A court entry posted Monday indicated Chauvin intended to change his plea, and a hearing in the case was scheduled for Wednesday.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment, and an attorney for Chauvin did not immediately return a message.
Chauvin, who pressed his knees into Floyd’s neck and back for nine and a half minutes as he begged for breath, was convicted in April on state charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison. He is appealing that sentence.
A federal grand jury indicted him and three other officers in May on charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights, exposing him to more possible prison time.
The details of Chauvin’s plea were not immediately filed in court, and it was not clear what he would admit or what benefit he would receive for doing so. The change of plea must still be accepted by a federal judge.
Chauvin also had been charged federally with violating the rights of a 14-year-old boy during an arrest in September 2017. In that case, he was accused of holding the boy by the neck and hitting him twice with a flashlight. He had pleaded not guilty to those charges, and it was not immediately clear on Monday whether that case would be resolved as part of Chauvin’s plea in connection with Floyd’s death.
The federal civil rights trial of Chauvin and the other officers had been expected to begin around Jan. 20 at a federal courthouse in St. Paul, with a summons and questionnaire recently mailed to potential jurors that instructed them to be ready to report on that date.
But amid questions over security for the proceedings, no official trial date had been set, according to people close to the case who declined to be named so they could discuss internal case matters. U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who is based at the federal courthouse in St. Paul, had expected to hold proceedings there. But people close to the case said city officials in St. Paul had pressed the federal court to reconsider relocating the trial to the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.
The other officers charged federally with violating Floyd’s rights are J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao. All have pleaded not guilty in the case. They are also facing state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter, and are scheduled to go on trial in that case on March 7. Their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is overseeing the state case, delayed that trial to allow the civil rights trial to proceed first. Cahill also voiced a desire to put “some distance” between Chauvin’s high-profile murder trial and the case against the other officers — citing in part the immense publicity and its potential impact on jury selection.
In court papers, federal prosecutors have alleged Chauvin violated Floyd’s constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable seizure and from unreasonable force by a police officer when he restrained him on the street.
Kueng and Thao were charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck and back. All four officers were charged with failing to render medical aid to Floyd.
Attorneys for Kueng, Lane and Thao filed motions to separate their federal cases from Chauvin’s — arguing their clients could be tarnished by jurors’ views of Chauvin and his behavior toward Floyd. And in an echo of arguments made during the state case, the attorneys also expressed concern that a joint trial could result in a “blame game” among the former officers — with Robert Paule, the attorney for Thao, suggesting the other defendants could become something akin to a “second prosecutor” against his client.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung declined to sever Chauvin from the civil rights case, writing in a Nov. 29 order that the attorneys failed to prove that Chauvin’s previous conviction would jeopardize their clients’ rights to a fair trial.
“There is a significant amount of overlap and interplay between the charges. … Additionally, the government will be using essentially the same substantive evidence against each of the defendants at trial,” Leung wrote, calling a joint trial “proper in this case.”
Leung also wrote he was “unpersuaded” that the officers are likely to mount “antagonistic defenses.”
Since being sentenced in the murder conviction, Chauvin had been seen as likely to strike a plea deal in the civil rights case, in part because of comments he made at the sentencing hearing.
“I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family,” Chauvin said at the time, turning to glance back at members of Floyd’s family. “There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind.”
Bailey reported from Minneapolis.