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J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao: Two ex-officers who restrained George Floyd sentenced to 3 years and 3.5 years in federal prison

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Kueng, who held Floyd’s torso, and Thao, who stopped a group of bystanders, were each convicted in February for violating Floyd’s civil rights and for failing to stop their colleague Derek Chauvin during the arrest.

With the verdicts, all four officers who helped subdue Floyd in May 2020 have now been sentenced to prison.

Thomas Lane, who was holding Floyd’s legs, was convicted on one federal charge and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison last week, as Judge Paul A. Magnuson cited Lane’s “minimal role” in the incident. Chauvin, the chief aggressor, pleaded guilty to Floyd’s civil rights violations and to an unrelated civil rights violation and was sentenced to 21 years in prison to be served concurrently with his 22.5 years in prison on charges of state murder.

Federal prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Kueng, 28, and Thao, 36, to “significantly more” time than the range that applies to Lane, but less time than Chauvin’s sentence. Thao’s defense team asked for a 2-year sentence, while Kueng’s defense team submitted its recommendation under seal.

Kueng declined to make a statement in court. However, Thao made a lengthy statement in court, citing numerous Bible verses and describing how he was “born again” after being in prison.

Courteney Ross, Floyd’s girlfriend, addressed both former officers in court.

“I’ll never forget you spoke to the audience when you said, ‘This is why you don’t do drugs,'” she told Thao. “No one deserves to be treated as less. Floyd didn’t treat others that way.”

Both Kueng and Thao will also be ordered to pay a special charge of $200 and will be released under supervision for 2 years after serving their prison terms.

On Wednesday, the judge in court said Kueng was a new officer deferring the authority of a “much senior officer”. Magnuson wrote in a lawsuit last week that Kueng and Thao “each made a tragic misdiagnosis in their assessment” of Floyd.

“The evidence showed that Kueng genuinely believed Mr. Floyd was suffering from excited delirium with a drug overdose, and Thao sincerely believed the agents were dealing with a drug overdose with potentially excited delirium,” he wrote.

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement that all four officers involved in Floyd’s death had been held responsible.

“The federal prosecution of all officers involved in George Floyd’s death should send a clear and strong message that the Justice Department will never tolerate the unlawful abuse of power or victimization of Americans by anyone in law enforcement,” she said.

How did we get here?

The conviction comes more than two years after Lane, Thao and Kueng were fired and arrested for their actions – or lack thereof – in May 2020 when Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck and back of Floyd, who was handcuffed and on his stomach, for more than nine minutes.

Poignant video of the incident and Floyd’s ignored pleas for help were widely circulated, launching an international protest movement against police brutality and anti-black violence.

At their federal trial in February, Lane, Kueng and Thao each testified in their own defense and emphasized Chauvin’s role in taking over the situation.

Kueng told the jurors that he was deferring to Chauvin about what to do during the arrest, because Chauvin was the most senior officer on the scene with more than 15 years of experience.

Thao told the court that he assumed the other officers on the scene were “looking after Floyd,” and that his role shifted to crowd and traffic control. When prosecutors asked Thao during the cross-examination why he didn’t tell Chauvin to get off Floyd’s neck, he said, “I think I’d trust a 19-year-old veteran to find out.”

In addition, Gij and Kueng face a state case in October on charges of complicity in second-degree accidental murder and complicity in second-degree manslaughter. They have pleaded not guilty.
Last month, Lane pleaded guilty in state court to complicity in second-degree manslaughter. As part of a plea, prosecutors and the defense agreed to jointly recommend a 3-year sentence to be served concurrently with his federal sentence in a federal institution, according to the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison .

Brad Parks of CNN contributed to this report.

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