Minneapolis, MN – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Sunday that there was no evidence that former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd wasn’t a hate crime because there was no evidence it had anything to do with race.
Ellison gave an interview to CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on April 25 to review the details of the Chauvin trial.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and third-degree manslaughter on April 20.
He has been incarcerated in a Minnesota prison to await sentencing.
Prosecutors have asked for enhanced sentencing to keep him behind bars longer for the aggravated nature of his crimes.
But Ellison told CBS News that the murder wasn’t a hate crime.
“I wouldn’t call it that because hate crimes are crimes where there’s an explicit motive and of bias. We don’t have any evidence that Derek Chauvin factored in George Floyd’s race as he did what he did,” he said.
Asked why prosecutors didn’t charge him with a hate crime anyway, Ellison told CBS News that prosecutors had only charged Chauvin with “evidence that we could put in front of a jury to prove.”
“If we’d had a witness that told us that Derek Chauvin made a racial reference, we might have charged him with a hate crime. But I would have needed a witness to say that on the stand. We didn’t have it. So we didn’t do it,” he said.
Ellison explained that it was “rare that there’s any accountability” when a person of color is killed by police, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a hate crime, CBS News reported.
“In our society, there is a social norm that killing certain kinds of people is more tolerable than other kinds of people,” the attorney general opined. “In order for us to stop and pay serious attention to this case and be outraged by it, it’s not necessary that Derek Chauvin had a specific racial intent to harm George Floyd.”
He pointed to socioeconomic patterns that he said showed black people get harsher treatment from law enforcement than people of other races who break the same laws, CBS News reported.
“If an officer doesn’t throw a white neurologist in Eden Prairie, Minnesota to the ground and doesn’t sit on top of his neck, is he doing it because this is a fellow white brother?” Ellison asked. “No. He’s doing it because he thinks, ‘This is an important person and if I treat them badly somebody’s going to ask me about this.”
“This person probably has lawyers. He probably knows the governor. He probably knows – he has connections. I can look at the way he’s dressed and the way he talks, that he’s probably, quote, unquote, ‘somebody.’ And so that’s really what it’s about,” the attorney general told CBS News.
Ellison said that prosecutors struggled with Chauvin’s motive to Floyd and decided it happened because he wasn’t willing to listen to an angry crowd of bystanders.
“Well, that’s a question we spent a lotta time asking ourselves,” he told CBS News. “And all we could come up with is what we could divine from his body language and his demeanor. And what we saw is that the crowd was demanding that he get up.”
“And then he was staring right back at them defiantly. ‘You don’t tell me what to do. I do what I wanna do. You people have no control over me. I’m going to show you,’” the attorney general said.
Minneapolis police initially told the public that Floyd’s death was the result of a medical emergency, CBS News reported.
Ellison said he had doubts Floyd’s death would have ever been properly investigated and charged if there hadn’t been a bunch of bystanders there to film it on their cell phones.
And he claimed Chauvin didn’t stop holding Floyd down once he saw 13 people filming because there was no accountability in the Minneapolis Police Department, CBS News reported.
“I think that if he looks at history, he has every reason to believe that he would never be held accountable,” the attorney general said. “There’s never been anyone in Minnesota convicted – any police officer convicted of second-degree murder in the history of our state. So this was precedent setting in that way. So history was on his side.”
He told CBS News that Floyd bore no accountability for his own death despite the circumstances surrounding it that included counterfeit money and illegal drug consumption and said Floyd was having a “bad day.”
“The fact is that police officers are paid and trained to deal with people who are having problems. And if they’re allowed to use deadly force on people who are just having a bad day, then we’re going to be in a very, very lethal situation,” Ellison opined.
He said officers need to have the judgment to figure out when somebody is having a mental health issue and alleged Floyd had never struck out at anyone, CBS News reported.
However, bodycam video showed that Floyd violently resisted arrest and fought officers who tried to put him in the back of a police car.
“George Floyd was not armed. He never threatened a soul, he never struck out on – against anybody. He did everything the officers said, except he had claustrophobia and anxiety and couldn’t bring himself to get in that car,” Ellison told CBS News.
Chauvin is facing a maximum sentence of 40 years but prosecutors have called for harsher sentences for all of the officers charged in connection with the death of Floyd.
The state argued last fall that five aggravating factors warranted “upward sentencing” for all of the officers involved.
Prosecutors have said that Chauvin’s position of authority and trust, the fact that Floyd was particularly vulnerable and treated with particular cruelty, and the fact there was an audience that included children present when the incident occurred should all play into the judge’s decision whether to enhance the sentences.
Ellison seemed to contradict the state’s position on sentencing when he was interviewed by CBS News.
“I think it is important for the court to not go light or heavy,” the attorney general said. “I don’t know if it’s right for a judge to send a message through a sentence because the sentence should be tailored to the offense, tailored to the circumstances of the case.”
“Look, the state never wanted revenge against Derek Chauvin. We just wanted accountability,” he told CBS News.