Ex-officers accused of violating George Floyd’s rights plead not guilty

Four former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating George Floyd’s constitutional rights while detaining the 46-year-old in May 2020 pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

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A grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Kiernan Lane on charges of deprivation of rights under color of law in May. The law forbids officials from “willfully depriving a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States” while acting in an official government capacity.

Update 11:25 a.m. EDT Sept. 14: Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Kiernan Lane entered not guilty pleas during an arraignment Tuesday morning.

U.S. District Judge Tony Leung is also set to hear arguments Tuesday over motions.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on a scheduling proposal offered by the government. They are expected to later debate a motion to sever Thao and Kueng’s cases from Chauvin’s, a motion which Lane has asked to join.

Original report: Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane are accused of willfully ignoring Floyd’s medical needs during an arrest, “acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.

>> Related: George Floyd murder: Federal grand jury indicts 4 former Minneapolis police officers

Thao and Kueng are also accused of violating Floyd’s right to be free from an unreasonable seizure for their failure to intervene as Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck, even after he became unresponsive.

Chauvin is also accused of depriving Floyd of his right to be free from an unreasonable seizure for holding his knees on Floyd’s neck, back and arm as Floyd lay on the ground, unresisting.

>> Related: Derek Chauvin trial: Teen who witnessed George Floyd’s death says, ‘I felt like I was failing him’

The former officers are set to appear in court Tuesday via teleconference.

Video footage captured by a teenage bystander showed the May 25, 2020 detainment of Floyd, who was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, outside the Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis. In the video, Chauvin could be seen holding his knee to Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old struggled to breathe and called for his mother. Kueng and Lane helped to restrain Floyd, while Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening, according to evidence presented in state court.

Floyd was pronounced dead after the incident. In April, a Minnesota jury convicted Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for Floyd’s death. Chauvin was subsequently sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.

>> Related: Derek Chauvin trial: Former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder, manslaughter in death of George Floyd

At federal arraignment hearings, defendants can have the charges read to them, and not guilty pleas are typically entered. Prosecutors and attorneys for the former officers could also argue several motions on Tuesday.

Attorneys for Thao and Kueng have asked that the court separate their cases from Chauvin’s, a request Lane has asked to join. In a motion filed in court, prosecutors opposed the move, calling it premature. It was not immediately clear whether the motion would be debated Tuesday.

>> Related: Derek Chauvin sentencing: Former cop sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for George Floyd’s murder

Video of the Floyd’s death went viral after being posted on social media in May 2020, sparking global outrage and a national reckoning over racism and police brutality that spawned protests across the country.

Thao, Lane and Kueng have also been charged in state court with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They are expected to face juries in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.