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Former police officers indicted in George Floyd case plead not guilty to federal charges

The four former Minneapolis cops indicted in connection with George Floyd’s death each pleaded not guilty to federal charges Tuesday in a virtual hearing.

Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are accused of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights and allegedly “willfully fail to help” Floyd when he “clearly needed medical attention.”

In May 2020, Lane and Kueng attempted to walk Floyd – who was handcuffed after being accused of using a fake $ 20 bill – to a police car. Floyd fell to the ground, telling officers he was not resisting, but did not want to get in the car due to the claustrophobia, prosecutors said. Chauvin and Tao later arrived at the scene, and graphic videos captured Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, ultimately killing him.

Chauvin, who is currently serving a 22 and a half years in prison for Floyd’s murder, is accused in the federal trial of willfully depriving Floyd of his right to be protected from illegal searches and seizures. The indictment said Chauvin abused this constitutional right by pinning Floyd to the ground while he was handcuffed and did not resist.

The grand jury also accused Kueng and Tao of failing to intervene and arresting Chauvin when he was showing “unreasonable force”. Kueng, Tao and Lane also face two charges in state court for aiding and abetting second degree murder.

U.S. trial judge Tony Leung heard arguments from attorneys for Kueng, Lane and Thao on Tuesday, who called for their federal trials to be separated from those for Chauvin. They argued that a combined proceeding would be detrimental given Chauvin’s existing convictions.

Thao’s attorney, Bob Paule, argued that his client’s case should also be separated from that of Kueng and Lane, due to Thao’s position as the senior officer of the two recruits at the time.

This year, the files of former officers were separated in part due to concerns over COVID-19, Deputy U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich said on Tuesday. But the standard of compensation is “very different” between state and federal proceedings, she said. Sertich argued that COVID will not be of such concern because of government facilities and resources.

“It will be clear from the instructions given to the jury that this is not a murder case,” Serich said Tuesday. “This is a case involving constitutional violations, so to the extent that there is prejudice from the fact that Mr. Chauvin was convicted of murder, I am in fact satisfied that the defense will also make this distinction as these are not the charges here and the jury will be given the appropriate instructions. ”

Chauvin is expected to return to federal court on Thursday for a separate hearing on a charge that accuses him of kneeling on the neck of a teenager in 2017.

Leung did not mention another trial date on Tuesday.