Now that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to federal prison, attention turns to the plight of three other ex-cops who continue to navigate their way through a complicated web of proceedings. state and federal court proceedings resulting from the murder of George Floyd.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are still awaiting sentencing for their federal civil rights convictions in February. Lane awaits sentencing in state court after pleading guilty to a reduced charge there, while Thao and Kueng are due in October for aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.
Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd while Chauvin, who is white, killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 1/2 minutes despite the handcuffed and unarmed black man’s pleas that he could not not breathe. Thao helped hold off a group of increasingly worried onlookers at the scene outside a Minneapolis convenience store where Floyd tried to smuggle a counterfeit $20 bill in August 2020.
Here’s a look at what’s yet to come in the legal process that stemmed from a murder that led to global protests and a national judgment on racial injustice:
The future of Chauvin
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Chauvin to 21 years in prison on Thursday on federal civil rights charges – 20 years stemming from Floyd’s murder and an additional year stemming from Chauvin’s earlier assault on a 14-year-old boy . With seven months’ credit served, Chauvin still has 20½ years to go — 245 months — on his federal sentence, plus five years of supervised release thereafter.
On Friday, Chauvin was still in the state’s maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights, where he has been held since his conviction in state court last year for murder and manslaughter, which earned him a sentence 22 and a half years old. His state and federal sentences run concurrently. But due to differences in state and federal parole rules, he will actually serve quite a bit more time behind bars for the federal sentence than he had to face under his sentence alone. State.
Chauvin knew this when he accepted a plea deal on the federal charges in December. But he presumably considered it preferable because he was kept in solitary confinement in the state prison for his own safety. If he had been part of the general population of a state prison, he would have run the risk of running into people he had arrested. Magnuson expressed hope during Thursday’s sentencing that the Bureau of Prisons would keep him in easier conditions and not too far from his family in Minnesota and Iowa. But its placement depends on the desk, which could take weeks to move.
While Chauvin waived his right to appeal his federal conviction, his appeal of his state conviction is pending. He also faces a pair of federal civil rights lawsuits.
Next federal sentence
Magnuson has not set sentencing dates for Thao, Kueng and Lane, who remain free on bail. Federal prosecutors have already asked the judge to give Thao and Kueng sentences that would be shorter than Chauvin’s, but “significantly longer” than the 5 1/4 to 6 1/2 years they are seeking for Lane. .
Thao’s lawyer, Robert Paule, is asking for a two-year sentence. The recommendation from Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, remains sealed, and Plunkett did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday.
Lane’s attorney, Earl Grey, asked for 27 months, which, if granted, would leave Lane free after two years. It was around this time that Lane would become eligible for release from his recommended state sentence. Lane’s plea deal on an accessory to manslaughter charge calls for three years. In the Minnesota system, assuming good behavior, inmates are eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence; in the federal system, they become eligible after 85%.
Magnuson expressed sympathy for the three on Thursday, when he told Chauvin, “You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene.” But evidence presented at their trial established that they failed to stop Chauvin when they could still have saved Floyd’s life. Magnuson gave Chauvin a little break by imposing a lower sentence than prosecutors were seeking, but did not indicate how he would treat Thao, Kueng or Lane.
Coming to state court
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill scheduled Lane’s sentencing for September 21. Prosecutors and Gray jointly recommend three years. He would serve this concurrently with his federal sentence and in federal prison.
Cahill has set the trial of Thao and Kueng, who rejected earlier plea deal offers, to begin on October 24. But his order left open the possibility that deals could still be struck. He said the court will not accept a plea bargain unless the plea change hearing is scheduled “no more than 15 days” after the defendants’ federal convictions.
If Thao and Kueng go on trial, a major difference from Chauvin will be that most proceedings will not be televised or live streamed. Cahill made a rare exception for Chauvin’s trial due to the dangers of COVID-19. But he ruled that pandemic-related risks have subsided to the point that he’s bound by the state’s normal justice system restrictions on cameras, which only allow them in the “pre-guilty” stages. when all parties consent, but are easier on convictions.
Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Gildea was sufficiently impressed with the smoothness of the live audiovisual coverage during Chauvin’s trial that she asked a court advisory panel to consider whether the rules should be relaxed. But a split panel recommended in its final report last week that there should be no major changes. Any liberalization would be up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, but there is no deadline for a decision.