Derek S. Chauvin is expected to change his plea later Tuesday on a federal civil rights charge filed after his 2013 death of 14-year-old George Floyd Jr. that was deemed a hate crime by D.C. police.
Chauvin’s attorneys said Tuesday in court that he had a change of heart about pleading guilty to a charge of violating the boy’s civil rights by stomping on him after their custody brawl. His attorneys said an expert told them that Chauvin might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and may need mental health treatment.
The attorneys had originally asked the court to move the case, but a judge instead said they could continue to pursue what’s known as a “prompt guilty plea.” Such a plea means that once prosecutors have reviewed a defendant’s mental and physical health, they can decide whether to support the plea or not.
The pending plea deal with the D.C. state’s attorney’s office is under seal because the plea is confidential, and neither side would talk about the deal.
“We’re very close,” said Chauvin’s attorney Lisa Sulka. “We do have a civil rights plea agreement, and we’re just reviewing the facts now to make sure that we’re comfortable with it.”
Chauvin’s attorneys have said in court that he killed Floyd with deadly force in self-defense.
Police have said the killing was not a crime of passion but was instead a hate crime. Law enforcement agencies across the country since 2009 have adopted a model report to help track bias crimes, which includes information about hate crimes against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity and gender expression.
In November 2013, Chauvin’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the hate crime charge, arguing that the victim was white, that Chauvin is an immigrant of Haitian descent and that Floyd was not a documented immigrant and therefore not a victim of hate crime.
They cited the model report to show that Floyd was a “normal black kid” and not someone who was targeted because of race. Police said that Chauvin, who is Chinese, filed an immigration application for a green card shortly before the killing.
Chauvin was indicted in the civil rights charge by a federal grand jury in September 2014, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grimm in D.C. unsealed an indictment against Chauvin and two others.
Chauvin’s attorneys have said in court documents that federal prosecutors have disclosed their own request to dismiss the hate crime charge.
The status of the original hate crime charge remains confidential, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to discuss it.
“The full grand jury made the decision to indict him, and after consultation with the Department of Justice, we went with that,” said Paul Morrissey, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At a pretrial hearing in December 2014, Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline D’Agneni said federal prosecutors did not think the allegations in the original charge warranted a hate crime charge.
She also asked that prosecutors be allowed to review Chauvin’s medical records.