A former United States police officer has pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in 2020 when a fellow police officer knelt on his neck.
As part of the plea deal announced on Wednesday, Thomas Lane a former Minneapolis police officer will have a count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder dismissed. Lane, along with J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, has already been convicted on federal counts of willfully violating Floyd’s rights during the events that led to Floyd’s death.
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The state is recommending a sentence for Lane of three years — which is below state sentencing guidelines — and has agreed to allow him to serve the time in a federal prison. He has not yet been sentenced in the federal case.
Floyd died May 25, 2020, after another officer, Derek Chauvin, who is white, pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. Lane and Kueng helped to restrain Floyd, who was handcuffed. Lane held down Floyd’s legs and Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back. Thao kept bystanders from intervening during the 9.5-minute restraint.
Thomas Lane has pled guilty to 2nd-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. My thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family. Floyd should still be with us. But I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death.
— Attorney General Keith Ellison (@AGEllison) May 18, 2022
Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, said he was pleased that Lane accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death.
“My thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family,” Ellison said in a tweet. “Floyd should still be with us. But I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death.”
In an earlier statement, he said the move was necessary towards achieving justice.
“His acknowledgement he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation,” Ellison said. “While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”
The plea by Lane, who is white, comes during a week when the country is focused on the deaths of 10 Black people in Buffalo, New York, at the hands of an 18-year-old white man, who carried out the racist, livestreamed shooting Saturday in a supermarket.
Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, said he and Lane would have no comment. Lane was not taken into custody and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered. He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 21 on the state charge.
Lane was convicted along with Kueng and Thao of federal charges in February, after a month-long trial that focused on the officers’ training and the culture of the police department. 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 stop Chauvin during the killing, which was caught on video and sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the globe as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.
Chauvin, pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and faces a federal sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years. Earlier, he was convicted of state charges of murder and manslaughter and sentenced to 22.5 years in the state case.
After their federal conviction, there was a question as to whether the state trial would proceed. At an April hearing in state court, prosecutors revealed that they had offered plea deals to all three men, but they were rejected. At the time, Gray said it was hard for the defence to negotiate when the three still did not know what their federal sentences would be.
Thao’s lawyer, Robert Paule, was in the courtroom for Lane’s plea hearing. When asked if his client would also take a plea deal, he replied “No comment.”
Kueng, who is Black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are scheduled to go to trial in June on the state charges.