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J Alexander Kueng sentenced to 36 months for violating George Floyd’s civil rights

J Alexander Kueng sentenced to 36 months for violating George Floyd’s civil rights
J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are the last of the four officers involved in George Floyd’s death to be sentenced on federal civil rights charges

Former Minneapolis police officer J Alexander Kueng has been sentenced to 36 months in federal prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights after he failed to provide him with medical aid and failed to stop Derek Chauvin when he murdered the Black man back on Memorial Day 2020.

US District Judge Paul Magnuson handed down a 3-year sentence on each of the two counts on Wednesday morning, with Kueng told he will serve them concurrently in a federal facility in either Duluth, Minnesota, or in Yankton, South Dakota.

The judge told Kueng – who had been on the job just days before Floyd’s fatal arrest over a $20 counterfeit bill – that he should have intervened that day but said he deserved leniency as someone who was raised in a difficult neighbourhood and wanted to become a “peaceful, helpful member of your community”.

Kueng will also serve two years under supervision on his release. He was told to surrender to US Marshals on 4 October.

Kueng’s fellow officer Tou Thao is due to be sentenced on the same charges immediately after, making him the last of all four officers involved in Floyd’s death to learn of his fate in federal court.

Last week, their fellow officer Thomas Lane was sentenced to 2.5 years on one charge of federal civil rights violations – a sentence that Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd slammed as “insulting”. Convicted murderer Chauvin received a sentence of 21 years earlier this month after pleading guilty, avoiding going to trial in exchange for being moved from a high-security state prison to a safer, comfier federal facility.

Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Kueng and Thao to less than Chauvin but “substantially” more than Lane – after Judge Magnuson said that Lane played a “minimal role” in Floyd’s fatal arrest and called the shamed officer a person of “outstanding character” at his sentencing.

Thao’s attorney asked the judge to sentence him to two years while the request from Kueng’s attorney was unclear as it was sealed.

Prior to the sentencing, Floyd’s second cousin addressed the court, condemning the sentences given to Lane and Chauvin and urging the judge to give Kueng and Thao the harshest possible sentence.

Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross also delivered a victim impact statement where she called the 46-year-old the “love of my life” and addressed Kueng directly about his part in his killing.

She told the officer that he failed in his actions that day and called on him to “stand for something” on his release from prison.

Kueng declined to make a statement to the court.

Judge Magnuson had been expected to go easy on the two officers after he sided with them over their sentencing guidelines last week.

In a court appearance on Friday, the federal judge agreed that the sentences for the disgraced officers should be calculated using the crime of involuntary manslaughter, rather than second-degree murder.

This paved the way for significantly less prison time with a sentencing range of 4.25 to 5.25 years.

The federal judge wrote that both Kueng and Thao made a “tragic misdiagnosis in their assessment of Mr Floyd”, saying that they both genuinely believed the 46-year-old was suffering from a drug overdose and widely disputed condition known as “excited delirium”.

Lane, Kueng and Thao stood trial together on federal civil rights charges back in February.

All three were convicted of one count of depriving Floyd of his civil rights by failing to provide him with medical care as he was pinned under Chauvin’s knee for nine and a half minutes begging for air and pleading “I can’t breathe”.

Kueng and Thao – who are still awaiting a separate state trial – were also convicted of depriving Floyd of his civil rights by failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force.

Kueng pinned down Mr Floyd’s back, Lane held down his legs and Thao kept a crowd of bystanders back and stopped them intervening.

Both Kueng and Lane had been on the job for a matter of days while Thao was an eight year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Lane was only charged and convicted on one count as he was heard on bodycam footage asking the other officers twice if they should turn Floyd over into a different position.

The verdict came after a month-long trial where jurors heard how the three officers “chose to do nothing” to try to stop Chauvin or to try to save the life of the Black man as he lay dying under Chauvin’s knee.

<p>J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao left to right in booking photos  </p>

J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao left to right in booking photos

Kueng and Thao are also awaiting trial on state charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The state trial has been delayed multiple times to date and is now scheduled to begin in January 2023.

Lane has avoided the state trial after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors back in May.

Under the terms of the deal, he pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in exchange for the charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder being dropped. He will be sentenced in state court on 21 September.

Chauvin meanwhile is currently waiting to be moved to federal prison.

He was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter at his state trial back in April 2021.

He was sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in state prison on those charges and has been behind bars at Minnesota’s maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights.

After reaching a plea deal with prosecutors on the federal charges, he was sentenced to 21 years.

The state and federal sentences will run concurrently and he will moved to a federal prison for the remainder of his sentence.