The final of the four cops implicated in George Floyd’s murder, a former Minneapolis police officer who kept spectators away from Floyd and another who helped keep Floyd down while he battled to breathe, were both sentenced to many years in prison on Wednesday.
Two ex-officers were punished by a federal court after a jury convicted them earlier this year of violating Mr. Floyd’s rights by failing to offer medical treatment and by failing to interfere while another officer.
In addition to Mr. Thao, who kept a throng away from Mr. Floyd, Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Mr. Kueng and Mr. Thao to three and a half years in jail each. The judge pointed out that Mr. Thao had been on the force since 2008, whereas Mr. Kueng was a newer member of the department.
There were demonstrations against police brutality and racism throughout the nation in the spring and summer of 2020 after the murder of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, and the policemen involved have since been sentenced to jail time.
White 46-year-old Mr. Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter by a state jury last year, and after pleading guilty to federal counts of violating Mr. Floyd’s rights, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
The 39-year-old white cop who helped restrain Mr. Floyd by holding his legs pled guilty to federal counts of violating Mr. Floyd’s rights as well as state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree homicide. Mr. Floyd died as a result of the actions of the other three officers. Mr. Floyd’s death occurred when he was also a rookie officer. He was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in federal court last week, and he will be punished in state court in September.
While he and Kueng have already been convicted of murder and manslaughter by a jury, Mr. Thao remains on state charges for assisting and abetting both. Those allegations will be brought against them in a trial slated for October.
While Mr. Floyd lay face down on the concrete, Mr. Kueng kneed him for many minutes while he pleaded for oxygen and finally lost consciousness. Asked twice if they could roll him onto his side, which would have made it easier for him to breathe, Mr. Lane was rebuffed by Mr. Chauvin and Mr. Floyd. Meanwhile, when onlookers yelled that Floyd was in danger, Mr. Thao stepped behind the police vehicle and told them to go to the street.
The penalties were given out at a federal courtroom in St. Paul by Judge Magnuson, who presided over the federal prosecution against the four policemen involved in Mr. Floyd’s murder, all of whom were dismissed.
The prosecution said at the court that even though Mr. Kueng had not meant for Mr. Floyd to die, he deserved a “severe sentence” since he had not attempted to save him after he lost consciousness. An even 9-year-old girl standing close knew that Mr. Floyd was in pain and that Mr. Thao should have as well, the prosecution claimed before handing down a punishment.
When Mr. Thao addressed the court, he read from the Bible, claiming that the evidence against him had been “corrupted”. At his sentence, Mr. Kueng remained silent.
There were much fewer sentences handed down by Judge Magnuson compared to the ones asked by federal prosecutors. Prosecutors had requested that Mr. Lane be imprisoned for six and a half years, and Mr. Kueng and Mr. Thao be imprisoned for “much longer,” but less than 20 years.
One of Mr. Floyd’s brothers and a nephew spoke out at Mr. Lane’s sentencing hearing last week and said they were disappointed and disrespected when the court did not put the maximum punishment on him. Neither Mr. Kueng nor Mr. Thao’s relatives spoke at their Wednesday hearings, but a distant relative of Mr. Floyd had begged the court to give them the maximum term.
As he had done with Mr. Lane, Judge Magnuson ordered Mr. Kueng and Mr. Thao to report to jail in October.
When a clerk at a convenience shop contacted 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 money to purchase cigarettes on May 25, 2020, the four Minneapolis police officers arrived to a South Minneapolis street corner. When they came and attempted to put Mr. Floyd in the back of a police cruiser, he fought with them, claiming he was claustrophobic and had difficulty breathing..
Video of Mr. Floyd struggling for air as policemen restrained him was captured by a nearby teenager and went viral, sparking worldwide rallies against police brutality and racial injustice.