Florida man pleads guilty to threatening to kill Derek Chauvin’s lawyer

A Florida man who threatened to kill the lawyer who defended former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty Thursday, prosecutors said.

The man, William John Hartnett, 42, of Coral Gables, made the threats in a phone call to the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association on April 6, when Chauvin was charged with the murder of George Floyd, officials said.

Hartnett called the organization that funded Chauvin’s defense, leaving a message that partially said, “you and your entire family will die — to represent Chauvin,” according to a criminal complaint.

Hartnett told investigators he was trying to reach Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, according to court documents.

Chauvin was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree murder on April 20 for killing Floyd, a black man, in May 2020.

Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes, triggering outrage and protests across the country and around the world.

Hartnett pleaded guilty Wednesday to a count of transmitting a threat through interstate communications, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida said.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Hartnett is expected to be sentenced Dec. 15.

Hartnett’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.

Chauvin was sentenced in June to 22 years in prison. Three other former Minneapolis police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd’s death. They have also been accused of federal violations of civil rights.

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