanwhile, federal authorities are said to be engaged in a separate investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department to determine if it has engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional or unlawful policing procedures, NPR notes.