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Two Ex-Minnesota Cops Get Light Sentences in George Floyd Killing

A federal judge sentenced two former Minneapolis police officers who were convicted of violating George Floyd’s civil rights to lighter terms than recommended in sentencing guidelines, calling one “truly a rookie officer” and describing the other as “a good police officer, father and husband," the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced J. Alexander Kueng to three years in prison and Tou Thao to 3½ years for violating Floyd’s rights in the May 25, 2020, killing in which then-officer Derek Chauvin 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, led to protests worldwide and a reckoning of racial injustice. Kueng pinned Floyd’s back, Thao held back concerned bystanders, and a fourth officer, Thomas Lane, held Floyd’s feet. Lane was sentenced last week to two years — also below guidelines and a sentence that Floyd’s brother Philonise called “insulting” — while Chauvin was sentenced earlier to 21 years.


Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, made statements at both men’s sentencing hearings and said afterward that she was disappointed, particularly with Thao’s sentence. It “didn’t really seem to match the crime to me. I was asking for the maximum sentence,” she said. The lower sentences for Kueng, who is Black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, raise questions about whether they would consider a plea deal or risk a state court trial on Oct. 24, when they face counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Lane, who is white, pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing in that case. Federal sentencing guidelines — which judges do not have to follow — recommended 4¼ to 5¼ years for Kueng and 5 ¼ to 6 ½ years for Thao. For both men, prosecutors argued for sentences higher than that. Prosecutor Manda Sertich argued that Kueng “didn’t say a word” as Floyd lay dying. Prosecutor LeeAnn Bell said Thao had “a bird’s-eye view of what was going on” with Floyd, and had “years on the force” that meant he should have known better.