Derek Chauvin was preparing on Thursday to leave his Minnesota state prison cell and move to a federal facility, after he was sentenced on federal charges of violating civil rights.
Chauvin, 46, pleaded guilty in December and on Thursday was handed a 21 year sentence by Judge Paul Magnuson.
The former Minneapolis police officer, who in April 2021 was found guilty of murdering George Floyd in May 2020, has been in Oak Park Heights prison since his conviction.
His guilty plea on the federal charges was on the condition that he be moved from Oak Park Heights, and allowed to serve his sentence at a federal facility.
The Bureau of Prisons has not yet announced at which of their 122 facilities Chauvin will serve his sentence.
Derek Chauvin is seen on Thursday for his sentencing on federal charges
Chauvin, now 46, knelt on the neck of George Floyd for over nine minutes as he lay dying on the street in May 2020
Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years by the state of Minnesota for the murder of Floyd; on Thursday, he was sentenced to 21 years on federal charges of violating Floyd’s rights. The sentences will be served concurrently
Judge Magnuson said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing that he would request that officials from the Bureau place Chauvin at a prison near family, who live between Iowa and Minnesota.
But he acknowledged that judges cannot dictate where prison sentences are served.
Chauvin has spent the past 15 months inside Minnesota’s only level five maximum security state prison.
He may be sent to a maximum security federal prison too, to ensure his own protection from other inmates.
‘It’s dangerous to be an officer in any prison,’ said former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger.
‘It’s even more dangerous in state prison because of the nature of the inmate population. There are gangs, for example. And police officers just don’t do well there. Those risks are reduced in a federal prison.’
Chauvin has been in solitary confinement for much of his time in Oak Park Heights.
If Chauvin were left in the general population of a Minnesota state prison, he’d be at risk of running into inmates he had arrested or investigated when he was a Minneapolis officer, said Rachel Moran, a law professor at St. Thomas.
While he will not escape his notoriety in a federal prison elsewhere, she said, he’s unlikely to encounter inmates with such a direct, personal grudge.
There are 17 maximum security federal prisons in the United States – but none in Minnesota or Iowa.
The closest is in Thomson, Illinois – a facility on the Illinois-Iowa border, only 60 miles from Chauvin’s mother’s home in Peosta, Iowa.
Thomson prison is the closest maximum security prison to Chauvin’s mother and his home
A cell in Thomson prison is pictured, in an image provided by the Bureau of Prisons
A cell block is seen inside Thomson prison in Illinois
Carolyn Pawlenty, during Chauvin’s sentencing in June, said she would visit him, and be waiting for him when he finishes his sentence.
She was in court on Thursday, and told him: ‘I will be there for you.’
She asked Magnuson to let Chauvin serve his time close to his family, saying it will help them all heal physically and mentally.
‘I promise to visit you often as I did at Oak Park,’ she told her son.
‘When you are released, I pray to God I’ll be there to welcome you with open arms home.’
His ex-wife Kellie, a former beauty queen who filed for divorce shortly after Floyd’s killing, was also present on Thursday for sentencing.
Thompson prison is home to 785 prisoners, all men, in the main facility. A secondary site is used as a minimum security camp.
The facility is relatively new: it was completed in 2001, but remained empty until October 2012, when the Bureau of Prisons purchased it from the state of Illinois.
The prison was fully activated in January 2019.
Security at the prison is intense: Barack Obama, while president, planned to move Guantanamo Bay inmates to the site and close the Cuban camp, but the plan was blocked by Congress.
Barack Obama in 2009 tried to close Guantanamo Bay (pictured) and move the prisoners to Thomson, but Congress blocked his plan
Rapper Kodak Black spent three months inside Thomson, on weapons charges. Donald Trump commuted his sentence in January 2021
Well known inmates include rapper Kodak Black, who arrived there in October 2020 after being found guilty of filing incorrect paperwork for a handgun. His sentence was commuted by Donald Trump in January 2021, and he was freed.
Facilities will be dramatically better than in the state prison, however.
Inmates have access to the library, and can study and exercise outdoors.
Hobbies and crafts are encouraged, according to the prison manual.
Chauvin could even be sent to a lower security prison, following the precedent set by former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager.
Slager is serving a 20-year sentence for killing Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who ran from a traffic stop.
Slager, who is white, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge for shooting Scott in the back five times in 2015 after stopping him for a broken brake light in an incident that, like Floyd’s death, was captured on widely seen bystander video.
Slager’s state murder charge was dropped as part of the federal plea deal.
His lawyers said at the time that Slager wanted to be in federal custody where he felt he would be safer than in state prison.
Slager is serving his time in a low-security federal prison in Colorado.
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