- Feb 6, 2014
Sentences handed down for two ex-officers convicted of violating George Floyd's civil rights
Two former Minneapolis police officers who watched fellow officer Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes were sentenced on Wednesday for their contributions to what became a deadly police encounter. Tou Thao was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison while J. Alexander Kueng was sentenced to three, The New York Times reported of Judge Paul Magnuson’s sentence.
Although the time seems minimal, officers’ sentences are important in what they represent. Every officer involved in Floyd’s detainment will be serving time in prison. Kueng, a biracial ex-officer, held Floyd down along with Lane while former officer Tou Thao blocked bystanders from providing aid to the Black father.
Floyd had only been accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill when the cops were called to the scene on May 25, 2020, outside of the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis.
Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement that the officers involved in Floyd's arrest had to be held accountable. “George Floyd’s death could have been prevented if these defendants had carried out their affirmative duty to intervene to stop another officer’s use of deadly force,” Clarke said. “While these defendants have now been held accountable, law enforcement officers and leaders must take seriously the affirmative duty under the Constitution to intervene to stop misconduct by fellow officers and the duty to render medical aid.
"The federal prosecution of all officers tied to the death of George Floyd should send a clear and powerful message that the Department of Justice will never tolerate the unlawful abuse of power or victimization of Americans by anyone in law enforcement."
Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane was also sentenced last Thursday to 2.5 years in the federal civil rights case against him. He pleaded guilty to the state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, CNN reported.
Lane testified in federal court that he checked Floyd's ankle for a pulse, did chest compressions, and offered to ride with Floyd to the hospital, also suggesting officers roll Floyd on his side "to get a better assessment."
While Kueng testified that he became a police officer because of negative interactions with cops, he also said his training was "fast tracked" so he could work the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death happened during Kueng’s third shift with the force—a fact Magnuson mentioned during sentencing, according to the Associated Press.
“You were truly a rookie officer,” the judge said.
For Thao, the judge cited a letter of support with 744 signatures and what Magnuson described as a "completely clean record," the AP reported.
“You had a difficult childhood and have done well to become a good police officer, father and husband,” the judge said.
Lane’s sentencing in the state case is set for September. The state trial for Kueng and Thao is set for Oct. 24.
Philonise Floyd, Floyd's brother, described Lane's sentence as "insulting."
“If it was me and that was accessory to murder, they would’ve gave me the maximum amount of time,” he said in statements The New York Times covered. “And you’re a police officer who was sworn to protect, who took an oath, and you didn’t get the maximum amount of time.”