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Derek Chauvin's attorney files motion seeking probation or lesser sentence

Prosecutors filed a separate motion seeking a 30-year prison term for the former MPD officer convicted of killing George Floyd.

MINNEAPOLIS — The attorney for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has filed a motion seeking a lesser sentence in the murder of George Floyd, even as low as probation.

Meanwhile, prosecutors filed their own motion with the court Tuesday, requesting a 30-year sentence for Chauvin, more than double the recommended state guidelines.

Chauvin, 45, was convicted in April on counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's May 2020 death. 

Judge Peter Cahill has scheduled Chauvin's sentencing hearing for June 25. Cahill has previously indicated that he will consider aggravating factors to potentially issue a sentence that is longer than the recommendations under state guidelines.

In a defense motion filed Tuesday, attorney Eric Nelson requests "a strict probationary sentence, along with a period of incarceration equal to the time he has already served. In the alternative, Mr. Chauvin respectfully requests that the Court grant him a downward durational departure." 

In the motion, Nelson claims there are several "compelling circumstances" to warrant a sentence of probation, including Chauvin's lack of a previous criminal record; a preliminary diagnosis of heart damage for Chauvin; and the average shorter life expectancy for police officers. Nelson also cites Chauvin's "respectful" attitude in court and cooperation throughout the trial "in the face of unparalleled public scorn and scrutiny."

Nelson's motion also claims the aggravating factors for a greater sentence are "unwarranted."

RELATED: Ruling opens door for longer sentence in Chauvin case

However, on May 12, Judge Peter Cahill issued a finding of fact decision listing four reasons that support a potential stronger penalty than the 12.5-year sentence that normally accompanies a second-degree murder conviction for someone with no criminal history:

  1. Defendant abused a position of trust and authority: Cahill described how Chauvin, in full uniform and on duty, restrained Floyd and caused his death by using unreasonable force while holding a position of trust and respect with the community. 
  2. Defendant treated George Floyd with particular cruelty: Cahill noted how Chauvin prevented Floyd's ability to breathe, even though he was begging for his life. 
  3. Children were present during the commission of the offense: Cahill ruled that Chauvin caused Floyd's death in front of four juveniles between the ages of 9 and 17, who saw him and other police officers restrain Floyd and cause him to die of asphyxiation while he begged for his life. 
  4. Defendant committed the crime as a group with the active participation of at least three other persons: The judge noted that former officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng were actively involved with Chauvin in restraining Floyd, and former officer Tou Thao actively kept bystanders from rendering aid. Cahill noted that the participation of the three other officers includes no finding of criminal liability on their part. 

Nelson also has additional motions pending requesting that the guilty verdict be thrown out, and calling for a new trial. Additional documents were filed with the court Tuesday to support those motions.

RELATED: Derek Chauvin's defense attorney files motions to throw out guilty verdict, seeks new trial

In addition to the upcoming sentencing, Chauvin also faces federal charges in Floyd's death, alongside the three other former MPD officers charged in the case. Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane face separate criminal charges of aiding and abetting; however, their criminal trial was postponed until March 2022 to allow the federal case time to reach its completion.