Two former US officers jailed for violating George Floyd’s civil rights

Two Former Us Officers Jailed For Violating George Floyd’s Civil Rights
George Floyd Officers Civil Rights, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Amy Forliti, Associated Press

Two former Minneapolis police officers who were convicted of violating George Floyd’s civil rights during his May 2020 killing have been sentenced to jail.

J Alexander Kueng was sentenced to three years and Tou Thao got three-and-a-half years, which a judge said reflected their level of culpability in a case that sparked worldwide protests as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.


They were convicted in February of two counts of violating Mr Floyd’s civil rights. The jury found they deprived the 46-year-old black man of medical care and failed to stop Derek Chauvin as he knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck for nine-and-a-half minutes.

As Chauvin pinned Mr Floyd’s neck, Kueng held his back, officer Thomas Lane held his feet and Thao kept bystanders back during the killing, which was recorded by witnesses.

From left, J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao
From left, J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)


The federal government brought the civil rights charges against all four officers in May 2021, a month after Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court.

They were seen as an affirmation of the Justice Department’s priorities to address racial inequities in policing, a promise made by President Joe Biden before his election.

They came just a week after federal prosecutors brought hate crimes charges in the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and announced two sweeping probes into policing in two states.

Chauvin, who pleaded guilty last year to violating Floyd’s civil rights and the civil rights of a teenager in an unrelated case, was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison.


Lane, who twice asked if Mr Floyd should be rolled on to his side so he could breathe, was convicted of one count and was sentenced last week to two-and-a-half years — a sentence Mr Floyd’s brother Philonise called “insulting”.

US District Judge Paul Magnuson said there was no question that Kueng violated Mr Floyd’s rights by failing to get off him when he became unresponsive. But he also held up what he called “an incredible number” of letters supporting Kueng that he said came from other officers.

“You were truly a rookie officer,” Judge Magnuson told Kueng.

Thao was sentenced at a subsequent hearing, where he spoke for more than 20 minutes, frequently quoting scripture 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 the Floyd family.


Thao — like Lane and Kueng — remains free on bond but spent several weeks in jail after his 2020 arrest on state charges. The pair face a state court trial on October 24 accused of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Judge Magnuson again held letters supporting Thao, including one that he said had 744 signatures, and cited what he called Thao’s “completely clean record”.

“You had a difficult childhood and have done well to become a good police officer, father and husband,” the judge said.

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