A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of willfully violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air.
A three-count indictment unsealed Friday names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao. Chauvin was convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter and is asking for a new trial. The other three are set for state trial on Aug. 23. It’s not clear what will happen in this case, but generally the state charges play out before federal charges do.
The indictment sends a strong message about the Justice Department’s priorities. Floyd’s May 25 arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked mass protests nationwide that called for an end to racial inequalities and police mistreatment of Black people.
When President Joe Biden was elected, he promised he’d work to end disparities in the criminal justice system. The indictments were handed up about a week after federal prosecutors brought hate crimes charges in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and announced two sweeping probes into policing in two states.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said the federal charges against the officers show the Justice Department “does not excuse it nor allow police to act as though as what they do is acceptable behavior in the line of duty.”
“What we couldn’t get them to do in the case of Eric Garner, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and countless others, we are finally seeing them do today,” Sharpton said.
Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd — state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down Floyd’s legs. Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.
Lane, Thao and Kueng made initial court appearances Friday via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, and remain free on bond. Chauvin is held in state custody as he awaits sentencing on the state charges and hasn’t yet appeared in federal court.
While all four officers are charged broadly with depriving Floyd of his rights while acting under government authority, the indictment breaks down the counts. A count against Chauvin alleges he violated Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and from unreasonable force by a police officer.
Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck. It’s not clear why Lane, who held down Floyd’s legs, is not mentioned in that count, but evidence in the state’s case shows that Lane had asked twice whether Floyd should be rolled on his side. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care.
Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the use of force and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably and Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use. He has filed a request for a new trial.
Nelson had no comment on the federal charges. Kueng’s attorney also had no comment. A message left for Thao’s attorney wasn’t immediately returned; Lane’s attorney was unable to talk when reached by The Associated Press, and messages left later were not returned.
Ben Crump and the team of attorneys for Floyd’s family said the civil rights charges reinforce “the strength and wisdom” of the Constitution. “We are encouraged by these charges and eager to see continued justice in this historic case that will impact Black citizens and all Americans for generations to come,” the attorneys said in a statement.
To bring federal charges in deaths involving police, prosecutors must believe an officer acted under the “color of law,” or government authority, and willfully deprived someone of their constitutional rights. That’s a high legal standard. An accident, bad judgment or simple negligence on the officer’s part isn’t enough to support federal charges; prosecutors have to prove the officer knew what he was doing was wrong in that moment but did it anyway.
The indictment in Floyd’s death says Chauvin kept his left knee on Floyd’s neck as he was handcuffed and was not resisting. Thao and Kueng allegedly were aware Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck, even after Floyd became unresponsive, and “willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force.” All four officers are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of liberty without due process, including the right to be free from “deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.”
The other indictment, against Chauvin only, alleges he deprived the 14-year-old boy, who is Black, of his right to be free of unreasonable force when he held the teen by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy’s neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and not resisting.
According to a police report from that 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and after the teen, whom he described as 6-foot-2 and about 240 pounds, was handcuffed, Chauvin “used body weight to pin” him to the floor. The boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.
That encounter was one of several mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin had used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times before dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said he went too far and held the restraints “beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances.”
Bob Bennett, an attorney for the teenager, said the “familiar behavior” from Chauvin showed Floyd wasn’t his first victim.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the state charges, said the federal government is responsible for protecting the civil rights of every American and “federal prosecution for the violation of George Floyd’s civil rights is entirely appropriate.”
Chauvin was convicted on state charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Experts say he will likely face no more than 30 years in prison when he is sentenced June 25. The other officers face charges alleging they aided and abetted second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Any federal sentence would be served at the same time as a state sentence.
At the White House on Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden didn’t have a direct reaction to the indictments. She added that the Floyd case was “a reminder of the need to put police reform in place through our legislative process.”
Kamala Harris Caught In A Major Lie When Asked This Question
Vice President Kamala Harris falsely claimed that “we’ve been to the border” when pressed on why she has not yet visited the southern border after being tasked by President Biden to handle the “root causes” of migration.
