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Federal civil rights charges for 4 ex-officers in George Floyd's death

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A federal grand jury in Minnesota has indicted Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis police officer convicted in the death of George Floyd, and three other former officers on civil rights charges. Chauvin is also facing charges in another incident. CBS News chief justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues joined CBSN with more.

Video Transcript

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: A federal grand jury has indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's fatal arrest. Court papers accuse them of violating Floyd's civil rights by detaining him and using excessive force. Three of the officers appeared in federal court virtually this morning. Chauvin, who was convicted last month for the murder of George Floyd, was not there.

For more on this, let's bring in CBS News Chief Justice and Homeland Security correspondent, Jeff Pegues. So, Jeff, what more can you tell us about this grand jury indictment, and what the former police officers are charged with-- are charged with? Was this expected today, Jeff?

JEFF PEGUES: No, it wasn't.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: I was going to say.

JEFF PEGUES: Which is-- yeah, which is why we've been scrambling to gather the information. The feds really kept this one under wraps. We knew that they were in, you know, deciding and investigating whether there were civil rights violations. But we did not know that the officers would be in court this morning. We got late word about that.

We have the court documents and what this is-- is a three count indictment alleging that all four defendants, while acting as police officers, willfully deprived George Floyd of his constitutional rights. In essence, boiling this down, they violated, according to the government, his civil rights. So, what they're saying is that all four officers, Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane violated his civil rights and there are three counts.

Count one is that they-- that Chauvin held he is left knee across Floyd's neck. You've obviously seen the video. Count two of the indictment, and this is interesting, I think, it says that Thao and Kueng willfully failed to intervene to stop Chauvin from doing what the court found that he did.

Now, that count two does not mention Thomas Lane, and if you follow this trial, you know that Thomas claim was the officer who said to Chauvin, hey, listen, he doesn't look so good. Perhaps we should roll him over. So, he was not included in this count two, which might help his criminal case, which is upcoming in the fall.

So, there is another count here, a separate count against Derek Chauvin. And this is a case that we really haven't followed, but is what is out there. We've been looking into it. It involves an incident that happened in 2017, and it happened to a 14-year-old boy in Minneapolis.

According to this indictment, Chauvin held this teenager by the throat, struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight. The indictment also alleges that he held his knee on the teenager's neck and upper back. So, what you're hearing there is something similar to what happened to the George Floyd case. This indictment now charges Chauvin with that incident as well.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: So, we learned last week that Chauvin's lawyer filed a motion for a new trial after his conviction last month. Will that move forward or will this indictment change things?

JEFF PEGUES: No, that's-- that's still moving forward, but it's on a separate track. This is a federal case that we're talking about now. This is a federal grand jury that heard this case. And so, these are all operating on separate tracks. So, that will continue.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: And Jeff, Chauvin was, as you mentioned, charged in this second indictment stemming from this incident back in 2017, where he used the neck restraint on a 14-year-old boy. Why wasn't he charged then?

JEFF PEGUES: Well, that's-- that's a very good question. We don't know the answer to that question at this time, but clearly what federal investigators are saying there is that there is a pattern here with Derek Chauvin. This is this knee tactic that he used obviously to take the life of George Floyd was something that he used before.

And they bring up this case of this 14-year-old boy. So, obviously, that's a case that we'll have to look more into, but federal investigators were clearly aware of it. There had been talk about it in the past, but it was not included in his criminal case, which of course, just concluded with three guilty pleas.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: All right, Jeff. I know that this thing just came out and you scrambled to get it-- to get on air with us, and we really appreciate it. Thank you.

JEFF PEGUES: My pleasure.