Barr felt a plea deal could appear too lenient, especially to protesters.
Former Attorney General William Barr allegedly rejected a plea deal offered by Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd.
According to NBC News, Chauvin and has attorneys had configured a plea deal that would have allowed Chauvin to plead guilty to third-degree murder.
The plea deal, says NBC News, was put together within days of Floyd’s death—even as protests were beginning to spread across the United States.
Chauvin, as LegalReader.com has reported before, was filmed digging his knee into Floyd’s neck. Even though Floyd repeatedly said that he could not breathe, Chauvin persisted to the point that Floyd—a Black man—lost consciousness.
Floyd was later declared dead. He had detained on suspicious of cashing, or attempting to cash, a fraudulent check.
Chauvin was later fired, as were several other officers involved in the Floyd encounter. He is currently facing a second-degree murder charge.
However, news that former Attorney General Barr blocked Chauvin’s initial attempts at a plea deal are a recent revelation.
A Department of Justice official, who left the agency with the outgoing Trump administration, told The New York Times that Chauvin’s plea arrangement was rejected by politically appointed and career officials within the department.
That official, whose identity was kept secret by the Times, said that Chauvin’s lawyers were trying to force the federal government—as well as Minneapolis prosecutors—into a tight corner.
“His lawyers were trying to rush us, and we didn’t want to be rushed,” the official said.
Lacey Severins, a spokeswoman for the Hennepin County attorney’s office—which has been entrusted with Chauvin’s prosecution—suggested that any rejection of Chauvin’s plea deal should not be read into.
“As is typical in many cases, early negotiations can occur between all relevant parties involved. Many times, a defendant will explore their options with a negotiation,” Severins said. “It is also common for these types of discussions to happen in the beginning of a case and then have no agreed upon negotiations develop. This case was no different. Negotiations were discussed, nothing developed.”
If Chauvin’s plea had been accepted, the ex-cop would have gone to prison for at least 10 years.
“As part of the deal, officials now say, he was willing to go to prison for more than 10 years,” the Times wrote. “Local officials, scrambling to end the community’s swelling anger, scheduled a news conference to announce the deal.”
Barr, says the New York Times, personally opined that it was too early in the investigation to extend any leniency. He was also purportedly afraid that sending Chauvin to prison for 10 years could spur political backlash, especially if Americans found the sentence too light.