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Judge drops 3rd-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin

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A judge on Thursday dropped charges of third-degree murder against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who used excessive force against George Floyd, a Black man, back in May. The other charges—second-degree murder and manslaughter—still remain.

Chauvin was videotaped on May 25 pushing his knee down on Floyd’s neck, who was on his stomach and handcuffed, for nine straight minutes until he died from the asphyxiation, despite repeatedly telling Chauvin that he could not breathe. Floyd’s death was categorized as a homicide on June 6 by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

Three other officers—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane—were at the scene throughout the incident and appear in the viral video. They were fired alongside Chauvin.

Additionally, Minneapolis Judge Peter A. Cahill declined to dismiss the charges against the other three officers. They face charges for aiding and abetting in the killing of Floyd.

The incident and the viral video that captured the scene sparked nationwide, as well as worldwide, protests against police brutality and systemic racism this past summer, bringing racial injustice back to the forefront of the national dialogue.

While defense attorneys had argued that there wasn’t enough probable cause to charge all the officers, the prosecutors claimed that there was enough to try them on every charge. The prosecutors argued that Chauvin purposely assaulted Floyd and would thus qualify for a second-degree murder charge and that the other officers assisted him.

Ultimately, Judge Cahill agreed with Chauvin’s legal team and decided to drop third-degree murder from the roster of charges against him, a less severe charge than murder in the second degree.

Citing Minnesota Supreme Court precedents, Cahill argued that the only person that Chauvin directly harmed was Floyd and could not have hurt anybody else, meaning a charge for third-degree murder was not applicable to this case because “probable cause does not exist for the third-degree murder charge.”

According to the Star Tribune: “Third-degree murder is an unusual, uncommon count that some defense attorneys have said didn’t suit the Floyd case. Some attorneys have said the charge best fits a situation such as a person randomly shooting into a moving train and killing someone.”

On October 7, Chauvin was released from jail on a bond of $1 million, while the others were released on $750,000 bond.

In the protests that erupted following Chauvin’s release, 51 individuals were arrested in Minneapolis on a variety of charges that were primarily misdemeanors.

All four officers are set to stand trial in March, however, the judge is still deciding on whether or not to try them all together or separately.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Biden frees Venezuelan President Maduro’s drug dealing relatives in prisoner swap

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Joe Biden

President Biden freed two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s relatives Saturday in exchange for seven jailed Americans. The two nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, had been convicted in the United States for drug dealing and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to the BBC.

According to the report, the swap was in exchange for five American oil executives. Those Americans were “exchanged for two of Mr Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were serving 18-year sentences in the US on drug charges,” the officials told the BBC. Maduro’s nephews were convicted under the Trump administration and the Venezuelan government claims that they were “unjustly” jailed in the United States.

In a statement from the White House Saturday, Biden said the American’s were  “wrongfully detained.”  He said the American’s  would soon be reunited with their relatives, according to reports.

“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” the Biden statement added.

Meanwhile, 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on “the intelligence report” that alleges Maduro is emptying his prisons and allowing them to head to the United States in the caravans that crossing the porous border.

The letter states that the report warns Border Patrol agents to be on the look-out for “violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It has been widely reported that the Venezuelan regime, under the control of Nicolás Maduro Moros, is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States,” the letter states.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC.

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