Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was prepared to plead guilty to third-degree murder in George Floyd’s death before then-attorney general William Barr personally blocked the plea deal last year, officials have said.
The deal would have averted any potential federal charges, including a civil rights offence, as part of an effort to quickly resolve the case to avoid more protests after riots and arson damaged a swath of the south of the city, according to two law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the talks.
Mr Barr rejected the deal in part because he felt it was too soon as the investigation into Mr Floyd’s death was still in its relative infancy, the officials said.
It has been reported previously that Chavin had been in plea talks, and that those talks appeared to have delayed a May 28 news conference called by the attorney in Minneapolis for nearly two hours as they were ongoing.
But the detail on Chauvin agreeing to plead guilty to a specific charge are new and was first reported late on Wednesday by The New York Times.
Mr Floyd, a black man who was in handcuffs at the time, died on May 25 after the white officer knelt on his neck for a number of minutes even as Mr Floyd cried out that he could not breathe.
Widely seen bystander video sparked protests in the city, including some violent riots and arson, and quickly spread around the country.
Chauvin was fired soon after Mr Floyd’s death.
He is scheduled for trial on March 8 on charges including second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Three other officers at the scene, also since fired, are scheduled for trial later this year.
Tom Kelly, Chauvin’s lawyer at the time of the plea talks, said on Thursday that he could not discuss the case.
Chauvin is now represented by Eric Nelson, who declined to comment.