During an interview with NBC News Tuesday, Harris, who has been criticized by Republicans for not making the trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, was asked whether she had any plans to do so.
Harris has come under heavy criticism from Republicans for the way she has handled the role since being appointed to it 75 days ago. While the White House has emphasized she is not tasked with the border per se, Republicans have criticized her repeatedly for not having visited the border at all – with former Trump officials saying she needs to go to the border in order to be able to conduct the talks effectively.
Harris’ comments came as she visited Guatemala, for her first visit abroad since being appointed by President Biden to lead diplomatic efforts to the region to help solve the massive spike in migration to the border in recent months.
Harris, during a press conference alongside Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei told potential migrants that they should not travel to the U.S. Mexico border – claiming that they would be turned back if they did.
Harris, on Monday, seemed to be attempting to make clear that message, and claimed that migrants would be turned back as she sought to present a tougher stance on illegal immigration.
The White House, on Tuesday, seemingly clarified Harris’ comments, saying that they encourage those who would like to come to the U.S. to “do so legally.”
The White House says they have been clear on that policy – noting that during the transition, Amb. Susan Rice and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reiterated that now was not the time to come to the U.S., and noting that President Biden in March said something to the same effect, while Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has urged migrants to pursue legal immigration channels.
The Biden administration has rolled back a number of Trump-era policies which kept migrants out of the U.S., even as increasing numbers of migrants flooded to the border. Of those, the most significant was the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – which kept migrants in Mexico as they awaited their hearings. The Biden administration has ended the program and has been processing migrants enrolled into the program into the U.S.
It has also ended a number of asylum cooperative agreements with countries like Guatemala which made migrants claim asylum in other countries first, and has been accused of encouraging migration by narrowing interior enforcement in the U.S., and pushing for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
The administration has kept in place the Trump-era Title 42 public health order which allows migrants to be expelled quickly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and officials said that out of the 178,000 migrants encountered at the border in April, 111,714 were expelled – mainly single adults.
However, the administration has not applied Title 42 to unaccompanied children, of which there were more than 13,000 that arrived at the border in April, and it is not returning migrant families with children under seven to Mexico due to the country’s refusal to take them — meaning that significant numbers of families are not being turned back, and are being released into the U.S. interior.
China Praises Biden Reversing Trump App Ban As Positive Step
China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday that a U.S. move to revoke the Trump administration’s executive orders intended to ban apps like TikTok and WeChat was a “positive step,” amid strained relations between the two countries.
“We hope that the US will treat Chinese companies fairly and avoid politicizing economic and trade issues,” ministry spokesperson Gao Feng said at a regular news briefing Thursday.
Gao said the U.S. move to revoke previous government actions against apps such as TikTok and WeChat was a “positive step in the right direction.”
The White House on Wednesday revoked some blanket-style orders made under former President Donald Trump against Chinese apps including the messenging app WeChat, short video app TikTok and the Alipay payments app. A new executive order from President Joe Biden said the U.S. would conduct an “evidence-based” analysis of transactions involving apps that are created, supplied or controlled by China.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated at a daily news briefing that China will continue to defend its interests. It urged the U.S. “to stop generalizing the concept of national security and abusing state power to suppress Chinese technology enterprises.”
Courts blocked the Trump administration’s efforts last year to ban TikTok and WeChat, but the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is still conducting a national-security review of TikTok.
The Biden administration’s stance reflects concern that users’ personal data could be exposed by popular apps tied to China if the ruling Communist Party pressures companies to share data.
The administration said in February that it was replacing Trump’s approach with a more targeted strategy. It has not actually weighed in yet on whether TikTok and other apps pose a danger to Americans.
A senior administration official said Wednesday that the aim of the review is to set clear criteria to evaluate specific data security and privacy risks for each app.
That could lead to a range of potential future actions on an app-by-app basis.
“We want to take a tailored, tough approach here,” he said.
