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Officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s back faces sentencing

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on the back of George Floyd while another officer knelt on the black man’s neck is expected to be sentenced Friday to 3 1/2 years in prison for manslaughter.

J. Alexander Kueng pleaded guilty to a state charge of second-degree manslaughter in October. The plea came the same day jury selection was scheduled to begin at his trial. His guilty plea – along with another officer’s decision to let a judge decide his fate – averted the third long and painful trial for Floyd’s killing.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020 after former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and eventually went limp. The murder, which was videotaped by a bystander, sparked global protests as part of a broader reckoning of racial injustice.

Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back during the restraint. Then-officer Thomas Lane held Floyd’s legs and Tou Thao, also an officer at the time, kept bystanders from intervening. All officers were fired and face state and federal charges.

Kueng, who is already serving a federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights, will appear at Friday’s hearing via video from a low-security federal prison in Ohio. Kueng has the right to make a statement, but it’s unknown if he will.

Floyd’s family members also have the right to make victim impact statements.

As part of his plea agreement, Kueng admitted that he held Floyd’s torso, that he knew from experience and training that holding a handcuffed person prone posed a significant risk, and that Floyd’s restraint was inadequate under the circumstances .

Kueng agreed to a state sentence of 3 1/2 years in prison to be served concurrently with his federal sentence and in federal custody.

Kueng’s conviction will bring the cases against all former officers one step closer to resolution, although the state case against Thao is still pending.

Thao previously told Judge Peter Cahill that it “would be lying” to plead guilty. In October, he agreed to what is known as a pre-evidence test of accessory to manslaughter. As part of this process, his attorneys and prosecutors develop agreed evidence in his case and submit written closing arguments. Cahill will then decide if he is guilty or not.

If Thao is convicted, the murder charge – which carries a presumptive 12 1/2 years in prison – will be dropped.

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of state murder and manslaughter last year and is serving ​​22 1/2 years at the state trial. He also pleaded guilty to one federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years. He is serving the sentences concurrently at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.

Kueng, Lane and Thao were convicted of federal charges in February: 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 help Chauvin during the to stop murder.

Lane, who is white, is serving his 2 1/2 year federal sentence at a Colorado facility. At the same time, he is serving a three-year state sentence. Kueng, who is black, was sentenced to three years at the federal level; Thao, a Hmong-American, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in federal prison.


Groves reports from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


For more AP coverage of the killing of George Floyd: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd


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