Ex-Minneapolis officer’s, Thao and Kueng sentenced for violating George Floyd’s rights
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The last two former Minneapolis police officers were sentenced in federal court on Wednesday for violating George Floyd’s civil rights. J. Alexander Kueng was sentenced to three years in prison and Tou Thao has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years (42 months.)
Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years (42 months) in federal prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights. His sentence will be followed by two years of supervised release.
Thao was sentenced less than an hour after his fellow former officer, J. Alexander Kueng, was sentenced to three years for the same charges.
Again, Floyd family members, as well as both the prosecution and defense, spoke before Thao’s sentencing.
However, unlike before Kueng’s and former officer Thomas Lane’s sentencing, Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, didn’t offer words of encouragement but called for him to get the maximum sentence.
“Mr. Thao, as you watched my love being suffocated under the knee of your co-officer, I will never forget you saying to the onlookers, ‘This is why you don’t do drugs,’” Ross said.
She added that Thao’s words broke her heart and she hopes that when he’s scared in prison that he thinks about how Floyd was scared that day.
She finished her statement by saying, “This is why you don’t violate a person’s civil rights,” and reiterated her support for a maximum prison sentence for Thao.
Sabrina Montgomery, Floyd’s second cousin once removed, also briefly spoke and encouraged a max sentence.
Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, called Thao “a decent person who was just trying to do his job.”
Thao then got up and spoke at length for over 20 minutes about his faith and how he found God after going to jail.
Prosecutor LeeAnn Bell cited Thao’s experience and training, as well as his interactions with the crowd of bystanders, all of which she said he disregarded, as reasons for a longer sentence.
“Untrained people, many of who were not even 18 years old, saw the excessive force,” she said.
A previous story regarding Kueng’s sentencing can be seen below.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Former Minneapolis police Officer J. Alexander Kueng was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to three years in prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the May 2020 killing.
Kueng’s co-defendant, Tou Thao, was scheduled to be sentenced later Wednesday morning.
Kueng and Thao were convicted in February of two counts of violating Floyd’s civil rights. The jury found they deprived the 46-year-old Black man of medical care and failed to stop Derek Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Kueng was sentenced to three years on each count, to be served concurrently.
Kueng held Floyd’s back, former Officer Thomas Lane held his feet and Thao kept bystanders back. Bystander video of Floyd’s killing sparked worldwide protests as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.
The federal government brought the civil rights charges against all four officers in May 2021, a month after Chauvin was convicted of murder in state court.
Chauvin and Lane have already been sentenced on civil rights violations. Chauvin, who pleaded guilty last year to violating Floyd’s civil rights and the civil rights of a teenager in an unrelated case, was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison. Lane, who twice asked if Floyd should be rolled onto his side so he could breathe, was convicted of one count and was sentenced to 2 1/2.
Federal prosecutors had requested that U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentence Kueng and Thao to less time than Chauvin, but “substantially” more than Lane.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The last two former Minneapolis police officers to be sentenced in federal court for violating George Floyd’s civil rights are scheduled to learn their penalties Wednesday, which could set in motion another round of plea deal discussions in state court over a killing that sparked a reckoning on racial injustice.
J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were convicted in February of two counts of violating Floyd’s civil rights in the 2020 killing. The jury found they deprived the 46-year-old Black man of medical care and failed to stop Derek Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd gasped for air. The potential for lower sentences for Kueng and Thao raises questions about whether they will consider a plea deal or risk trial Oct. 24 in state court, where they face counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Kueng held Floyd’s back, former Officer Thomas Lane held his feet and Thao kept back bystanders, some of whom recorded video that led to worldwide protests.
The federal government brought the civil rights charges against all four officers in May 2021, a month after Chauvin was convicted in state court. They were seen as an affirmation of the Justice Department’s priorities to address racial inequities in policing, a promise made by President Joe Biden before his election. And they came just a week after federal prosecutors brought hate crimes charges in the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and announced two sweeping probes into policing in two states.
Chauvin, who pleaded guilty last year to violating Floyd’s civil rights and the civil rights of a teenager in an unrelated case, was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison. Lane, who twice asked if Floyd should be rolled onto his side so he could breathe, was convicted of one count and was sentenced last week to 2 1/2 — a sentence Floyd’s brother Philonise called “insulting.”
Prosecutors have not made specific recommendations for Kueng and Thao’s sentence, but have requested less time than Chauvin and “substantially” more than Lane. Thao’s attorney is asking for two years; Kueng’s request is sealed.
Kueng and Thao got a victory last week when U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson issued rulings that affect how their federal sentences will be calculated and could mean far less prison time. The rulings — particularly one that cross-references their crimes with involuntary manslaughter instead of murder — mean the men head into Wednesday’s hearing with a recommended range of 4 1/4 years to 5 1/4 years. They might have faced a life sentence.
“It made a huge difference,” Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and former federal prosecutor, said. “The impact of it is already baked in now.”
Osler said one key is if Magnuson determines that Kueng and Thao were “minor” or “minimal” participants in the crime. Magnuson found Lane was a minimal participant, resulting in a lower sentence. Osler said a minor participant would be more culpable.
“You have one officer who at least made some effort to change the trajectory, and that’s Lane. You have one most directly involved in the killing of George Floyd, and that’s Derek Chauvin — and then you have these two in the middle,” Osler said.
Osler said once the men know what their federal sentence is, they will likely seek a plea deal on the state charges that won’t exceed the federal sentence and will let them serve the sentences concurrently.
Kueng and Thao can still appeal their federal convictions. If they plead guilty in state court, any federal appeal would be moot, said Mike Brandt, a criminal defense attorney who has been following the case. But it’s also hard to win a federal appeal, he said.
“Those are some of the calculuses they are going to have to make in terms of, `Do I go to trial and risk something worse? Do I think I have a good shot at appeal on the federal case?'” Brandt said.
Kueng, who is Black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, likely will remain free on bond after Wednesday’s sentencing and be allowed to self-report to prison, especially since they have a pending trial and will need to be in contact with their attorneys and be present for court proceedings.
Lane, who is white, pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing in that case. He was allowed to remain free on bond after his federal sentencing.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in state court and is serving a 22 1/2-year state sentence. His federal and state sentences are being served simultaneously.
Find AP’s full coverage of the killing of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
Associated Press contributed to this report