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

William John Hartnett, 42, called an organization that funded the defense of Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, and made the threats.
Image: Derek Chauvin court video grab
Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, accompanied by defendant Derek Chauvin, speaks to the judge at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis on April 19.Court TV via AP, Pool

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

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 as Chauvin was on trial for the murder of George Floyd, officials said.

Hartnett called the organization, which funded Chauvin's defense, and left a message that said in part: "you and your whole f---ing family are going to f---ing die ... for representing Chauvin," according to a criminal complaint.

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

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

Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for 9½ minutes, sparking 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 for the Southern District of Florida said.

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

Hartnett's attorney did not immediately reply to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years in prison in June. Three other former Minneapolis police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd's death. They have also been charged with federal civil rights violations.