Former Officer Pleads Guilty To State Charge In George Floyd Killing

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Former Officer Pleads Guilty To State Charge In George Floyd Killing
Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge as part of a plea deal.

A former Minneapolis police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.

As part of the plea deal, a count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder against Thomas Lane will be dismissed. Lane and former Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao have already been convicted on federal counts of willfully violating Floyd's rights during the restraint that led to his death.

The guilty plea comes a week before the two-year anniversary of Floyd’s May 25, 2020, killing. Floyd, 46, died after Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pinned him to the ground with a knee on Floyd’s neck as the Black man repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. The killing, captured on widely viewed bystander video, sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the globe as part of a reckoning over racial injustice. 

Lane and Kueng helped to restrain Floyd, who was handcuffed. Lane held down Floyd’s legs and Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back. Thao kept bystanders from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

Chauvin pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and faces a federal sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years. The former officer earlier was convicted of state charges of murder and manslaughter is currently serving 22 1/2 years in the state case.

The state and Lane's attorneys agreed to a recommended sentence of three years — which is below state sentencing guidelines — and prosecutors agreed to allow him to serve that sentence at the same time as any federal sentence, and in a federal prison. He has not yet been sentenced in the federal case.

Lane, who is white, told Judge Peter Cahill that he understood the agreement. When asked how he would plead, he said: “Guilty, your honor.”

Lane was not taken into custody and a presentence investigation was ordered. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 21 on the state charge.

Under state sentencing guidelines, a person with no criminal record would face a sentence ranging from just under 3 1/2 years to four years and nine moths in prison for second-degree unintentional manslaughter, with the presumptive sentence being four years. Lane’s recommended sentence of three years, which still must be approved by the judge, would be less. Prosecutors served notice back in 2020 that they intended to seek longer sentences for Lane, Kueng and Thao.

Barring any additional pleas, Kueng, who is Black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are still scheduled to go to trial in June on state charges. They remain free on bond as they await trial.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.