ST. Paul, Minn. – A federal judge sentenced the two officers who had been convicted for violating George Floyd’s civil rights to a lighter term than was recommended by sentencing guidelines. He called one “truly an rookie officer” while describing the second as “a great police officer, father and husband ______
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced J. Alexander Kueng to three years in prison and Tou Thao to 3.5 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 man eventually grew still.
Kueng pinched Floyd’s back. Thao pulled back worried bystanders and Floyd was held at his feet by Thomas Lane (a fourth officer). Lane was sentenced last week to two years while Chauvin was sentenced earlier to 21 years. Floyd’s immediate relatives were not present at Wednesday’s hearings and did not comment afterwards.
Floyd was accompanied by Courteney Ross. She made statements during both men’s sentencing hearings. Afterward, she expressed disappointment with Thao and his sentence. The sentence “didn’t seem to correspond to the crime to my eyes.” She said that she was asking for maximum sentences.
The sentences that Kueng and Thao received are lower than expected and raise concerns about their willingness to plead guilty or face a trial in state court on October 24,, when they will be charged with aiding and abiding second-degree murder. Lane has pleaded guilty in state court to aiding and abeting second-degree murder and awaits sentencing.
Federal sentencing guidelines -which judges don’t have to follow – recommend 4 1/4 to 5 1/4 and 5 1/2 years respectively for Kueng, and 5 1/4–6 1/2 years for Thao. Prosecutors argued for sentences that were higher for both men. Manda Sertich, the prosecutor for both men, argued Kueng didn’t speak a word as Floyd died. LeeAnn Bell, the Prosecutor of Manda Sertich, stated that Thao was able to see Floyd’s situation from a bird’s eye view and that he had years on the force. This meant that he knew better.
The federal government filed civil rights charges against the four officers in May 2021,, a month following Chauvin’s conviction for murder and manslaughter at a state court.
Magnuson stated that there was no doubt that Kueng had violated Floyd’s rights, failing to remove him from Floyd when he became inresponsive. He also spoke out about the “incredible number” of letters he received from officers who supported Kueng.
” You were a true rookie officer,” Magnuson said to Kueng.
At his subsequent hearing, Thao spoke for more than 20 minutes, frequently quoting from the Bible as he said his arrest and time in jail led him to turn toward God, but did not directly address his actions or offer any words to Floyd’s family. Thao, like Lane and Kueng, remains free on bond but was held several weeks after being arrested on state charges.
Magnuson acknowledged the letters of support for the former officer again, one with 744 signatures and cited Thao’s “completely clear record .”
“You have had a hard childhood, but you’ve done well to be a father, husband, and police officer.” The judge stated.
Both men will report to federal prison Oct. 4. Magnuson said that this could change due to their state trials. Magnuson stated that he recommends they serve their sentences at the minimum security federal facilities in Duluth and Yankton (South Dakota) to be close to family. The Bureau of Prisons will make the final call.
Chauvin was the most senior officer at the scene and was sentenced to a 22.5-year state sentence that he’s serving concurrently with his federal sentence. Since his murder conviction, he has been in isolation in Oak Park Heights’ maximum security state prison. He will be eventually transferred to federal prison.