Former Officer Lane Sentenced to 3 Years for Aiding George Floyd’s Death

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
September 21USshare
Former Officer Lane Sentenced to 3 Years for Aiding George Floyd’s Death
Former Minneapolis Police Officer Thomas Lane speaks from Littleton, Colo., on Sept. 21, 2022, in an image from video. (Minnesota Attorney General's Office via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS—A former Minneapolis police officer who pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd was sentenced Wednesday to three years.

Lane, 39, was one of four officers involved in the deadly arrest of Floyd on May 25, 2020, outside a Minneapolis grocery store where he was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

Floyd, 46, died after Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on Floyd’s neck. Lane held down Floyd’s legs, J. Alexander Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, and Tou Thao kept bystanders from intervening during the 9.5-minute restraint.

George Floyd Officers Civil Rights
(L–R) Former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Lane is already serving a 2.5-year federal sentence after being convicted this year of violating Floyd’s civil rights, and he appeared at Wednesday’s hearing via video from the low-security federal prison camp in Littleton, Colorado.

As part of his plea agreement in the state case, prosecutors dropped a more serious count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder. They also said they would seek a sentence of three years and that he could serve it at the same time as the federal one, and in federal custody. That state sentence is below the sentencing guidelines that range between 41 and 57 months.

Prosecutor Matt Frank said Wednesday that a lower sentence was appropriate because Lane played a “somewhat less culpable role” in Floyd’s death, adding, “there were moments when Mr. Lane tried to change what was going on that day.”

Lane had tried to deescalate the situation and had suggested that the restraint of Floyd could be handled differently, Frank said. Evidence from other trials and court documents shows that Lane twice asked if Floyd should be rolled onto his side to ensure he could breathe. Still, Frank said, these steps “do not relieve him of all responsibility.”

When Lane pleaded guilty in May, he admitted that he intentionally helped restrain Floyd in a way that he knew created an unreasonable risk and caused his death. He admitted that he heard Floyd say he couldn’t breathe, knew Floyd fell silent, had no pulse, and appeared to have lost consciousness.

In accepting the plea deal on Wednesday, Judge Peter Cahill told Lane, “I think it was a very wise decision for you to accept responsibility and move on with your life.” Cahill also acknowledged that the Floyd family has not been able to move on with theirs.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill speaks while sentencing former Minneapolis Police Officer Thomas Lane in Minneapolis on Sept. 21, 2022, in a still from video. (Minnesota Attorney General’s Office via AP)

Floyd’s family said in a statement to the court, which was read by Frank, that the pain of Floyd’s death will never go away.

“Me and my family would love to move on, but there’s just not a lot of accountability,” the statement said, adding: “We will always show up for George Floyd, but never move on.”

With the state and federal sentences being served at the same time, Lane is likely to spend a total of roughly two years behind bars.

Under Minnesota rules, it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds of the penalty in prison, which is two years for Lane, minus credit for time served. If he gets credit for good behavior on his federal sentence, he’ll likely end up serving just over two years in custody for that conviction. He reported to the federal prison in Colorado on Aug. 30.

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and was given a 22.5-year state sentence in 2021—a sentence that went above the state guidelines. He also pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years on the federal charge. He is serving the sentences concurrently at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.

Kueng and Thao were also convicted on federal civil rights charges and were sentenced to three and 3.5 years respectively. They are scheduled to go to trial on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in October.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Comments