2 EX-Minneapolis Officers Sentenced To Federal Prison; 3.5 years For Thao, 3 Years For Kueng

Two more former Minneapolis police officers who violated George Floyd’s civil rights were given their sentences on Wednesday in federal court.

J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were sentenced to three years (36 months) and three and a half years (42 months), respectively, in separate proceedings held about an hour apart in St. Paul. After completing their federal prison terms, they will be subject to two years of supervised release.

This past February, both were found guilty of breaching Floyd’s rights and deliberately failing to try to stop former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin from using undue force on Floyd.

2 EX-Minneapolis Officers Sentenced To Federal Prison; 3.5 years For Thao, 3 Years For Kueng
2 EX-Minneapolis Officers Sentenced To Federal Prison; 3.5 years For Thao, 3 Years For Kueng

Thomas Lane, the other ex-officer involved, was sentenced to two years and a half (thirty months) last week for violating Floyd’s civil rights. Earlier this month, Chauvin was given a sentence of almost 20 years (245 months) in prison for violating Floyd’s civil rights.

The sentencings close the federal prosecutions against the ex-officers, however, Kueng and Thao still face charges in state court, with trials scheduled for October. Lane accepted a plea bargain on the state charges and will be sentenced in September.

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Ross said, “Right now, I’m really disappointed,” after court on Wednesday concluded. “I’m disappointed, but I think we have to take all these modest little wins and continue forward,” she said.

Ross also appeared in court before each cop was sentenced, delivering some words of support to Kueng β€” as she did Lane before his sentencing.β€œThis does not mean you cannot find your footing to speak out for what’s right in the future,” Ross said to Kueng before he was sentenced.

She told him his sentence won’t define him but rather his choices moving forward will, and advised him to β€œfind your purpose. She adopted a significantly different tone toward Thao.β€œMr. Thao, while you observed my boyfriend being suffocated under the knee of your co-officer, I will never forget you stating to the crowd, β€˜This is why you don’t do drugs,’” Ross stated in court.

Whenever she heard Thao express that Floyd was “just so afraid,” she said her heart would break a little. She then told Thao that she hoped he would remember how Floyd felt for him when he was locked away. When she was done, she told Thao, “This is why you don’t violate a person’s civil rights,” and asked Judge Paul Magnuson to give Thao the highest sentence possible.

Sabrina Montgomery, Floyd’s second cousin once removed, addressed before each sentencing and urged Magnuson to impose the maximum penalty. Thao spent over 20 minutes in court quoting Bible verses and testifying that he had converted to God following his imprisonment, but Kueng remained silent. Unfortunately for him, Floyd’s loved ones were not amused by his choice of Bible scriptures, nor by his refusal to apologize or take responsibility.

Ross later claimed, “I think Mr. Thao was just attempting to please the court,” and that some of the verses Thao referenced “almost felt threatening.” It appears from what Thao said that he will not be entering a guilty plea to the state counts he faces in October.

The prosecution argued for harsher punishments by emphasizing the defendants’ testimony that they were aware of their obligation to intervene but chose not to do so.

Mr. Kueng “knew the reaction was inappropriate and he participated in it regardless,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich told Magnuson in court.

“Untrained persons, many of whom were not even 18 years old,” Assistant U.S. Attorney LeeAnn Bell said of Thao, “saw the disproportionate force.” Thao’s experience, as well as the fact that he rejected and ignored onlookers who offered to help Floyd, were highlighted by prosecutors as justifications for a harsher punishment.

Meanwhile, in court, the ex-officer’s lawyers argued for reduced sentences due to their clients’ exemplary character and track records. According to King’s attorney, “He’s a good young man that attempted to help the society by taking on a difficult task… and now he’s being sentenced for that,” Kueng.

Thao is “a fine individual who was just trying to do his job,” according to Robert Paule, Thao’s attorney. Magnuson decided on a sentence somewhere between that of Lane and Chauvin, yet still below the maximum allowed by law.

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