George Floyd’s family members angered by ex-cop’s 2 1/2-year sentence

ST. PAUL, Minn. –

Relatives of George Floyd say they are angered by a federal judge’s sentence Thursday of 2 1/2 years for a former Minneapolis police officer convicted of a civil rights violation in Floyd’s killing.

US District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Thomas Lane to well under 5 1/4 years, which was the bottom of a range required in sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors had asked Magnuson to sentence Lane to up to 6 1/2 years. They argued that Lane, who is white, had the opportunity to stop the restraint that killed Floyd, who was black, but chose not to.

Philonise Floyd, one of Floyd’s brothers, called it “insulting that he didn’t get the maximum amount of time.” He called Lane “an accessory to murder” and said he believes “the entire criminal system needs to be torn down and rebuilt.”

Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, said he was “angry and fed up.”

Lane’s attorney had argued that he twice asked colleagues if Floyd should turn onto his side as officers held him face down and handcuffed for more than 9 minutes as he said he couldn’t breathe and eventually lay still.

Magnuson blamed the Minneapolis Police Department for sending Lane on a call with another rookie officer. And he said that he had never received more letters of support for a defendant than he received for Lane.

THIS IS A LAST MINUTE UPDATE. The previous AP story follows below.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating the civil rights of George Floyd, calling Lane’s role in the restriction that killed Floyd as “a very serious crime in which a life was lost,” but delivering a sentence well below what prosecutors and Floyd’s family were seeking.

Judge Paul Magnuson’s sentence was only slightly more than the 27 months Lane’s attorney had requested, while prosecutors had asked for at least 5 1/4 years in prison, the lower limit of the federal guidelines for the charge for which Lane was convicted of earlier this year. . He said Lane, who faces sentencing in September on state charges in Floyd’s murder, will remain out on bail until he is due to surrender on Oct. 4.

Lane, who is white, held Floyd’s legs while Officer Derek Chauvin held Floyd’s neck with his knee for nearly nine and a half minutes on May 25, 2020. Bystander video of Floyd, who is black, pleading that he couldn’t breathe sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the world in a reckoning over racial injustice over surveillance.

Two other officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, were also convicted of violating Floyd’s civil rights and will be sentenced at a later date.

Members of the Floyd family had asked Magnuson to give Lane the harshest sentence possible, with brother Philonise Floyd dismissing the notion that Lane deserved mercy for twice asking colleagues if George Floyd should be traded from his stomach at his side.

“Officer Lane did not intervene one way or the other,” he said.

Prosecutor Manda Sertich also argued for a higher sentence, saying Lane “chose not to act” when it could have saved a life.

“There has to be a line where blindly following the leadership of a senior officer, even for a rookie officer, is not acceptable,” he said.

Magnuson told Lane that “the fact that he did not get up and carry Mr. Chauvin out when Mr. Floyd lost consciousness is a violation of the law.” But he also showed 145 letters he said he received in support of Lane, saying he had never received so many on behalf of a defendant. And he blamed the Minneapolis Police Department for sending Lane with another rookie officer on the call that ended in Floyd’s death.

In sentencing Chauvin earlier this month on civil rights charges in Floyd’s murder, Magnuson seemed to suggest that he bore the brunt of the blame in the case, telling Chauvin, “You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene.”

Lane did not speak at sentencing Thursday and neither he nor his attorney, Earl Gray, commented to reporters afterward.

Prosecutors did not comment immediately afterwards.

Magnuson also said he would recommend that Lane serve his sentence at Duluth federal prison, about 2 1/2 hours from the Minneapolis area.

Gray argued during the trial that Lane “did everything he could to help George Floyd.” He pointed out that Lane suggested turning Floyd onto his side so he could breathe, but Chauvin turned him down twice. He also noted that Lane performed CPR to try to revive Floyd after the ambulance arrived.

Lane testified at trial that he didn’t realize how serious Floyd’s condition was until paramedics handed him over.

When Lane pleaded guilty in state court in May, Gray said Lane hoped to avoid a lengthy sentence. “She has a newborn baby and she didn’t want to risk not being a part of the child’s life,” she said.

Chauvin pleaded guilty to separate federal civil rights charges in December in Floyd’s murder and in an unrelated case involving a black teenager. That netted Magnuson a 21-year sentence, toward the lower end of the 20- to 25-year range that both sides agreed to in their plea agreement.

Chauvin was already serving a 22 1/2-year state court sentence for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His federal and state sentences run concurrently.

Kueng held Floyd’s back during the restraint and Thao helped restrain an increasingly worried group of onlookers outside a Minneapolis convenience store where an unarmed Floyd tried to swipe a counterfeit $20 bill.

Magnuson has not set sentencing dates for Thao, who is Hmong American, and Kueng, who is black. But he has scheduled a hearing for Friday on his attorneys’ objections to how his sentences should be calculated under complicated federal guidelines. Prosecutors are seeking unspecified sentences for them that would be lower than Chauvin’s but “substantially higher” than Lane’s.

Thao and Kueng are free on bail pending sentencing. They rejected plea deals and are scheduled to go on trial Oct. 24 on state charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

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