(AP) — Three former Minneapolis police officers went before a federal judge during the last week to be sentenced for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, and for each man, US District Judge Paul Magnuson handed out penalties well below what prosecutors sought and below federal guidelines.
Tou Thao, who held back concerned bystanders as Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, got 3 1/2 years. J. Alexander Kueng, who pinned Floyd’s back, got three. And Thomas Lane, who held Floyd’s feet and asked twice about rolling the black man on his side, got 2 1/2.
For some Floyd family members and activists, the penalties were too small — and a bitter reminder of a justice system they say does not treat all people equally.
“Once again, our judicial system favored people that should be locked up forever,” Floyd’s uncle, Selwyn Jones, said Thursday. The officers, he said, “contributed to the most brutal, heinous killing in most of our lifetimes.”
Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and eventually grew still. The killing, recorded by bystanders, sparked protests worldwide and a reckoning over racial injustice in policing.
Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to a federal count in which he admitted willfully depriving Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, was sentenced to 21 years for that and for an unrelated case involving a 14-year-old boy.
Lane, Thao and Kueng were all convicted of depriving Floyd of medical care; Kueng and Thao were also convicted on a second count of failing to intervene. When issuing sentences in cases that include multiple defendants, judges have to look at each defendant’s level of culpability and issue sentences that are proportional. Legal experts who spoke to The Associated Press did not expect any of them to receive sentences as long as Chauvin’s.