ST Ball, Min. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced two former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating George Floyd’s civil rights. The terms were lighter than those recommended in the sentencing guidelines, describing one as “really a rookie officer” and the other as “a good police officer, father and husband.”
On May 25, 2020, J. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Alexander Kueng to three years in prison and Du Tao to 3½ years in prison after Officer Derek Chauvin kneed Floyd in the neck more than nine times. Minutes as a 46-year-old black man He said he couldn’t breathe and eventually became motionless. The killing, captured on bystander video, sparked worldwide protests and accounts of racial injustice.
Kueng grabbed Floyd’s back, Tao restrained worried onlookers, and fourth officer Thomas Lane grabbed Floyd’s legs. Lane was sentenced last week Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years at the same time — below the guidelines and a sentence that Floyd’s brother Filonis called “insulting” — to two years. Floyd’s immediate family members did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in person or comment afterward.
Floyd’s girlfriend, Courtney Ross, made statements at both men’s sentencing hearings and later said she was disappointed by Tao’s sentence. That “didn’t really fit the crime to me. I asked for the maximum sentence,” she said.
The lesser sentences for Quyeng, who is black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, will determine whether they will consider a plea deal or Oct. They are raising questions about whether they will risk a state court hearing on the 24th. While they face counts of second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Lane, who is white, pleaded guilty to a state charge of accessory to second-degree manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing in that case.
Federal sentencing guidelines — which judges are not required to follow — recommend 4¼ to 5¼ years for Quang and 5 ¼ to 6 ½ years for Thao. Prosecutors argued for a much higher sentence for both men. Prosecutor Manda Serdich argued that Nguyen “didn’t say a word” while Floyd was dying. Prosecutor LeAnn Bell said Thao had “a bird’s-eye view of what was going on” with Floyd and had had “many years,” meaning he should have known better.
In May 2021, the federal government brought civil rights charges against all four officers, a month after Savin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court. They were seen as confirming the Department of Justice’s priorities for addressing racial disparities in policing. A promise made by President Joe Biden before his election. They came a week after federal prosecutors charged him with hate crimes in the slaying of 25-year-old Ahmed Arberry in Georgia. and announced intensive police investigations in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky.
Magnuson said there’s no doubt that Nguyen violated Floyd’s rights when he didn’t respond. But he noted an “incredible number” of letters from other officials supporting Quang.
“You really are a new officer,” Magnusson told Kweng.
At his subsequent hearing, Tao spoke for more than 20 minutes, often quoting from the Bible, saying that his arrest and time in prison turned him back to God, but did not directly address his actions or say a word to Floyd’s family. Thao — like Lane and Kueng — remains free on bail but spent several weeks in jail after being arrested on state charges in 2020.
Magnuson again acknowledged the letters of support for the former official, which contained 744 signatures, and what he called Tao’s “complete record.”
“You had a difficult childhood and you have done well to become a good police officer, father and husband,” the judge said.
Negima Levi Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and activist, said the sentences were “particularly lenient.”
“This small sentence sends a signal to other law enforcement officers that they can get a slap on the wrist if they violate people’s rights and engage in extreme abuse against defenseless people,” he said.
But Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and a former federal prosecutor, called the sentences “groundbreaking” and noted that officers are rarely held accountable for murders they did not directly commit.
“We believe that the impact of changing behavior and motivating them to intervene when it comes to saving a life,” he said.
Osler said Kueng and Thao may seek a plea deal on the state charges that do not violate the federal sentence, allowing them to serve the sentences concurrently.
Both are scheduled to report to federal prison On October 4, Magnuson indicated that they might change because of the state investigation. Magnuson said he would recommend that they be allowed to stay near family in minimum-security federal facilities in Duluth or Yankton, South Dakota. The final decision rests with the Bureau of Prisons.
Chauvin, who is white, was the most senior officer at the scene and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in state prison terms, which he will serve concurrently with his federal sentence. He has been held in solitary confinement at the state’s maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights for his own protection since the murder, and will eventually be transferred to a federal prison.
Associated Press/Report for America reporter Trisha Ahmed contributed.
AP’s full coverage of George Floyd’s murder can be found here: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
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