MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge to sentence one of four former Minneapolis police officers convicted of civil rights violations in the killing of George Floyd to up to 6 and a half years in prison, but to impose much harsher but unspecified penalties on two others.
They urged U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson to follow non-binding federal sentencing guidelines for former officer Thomas Lane and impose a sentence of between 5 1/4 and 6 1/2 years in prison .
Prosecutors also said former officer J. Alexander Kueng deserved a “significantly higher” sentence than Lane’s, but less than the 20 to 25 years Derek Chauvin is expected to receive. And they said they would seek a sentence “comparable” to Kueng’s for former officer Tou Thao.
Lane and Kueng both helped restrain Floyd on the night in May 2020 when Chauvin, who is white, killed Floyd, a black man, by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes despite Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Thao helped hold off a crowd of worried passers-by.
The killing sparked immediate protests in Minneapolis that have spread across the United States and beyond amid a toll of police brutality and discrimination against people of color.
Chauvin reached a plea deal in December that provides for a 20-25 year sentence. Prosecutors are asking him for 25 years. Thao, Kueng and Lane were tried and convicted on federal civil rights charges in February. Lane is white, Kueng is African American, and Thao is Asian American.
Prosecutors said in a sentencing note for Kueng that “several factors weigh heavily in favor of a long prison term” for him.
They cited Kueng’s “abuse of state power”, his “lack of acceptance of responsibility, including his (sometimes obstructive and incredible) testimony at trial”, the need to deter other officers from remaining there when colleagues abuse arrestees who do not resist, and the need for consistency with other cases of officers accused of failing to intervene to protect an arrestee from abuse.
Prosecutors noted that it was established at trial that Kueng “took a helpful firefighter away from Mr. Floyd and brushed off questions from Lane about whether Mr. Floyd should be rolled over to his side. He personally assessed that Mr. Floyd had no pulse, then did nothing about it.
And they said some of Kueng’s testimony “directly and blatantly conflicted with other compelling evidence presented at trial” in a way that amounted to perjury, particularly with respect to whether Kueng knew. that Floyd “had a serious medical need”.
Prosecutors said they would outline different reasons for a similar sentence for Thao in a separate memo that was not filed Wednesday night.
In a sentencing memo for Lane, prosecutors said a sentence within the range of federal guidelines would be appropriate, but no less than the defense requests. They said Lane’s failure to provide help that could have saved Floyd had “serious consequences” for Floyd and the wider community.
Lawyers for Lane and Thao have yet to file sentencing recommendations. A filing outlining what Kueng is asking for was not available to the public Wednesday, but his attorney filed another document Wednesday saying he would seek a sentence below the guidelines range.
Magnuson did not set sentencing dates for the four former officers. The federal civil rights cases were separate from the murder and manslaughter charges against them.
Chauvin was convicted in state court last year of second-degree murder and sentenced to 22½ years. Lane accepted a plea deal in May on an accessory to second-degree manslaughter charge and is awaiting sentencing on that count. Thao and Kueng, who declined plea bargains earlier, are set to stand trial on October 24 for aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
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