MINNEAPOLIS — A judge on Thursday sentenced former Minneapolis police Officer Thomas Lane to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the 46-year-old’s death in May 2020.
While issuing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson noted that he had received 145 letters written in support of Lane, the most he said he had ever received on behalf of a defendant, The Associated Press reported. Still, he noted that Lane committed “a very serious offense, in which a life was lost,” according to the AP.
“The fact that you did not get up and remove Mr. Chauvin when Mr. Floyd became unconscious is a violation of the law,” he said.
The sentence came five months after a federal jury convicted Lane and two other former Minneapolis police officers of violating Floyd’s civil rights by denying him medical care when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes on a Minneapolis street on May 25, 2020. Jurors also convicted Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
Prosecutors had asked that Lane receive a sentence between about 5 and 6 and a half years for his role in Floyd’s death. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, argued that his client had legally restrained Floyd during the May 2020 encounter and that he played a mitigating role in the incident, court records show. Gray also emphasized that Lane accepted responsibility for his actions.
On Thursday, Magnuson criticized the Minneapolis Police Department for sending Lane, who had been on the force for only four days, to respond to the call on May 25, 2020, with another rookie, the AP reported.
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. Earlier this month he was also sentenced to 21 years in prison for violating Floyd’s civil rights.
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.
Lane also faces a sentencing hearing in state court in September after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter in Floyd’s death, according to the AP.
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