Ex-Minneapolis cop pleads guilty in George Floyd killing

Crime

FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on June 3, 2020, shows, from left, former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Another former Minneapolis police officer has pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.

In exchange for J. Alexander Kueng ‘s guilty plea just as jury selection was to begin Monday, a count of aiding and abetting second-degree murder will be dismissed. Kueng is the second officer to plead guilty to the state charge. Thomas Lane earlier pleaded guilty to the same count. Their former colleague, Tou Thao, is still scheduled to face trial this week.

All three have already been convicted on federal counts of willfully violating the civil rights of Floyd, who was Black. Lane was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in the federal case. Kueng was sentenced to three years and Thao was sentenced to 3 1/2, but for some Floyd family members and activists, the penalties were too small.

Floyd, 46, died May 25, 2020, after Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pinned him to the ground with a knee on Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. The killing, captured on widely viewed bystander video, sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the globe as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.

Kueng and Lane helped to restrain Floyd, who was handcuffed. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down Floyd’s legs. Thao kept bystanders from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

Kueng’s plea called for 3 1/2 years in prison, though final determination will be up to the judge. Lane was sentenced to three years in his plea on the state charge, with the time served concurrently with the federal sentence.

Chauvin was convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges last year and is currently serving 22 1/2 years in the state case. He also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years for that and for an unrelated case involving a 14-year-old boy. He is serving the sentences at the same time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.

Kueng is Black, Lane is white and Thao is Hmong American. They were convicted of federal charges in February after a monthlong trial that focused on the officers’ training and the culture of the police department. All three were convicted of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care and Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the killing.

After their federal sentences, there was a question as to whether Kueng and Thao would proceed to trial, with legal experts saying it was likely they’d seek a plea deal with the state that would not exceed the federal sentence and allow them serve both sentences at the same time.

State sentencing guidelines for a person with no criminal record, like Kueng, call for a range from about 3 1/2 years to four years and nine months in prison for second-degree unintentional manslaughter. The presumptive sentence is four years.

If Kueng had been convicted of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, he would have faced a presumptive 12 1/2 years in prison.

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