MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s back while another officer knelt on the black man’s neck was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison on Friday.
J. Alexander Kueng pleaded guilty to a state charge of second-degree manslaughter in October. In return, a charge of aiding and abetting murder was dropped. Kueng is already serving a federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights, and the state and federal sentences are being served concurrently.
Kueng appeared at the hearing via video from a federal prison in Ohio. When given the opportunity to appeal to the court, he declined.
With time served credited and different parole policies in the state and federal systems, Kueng will likely serve about 2 1/2 years behind bars in total.
Floyd’s family members had the right to make casualty impact statements, but none did. Family attorney Ben Crump, who has taken on some of the country’s most notorious police killings of black people, said in a statement before the hearing that Kueng’s conviction “brings another piece of justice to the Floyd family.” ”
“As the family faces another Christmas without George, we hope moments like this continue to bring them some measure of peace as we know George’s death was not in vain,” he said.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020 after former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and eventually went limp. The murder, which was videotaped by a bystander, sparked global protests as part of a broader reckoning of racial injustice.
Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back during the restraint. Then-officer Thomas Lane held Floyd’s legs and Tou Thao, also an officer at the time, kept bystanders from intervening. All officers were fired and face state and federal charges.
As part of his plea agreement, Kueng admitted that he held Floyd’s torso, that he knew from experience and training that holding a handcuffed person prone posed a significant risk, and that Floyd’s restraint was inadequate under the circumstances .
Matthew Frank, who led the prosecution for the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, repeatedly said during the hearing that Floyd was a crime victim and that prosecutors were “focused on the officers” who caused his death. He added that the case was not intended to be a broader investigation into policing, but added that he hopes to reiterate that police officers “do not treat those in crisis as non-humans or second-class citizens.” be able”.
“Mr. Kueng wasn’t just a spectator that day. He did less than some of the bystanders tried to help Mr. Floyd,” Frank said.
Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, on Friday blamed the Minneapolis Police Department’s leadership and lack of training for Floyd’s death. He highlighted Kueng’s status as a beginner – he had only been on the job alone for three days – and accused department management of not conducting training to encourage officers to intervene when one of their colleagues gets it wrong.
“On Mr. Kueng’s behalf, I do not seek justice. I demand progress,” he said.
Then-boss Medaria Arradondo fired Kueng and the three other officers the day after Floyd’s killing and later testified at Chauvin’s trial that the officers had no training. The department’s former training chief has also testified that officers acted in a manner inconsistent with department policies.
Kueng’s conviction brings the cases against all former officers a step closer to resolution, although the state case against Thao is still pending.
Thao previously told Judge Peter Cahill that it “would be lying” to plead guilty. In October he agreed to a so-called pre-evidence hearing for accessory to manslaughter. As part of this process, his attorneys and prosecutors develop agreed evidence in his case and submit written closing arguments. Cahill will then decide whether or not Thao is guilty.
If Thao is convicted, the murder charge – which carries a presumptive 12 1/2 years in prison – will be dropped.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of state murder and manslaughter last year and is serving 22 1/2 years at the state trial. He also pleaded guilty to one federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years. He is serving the sentences concurrently at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.
Kueng, Lane and Thao were convicted of federal charges in February: All three were convicted of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care, and Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to intervene to help Chauvin during the murder to stop.
Lane, who is white, is serving his 2 1/2 year federal sentence at a Colorado facility. At the same time, he is serving a three-year state sentence. Kueng, who is black, was sentenced to three years at the federal level; Thao, a Hmong-American, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in federal prison.
Groves reports from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
For more AP coverage of the killing of George Floyd: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd