Third officer involved in George Floyd’s death pleads guilty; the last stands trial

Photo by Henry Pan Former MPD officers J. Alexander Kueng (foreground) and Thomas Lane walk outside of the courthouse as protesters and photojournalists surround them.

Three down, one to go

The state trial of one of the officers involved in killing George Floyd began this week as another officer involved accepted a plea deal. 

According to MPR News, former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Kueng agreed to a plea deal where he admitted to aiding and abetting the second-degree manslaughter of Floyd. As part of the agreement, prosecutors will dismiss the murder charge. He will also face no more than 42 months in state prison. 

“J. Alexander Kueng is now the [third] officer involved in Floyd’s death to accept responsibility through a guilty plea,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison in a statement. “That acknowledgment hopefully can bring comfort to Floyd’s family and bring our communities closer to a new era of accountability and justice.” 

Kueng will be sentenced in a virtual hearing on December 9 at 8:30 am. Thao and his attorneys requested a bench trial, which would not involve a jury, on the aiding and abetting manslaughter charge. 

Attorneys on both sides are to get closing arguments to Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over the case, by the end of the week, with evidence to court by November 17. Thao will waive his right to testify and to cross-examine witnesses.

Judge Peter Cahill will then have 90 days to evaluate the evidence and decide on a verdict. If he convicts Thao, the attorney general will withdraw the aiding and abetting murder charge and not seek an upward departure sentence. Thao would then face around 48 months in prison. 

“We look forward to a swift resolution of Tou Thao’s stipulated bench trial,” said Ellison in a statement. 

MPR also reports Thao requested to serve his time in Hennepin County, with the understanding that he will most likely be in solitary confinement. 

Both Thao and Kueng are also serving federal sentences for violating Floyd’s civil rights. Thao is assigned to a minimum-security prison in Lexington, Kentucky, while Kueng is assigned to a minimum-security prison in Elkton, Ohio, 42 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. 

“We must never forget the horror of what we all saw in that 9-minute video, and that there rightfully should be both accountability for all involved as well as deep lessons learned for police officers and communities everywhere,” said Floyd’s legal team in a statement.

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