Ex-cops sentenced for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, aiding Derek Chauvin

Ex-Minneapolis cops Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are sentenced to three years in prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights

  •  Former officer Alexander Kueng, 28, was sentenced to three years behind bars after helping hold down George Floyd
  •  Ex-cop Tou Thao, 35, stood watch during the killing of the 46-year-old black man – he was sentenced to three and a half years
  •  Floyd’s cousin called for both men to get the maximum sentence of up to 6 years
  •  Federal Judge Paul Magnuson said that Kueng, who pinned down George Floyd’s legs, was just a rookie cop
  • The judge called Thao a ‘good police officer, father and husband’

Two former Minneapolis police officers convicted of violating George Floyd‘s civil rights were sentenced Wednesday afternoon to less than the maximum penalty allowed.

Minnesota federal Judge Paul Magnuson gave former officer J. Alexander Kueng, 28, three years behind bars, and ex-cop Tou Thao, 35, three and a half years. 

The former officers were convicted of helping then-Officer Derek Chauvin as he held down Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes in May of 2020, killing the 46-year-old Black man.

The death of the unarmed man, who was accused of passing counterfeit money at a local deli, sparked massive protests and looting across the country and a call for top-to-bottom reforms of the criminal justice system. Video of the murder was circulated widely on TV news and social media.

Tou Thao, left, and Alexander Kueng, rigt, were sentenced to less than the maximum penalty allowed on Wednesday

Tou Thao, left, and Alexander Kueng, rigt, were sentenced to less than the maximum penalty allowed on Wednesday

Tou Thao, 35, a nine-year veteran of the Minneapolis police department, stood watch as ex-officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd

Tou Thao, 35, a nine-year veteran of the Minneapolis police department, stood watch as ex-officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd

Ex-officer Alexander Kueng was a rookie officer when he helped pin down George Floyd's legs

Ex-officer Alexander Kueng was a rookie officer when he helped pin down George Floyd’s legs

Kueng pinned down Floyd’s legs and Thao held back a crowd of bystanders who gathered to watch and protest the officers’ use of force.

A fourth officer, Thomas Lane, had only been on the job a few days when the incident occurred, held Floyd’s feet. He was sentenced last week to two and half years, a sentence that the dead man’s brother called ‘insulting.’ 

The lower sentences for Kueng, who is black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, raise questions about whether they would consider a plea deal or risk a state court trial on Oct. 24, when they face counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

‘You were truly a rookie officer,’ Magnuson told Kueng at the federal hearing.

Thomas Lane had only been on the job a few days when the incident with Floyd occurred

Thomas Lane had only been on the job a few days when the incident with Floyd occurred

George Floyd's brother was upset former officer Lane didn't receive a lengthier sentence

George Floyd’s brother was upset former officer Lane didn’t receive a lengthier sentence

But federal prosecutors argued that the officer should have known better and called for him to spend up to five and a quarter years in prison.

Kueng ‘didn’t say a word’ as Floyd told officers that he couldn’t breath.

The judge cited ‘an incredible number’ of support letters to Kueng in issuing his sentence.

Floyd’s girlfriend, Courtney Ross, gave a victim impact statement during the hearing, offering words of reconciliation to the former cop.

‘This sentence will not define you,’ she said in court and told him to ‘define your purpose,’ ABC News reported. ‘This does not mean you cannot find your footing to stand up for what’s right in the future.’

Bodycam footage from May 2020 shows George Floyd being arrested

Bodycam footage from May 2020 shows George Floyd being arrested

Chauvin, now 46, knelt on the neck of George Floyd for over nine minutes as he lay dying on the street in May 2020

Chauvin, now 46, knelt on the neck of George Floyd for over nine minutes as he lay dying on the street in May 2020

Floyd’s cousin, Sabrina Montgomery, was less empathetic and called for the maximum sentence.

‘All of these men deserve to serve longer sentences,’ she said, according to news station KSTP. ‘The system these officers operated in is flawed, but again, where is their humanity?’

Kueng did not speak, but his lawyer called him ‘a nice young man that attempted to help the community by taking on a difficult role … and now he’s being sentenced for that,’ according to the station.

Chauvin is already serving 22.5 years of his state sentencing, which was handed down in June

 Chauvin is already serving 22.5 years of his state sentencing, which was handed down in June

Thao was sentenced in a separate hearing. 

He stood watch as the other three men subdued Floyd, but had ‘a bird’s-eye view of what was going on’ and had the experience — 9 years on the force — to know how to stop Chauvin, prosecutor LeeAnn Bell said.

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

Thao spoke for 20 minutes at his sentencing, telling the court that his arrest and subsequent jail time had inspired him to turn toward God.

He did not address the Floyd family or talk about the crime. 

Chauvin will be transferred from a state prison, where he is currently incarcerated, to a federal prison, which is considered by many to be a far safer and less restrictive place to serve time

Chauvin will be transferred from a state prison, where he is currently incarcerated, to a federal prison, which is considered by many to be a far safer and less restrictive place to serve time

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. 

The civil rights charges 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. 

Thao and Kueng are due to report to federal prison on Oct. 4, though Magnuson noted that could change because of their state trial. 

Magnuson said he would recommend that they be allowed to serve their time at minimum-security federal facilities in Duluth or in Yankton, South Dakota, so they could be near family. 

The final decision is up to the Bureau of Prisons.

Chauvin, who is white, was the most senior officer at the scene and was sentenced to a 22 1/2-year state sentence that he’s serving concurrently with his federal sentence. 

He’s been held in solitary confinement in the state’s maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights for his own safety and will eventually be transferred to federal prison.

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