Thao, Kueng reject plea deal in Floyd killing

Race in America

FILE – This combo of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota, show Tou Thao, left, and J. Alexander Kueng. A federal judge on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, sentenced the two former Minneapolis police officers who were convicted of violating George Floyd’s civil rights to lighter terms than recommended in sentencing guidelines. Kueng was sentenced to three years in prison and Tou Thao was sentenced to 3 and a half years. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Two former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s killing told a judge Monday that they have rejected plea deals that would have resulted in three-year prison sentences, setting the stage for trial in October.

Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. They and Thomas Lane were working with Derek Chauvin when he pinned Floyd’s neck with his knee for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old Black man said he couldn’t breathe and eventually grew still.

The killing, captured in bystander video, sparked protests worldwide and a reckoning on racial injustice. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of second-degree murder last year and sentenced to 22 1/2 years on the state charge.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill had set a limited window for accepting a plea deal ahead of trial, and Monday’s brief hearing served to formalize the ex-officers’ rejections of the state’s offers.

“It would be lying for me to accept any plea offer,” said Thou, who held back concerned bystanders as Chauvin pinned Floyd.

Thao, Kueng and Lane were convicted in federal court in February of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Lane, who held Floyd’s legs and twice asked if he should be turned on his side, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years. Thao was sentenced to 3 1/2 years. Kueng, who pinned Floyd’s back, was sentenced to 3 years.

Assistant Attorney General Matt Frank said plea negotiations began in earnest in May and continued into June. The offers would have dropped the charge of aiding and abetting murder, and the officers’ state time would have run concurrently with the federal sentences.

The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 24, with opening statements Nov. 7.

Lane avoided a state trial by pleading guilty in May to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in a deal that calls for a three-year sentence. His sentencing is Sept. 21.

Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years on the federal civil rights charge. He remains in the state’s maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights pending his transfer to federal prison. The other three remain free on bail.

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Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed to this story.

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