CFIUS had set deadlines for TikTok to divest its U.S. operations, but such a sale has not happened.
Last week, the Biden administration expanded a list of Chinese companies on a blacklist from the Trump era purported to have links to Chinese military and surveillance. American companies and individuals cannot invest in these companies, which include telecommunications gear supplier Huawei and Chinese oil company China National Offshore Oil Corp.
Chinese officials and companies have denied that their products and services pose a security threat.
Relations between Beijing and Washington remain testy, with each side having imposed sanctions including tariffs on each others’ exports.
China’s legislature passed legislation Thursday laying down the legal basis for retaliation against foreign sanctions over issues such as Hong Kong and the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where China is accused of curtailing freedoms and committing human rights abuses. No specific measures were included in the anti-sanctions law.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the law aimed to “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, dignity and core interests and oppose Western hegemonism and power politics.” and to “provide legal support and guarantees for the country to counter discriminatory measures by a foreign country in accordance with the law.”
Wang lashed out over calls from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for greater attention to China’s growing military power, accusing Washington of “playing the China card” as a pretext for increasing U.S. military spending and seeking to “contain China.”
He also protested Japanese Prime Minister Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s reference to Taiwan as a country during a parliamentary debate Wednesday. China considers the self-governing island democracy as its own territory and is quick to chastise anyone or any company that refers to it as a country.
Suga made a passing reference to Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia while answering a question about pandemic measures, and then referred to them as “three countries.”
Wang said the comment violated Japan’s “solemn promise to not regard Taiwan as a country.”
“We strongly deplore Japan’s erroneous remarks and have lodged solemn complaints with Japan, demanding that Japan immediately make clear clarifications to eliminate the adverse effects caused by relevant remarks, and to ensure that such situations will not happen again,” Wang said.
Republican Wins Mayoralty Race In Hispanic-majority Border Town
McAllen is a border town in Texas that has been carrying much of the brunt of the massive immigration in the south, illegal or otherwise. Sitting in the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen has a population of almost 142,000 and about 85% of its constituents are of Hispanic descent.
Recently, the Republicans clinched a breakthrough victory in McAllen when Javier Villalobos bagged the mayoralty crown against Veronica Whitacre. The GOP candidate is a replacement for long-time mayor Jim Darling, who decided last year that he will not seek reelection.
“Amazing news! McAllen, Texas is a major border town of 140,000 people. 85% Hispanic – and just elected a Republican mayor. The macro realignment accelerates in South Texas, and elsewhere, as Hispanics rally to America First,” Trump 2020 campaign adviser Steve Cortes said on twitter.
“Javier Villalobos is a proven leader who cares deeply about the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Congratulations on becoming the next Mayor of McAllen!” Texas Gov. and fellow-Republican Greg Abbott posted on social media.
RNC spokesman Nathan Brand also expressed his thoughts on Villalobos’ victory, saying that it was a “BIG win for Republicans tonight in a border community. Biden’s border crisis has real world ramifications for communities across the country, especially in cities like McAllen.”
Villalobos is McAllen city district 1 commissioner and a practicing lawyer for the past 25 years. Even though he grew up in Crystal City, Villalobos have always felt comfortable with the border town for their similarities.
“The majority [was] Hispanic people, and it was an agricultural community, kind of like it used to be back in the old days here with that type of labor. When I came over here I felt right at home. You know, the people were wonderful,” Villalobos stated in an interview before the election.
Being situated in the southernmost tip of Texas makes McAllen the shortest route for Central Americans. The uncontrollable migration under the Biden administration has put a lot of pressure on its people who are doing their best to adjust to the situation and even provide humanitarian aid to those who are entering American soil. Having a leader who will understand their problems and will not opt to defund the police where security is so much needed, is indeed a huge step to the direction of progress, for the people of McAllen.
“Let me start by thanking the voters, my team, my family [and] everyone who helped run this campaign. Thank you McAllen for trusting [and] believing in me. I promise to not let you down,” Villalobos thanked everyone through his facebook page.
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