Ex-Minneapolis cops J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao sentenced in killing of George Floyd

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A judge on Wednesday sentenced former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao to 3 years and 3 1/2 years in prison respectively for violating George Floyd’s civil rights in May 2020, causing the 46-year-old’s death.

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Kueng and Thao are two of four former officers who were indicted by a federal grand jury last year to face allegations that they violated Floyd’s civil rights.

Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty in December to using excessive force when he pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while detaining him on May 25, 2020. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Chauvin to 21 years in prison. In February, jurors convicted Kueng, alongside Thao and Thomas Lane, of violating Floyd’s rights by denying him medical care. Magnuson last week sentenced Lane to serve 2 1/2 years in prison.

Prosecutors had asked that Kueng and Thao receive sentences less than Chauvin’s and “significantly more” than the maximum 6 1/2-year sentence that they requested for Lane. They pointed to a “lack of acceptance of responsibility” by both officers and the need “to promote respect for the law and (to) deter other police officers from standing by as their fellow officers” commit crimes, among other reasons for their sentencing requests, court records show.

Last week, Magnuson signaled that he would likely impose sentences below those requested by prosecutors when he sided in part with defense attorneys in a dispute over the sentencing range to be applied in the cases, the Star Tribune reported. Court records show Magnuson agreed that the former officers should be sentenced based on the guidelines for involuntary manslaughter and not second-degree murder, an offense considered to be much more serious under federal guidelines.

“Defendants Kueng and Thao each made a tragic misdiagnosis in their assessment of Mr. Floyd,” Magnuson wrote in a memorandum and order filed Friday. “The evidence showed that Kueng genuinely thought that Mr. Floyd was suffering from excited delirium with a drug overdose, and Thao genuinely believed that the officers were dealing with a drug overdose with possible excited delirium.”

Police detained Floyd on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill outside a convenience store in Minneapolis. In video of the encounter, Chauvin could be seen holding his knee to Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old struggled to breathe and called for his mother. Kueng and Lane helped to restrain Floyd, while Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening, according to evidence presented in state court.

Floyd was pronounced dead after the incident. Last year, a Minnesota jury convicted Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for Floyd’s death. Chauvin was subsequently sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.

Video of Floyd’s death went viral after being posted on social media, sparking global outrage and a national reckoning over racism and police brutality that spawned protests across the country.

Kueng and Thao are set to face a jury in October on state charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 killing of Floyd, according to The Associated Press. In September, Lane is scheduled to appear at a sentencing hearing in state court after he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter in Floyd’s death, the AP reported.