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Former Attorney General William Barr rejected a plea deal that a former Minneapolis police officer agreed to just days after the May 2020 death of George Floyd, according to a report.
Under the proposed deal, which required federal approval, Derek Chauvin — the officer seen kneeling on Floyd's neck in a video that went viral — had agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing information from three law enforcement officials.
One official said Barr was concerned that the deal, which called for a 10-year prison sentence, could have been perceived by the public as too lenient. The investigation into Floyd's death was still ongoing at the time.
Barr also wanted to allow Hennepin County prosecutors to proceed with the case on their own terms, the Times reported.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to an email from Fox News requesting comment on the Times story. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, said he would not be commenting on the case.
Derek Chauvin, left, faces murder charges in connection with the death of George Floyd.
Floyd’s death in police custody on May 25, 2020, led to violent protests in Minneapolis and in major cities across the U.S. Protesters watched the video that emerged from Floyd’s arrest and said it was another example of police brutality.
Former Attorney General William Barr speaks during a news conference, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 at the Justice Department in Washington. (Associated Press)
Chauvin is scheduled to stand trial alone beginning March 8, while three other former officers facing lesser charges in the case will be tried together in the summer. Chauvin, who is White, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed face-down on the street — though whether that was the cause of Floyd's death has been a matter of debate.
Last August, a medical examiner said an autopsy revealed that Floyd had a "fatal level" of fentanyl in his system when he died, but Dr. Andrew Baker stopped short of claiming the drug intake had killed Floyd.
Floyd faced arrest as police were investigating whether he used a counterfeit bill at a nearby store. In a video widely seen on social media, Floyd could be heard pleading with officers for air, saying he couldn’t breathe.
Minneapolis is already taking steps to prepare for Chauvin’s trial, The Times reported. The National Guard will be deployed and some office workers in the city have been told to stay home from work.