Two things make it difficult to say with certainty whether 74-year-old Derek M. Chauvin, a former senior staff member of Judge Richard C. Holwell in the Federal District Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, will plead guilty to felonies and receive his sentence as soon as May 4: One, Chauvin already has been granted the opportunity to represent himself when his case comes before the court on April 18, and two, the filing of the charge reveals that he’s under tremendous pressure to cooperate with the government.
As discussed in the court’s sealed indictment against him, Chauvin, as a senior assistant clerk in the Justice Department’s SEC Division, accepted bribes and kickbacks from an executive at the endowment fund he helped manage. The newly unsealed filing says that he has “spoken to the government on numerous occasions” since his arrest on Sept. 23, 2018, and that negotiations concerning his plea agreement “have reached an impasse.” No sentencing date has been set at this point.
Chauvin could plead guilty to two of the four federal crimes that he’s charged with. The first is wire fraud, which involves using a wire to facilitate or commit an illegal transaction. The second, the filing says, is wire fraud, but says it “contains no comment that the prosecutor believes the defendant is guilty of this crime.” And lastly, the only matter that Chauvin’s filing does include is a possible guilty plea to one count of obstructing justice, after he allegedly misdirected a co-conspirator from executing a subpoena for information related to an SEC investigation. The filing also states that his attorneys “consider these to be separate offenses and not part of the same offense.”
The filing reveals that, since his arrest, Chauvin has remained at his mother’s home in North Carolina and that his “mother has provided food and drink for him,” which does not reflect very well on him as a defendant. However, federal prisoners are allowed to remain with friends and family while they await trial and do not technically have to surrender. Prosecutors also filed a motion to extend Chauvin’s bond, which is currently $100,000 cash, until June 2. The application in support was filed under seal but the court unsealed it last week in response to an unrelated motion by the defendant.
Regarding the obstruction charge against Chauvin, the filing says he believed he was hiding information from his co-conspirator about the SEC investigation and “caused that person not to execute a subpoena to locate records in connection with this FBI investigation.” The filing does not say when Chauvin’s alleged obstruction took place. Prosecutors need to convince a judge that he violated the law and then the judge must approve the plea agreement.
Lawyers for the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General have previously indicated that they believe Chauvin should be disciplined by the Department of Justice for violating the Hatch Act, which prevents government employees from promoting or opposing an electoral candidate when on official business.
To wit, the filing suggests that Chauvin’s father, Frank Chauvin, should receive an executive action from the Office of the Special Counsel, a division of the Inspector General.
If you live in North Carolina and are interested in a quick walkthrough of the charges and key facts, we’ve prepared a guide.