Judge Peter Cahill sentenced former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin to just 22.5 years today for the murder of George Floyd. This sentence was significantly higher than the sentence recommended under the guidelines, but falls short of the statutory maximum. We will revisit Minnesota sentencing laws to explain just how light a sentence this is.
We wrote a piece shortly after Chauvin's conviction describing how he was undercharged and why those charging decisions ensured that justice would not be served (https://copblaster.com/blast/35503/derek-chauvin-found-guilty-af-but-he-was-undercharged). Under the Minnesota Sentencing guidelines Chauvin's recommended sentence was 12.5 years and the maximum sentence for someone with his history was just 15 years without aggravating factors. That meant that to give Chauvin more than 15 years Judge Cahill would have had to apply aggravating factors to support an upward departure from the guidelines. Cahill applied those factors, which he described as "abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty" of the crime, but not even that was enough to motivate Cahill to sentence Chauvin to the statutory maximum of 40 years in state prison. Legal experts quickly concluded after Chauvin's conviction that he probably would not get 40 years, but they were anticipating as much as 30 years (https://apnews.com/article/death-of-george-floyd-6a14adc37fc9205129f7a5c5207aa69e).
As an ex-con who did time in a federal penitentiary, this author can think of many people doing far more time for far less. I did time with someone whose been serving a life sentence for conspiring to import millions of pounds of marijuana into the country since the 1970s, because his case predates the sentencing guidelines it is considered "old law" and none of the changes to the sentencing guidelines that would have made him a free man by now apply to him; I did time with a drug dealer doing 60 years for methamphetamine conspiracy; I spent time with a mentally troubled young man doing 40 years for an explosion that blew off his own fingers so close to a cop that he was charged with assaulting an officer with fingers no longer attached to his body (https://copblaster.com/blast/3286/ninth-circuit-should-order-new-trial-for-jason-paul-schaefer); I did time with a guy doing 30 years under the Hobbs Act for robbery impacting interstate commerce; I did time with a young Muslim entrapped by the FBI into trying to detonate a fake bomb that they themselves created (https://copblaster.com/blast/57/senior-district-judge-garr-m-king-violated-my-neighbors-rights); I did time with a decorated Iraq War veteran doing 25 years after not being allowed to provide proof of his true whereabouts to rebut claims that he tried to hire a hitman while deployed to Iraq when in fact he was at a classified location (https://copblaster.com/blast/58/did-judge-walter-smith-bury-evidence-to-protect-classified-info); and I did time with many others who deserved their cells less than Derek Chauvin. Then again I was in the federal system where the statutory maximums and sentencing guidelines recommendations are much higher.
It is fortunate that the feds have indicted Derek Chauvin on civil rights charges. When those charges were announced I wrote a lengthy piece about what type of sentence Chauvin can expect in federal court (https://copblaster.com/blast/35534/what-sentences-derek-chauvin-et-al-face-in-federal-court). I am happy to say that the federal case has the potential of truly serving justice in this case.
You can watch the reading of the verdict in the video below at about 1 hour and 20 minutes.