The former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s back while another officer knelt on the black man’s neck has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
- J Alexander Kueng is already serving a federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights
- Members of Mr. Floyd’s family were entitled to make victim impact statements, but none did.
- Lawyer Ben Crump said the sentence delivered “another justice for the Floyd family.”
J Alexander Kueng pleaded guilty in October to a state charge of accessory to second-degree manslaughter.
In exchange, a charge of complicity in the murder was dropped.
Kueng is already serving a federal sentence for violating Mr. Floyd’s civil rights, and the state and federal sentences will run concurrently.
Kueng appeared at the hearing via video from a federal prison in Ohio. When he was given the opportunity to address the court, he refused.
With credit for time served and differing parole guidelines in the state and federal systems, Kueng is likely to serve a total of approximately two and a half years behind bars.
Members of Mr. Floyd’s family were entitled to make victim impact statements, but none did.
Attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the family, said in a statement ahead of the hearing that Kueng’s sentence “provides another kind of justice for the Floyd family.”
“As the family faces another Christmas season without George, we hope that moments like these continue to bring them some peace, knowing that George’s death was not in vain,” he said.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and eventually went limp.
The killing, which was videotaped by a bystander, sparked protests around the world as part of a broader reckoning over racial injustice.
Kueng knelt on Mr. Floyd’s back during the restraint.
Then-officer Thomas Lane held Floyd’s legs and Tou Thao, also an officer at the time, prevented bystanders from intervening.
All of the officers were fired and faced state and federal charges.
As part of his guilty plea, Kueng admitted that he held Mr. Floyd’s torso, that he knew from experience and training that restraining a handcuffed person in a prone position created substantial risk, and that restraining Mr. Floyd it was unreasonable under the circumstances. .
Matthew Frank, who led the prosecution for the Minnesota attorney general’s office, said repeatedly during the hearing that Floyd was the victim of a crime and that the prosecution “focused on the officers” who caused his death. He added that the case was not meant to be a broader scrutiny by police, but added that he hoped it would reaffirm that police officers cannot treat those “who are in crisis as non-persons or second-class citizens.”
“Mr. Kueng was not just a bystander that day. He did less than some of the bystanders tried to do to help Mr. Floyd,” Frank said.
Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, blamed the leadership of the Minneapolis Police Department and a lack of training for Floyd’s death on Friday.
He accused Medaria Arradondo, the police chief at the time Floyd was killed, of failing to implement training to encourage officers to intervene when one of their colleagues is doing something wrong.
“Mr. Kueng, the rookie, sits in prison for a year for every day he served the city,” Plunkett said, referring to the three years he will spend behind bars.
“Justice has become nothing more than petty revenge.”
Kueng’s sentence brings the cases against all former officers one step closer to resolution, though the state case against Thao is still pending.
Thao previously told Judge Peter Cahill that “it would be lying” to plead guilty.
In October, he agreed to what is called a stipulated evidence trial on the charge of complicity in manslaughter.
As part of that process, your attorneys and prosecutors are working on agreed evidence in your case and submitting written closing arguments.
Judge Cahill will then decide if he is guilty or not.
If Thao is convicted, the murder charge, which carries a presumptive sentence of 12 1/2 years in prison, will be dropped.
Chauvin was convicted on state charges of murder and manslaughter last year and is serving a 22 1/2-year sentence in the state case.
He also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years.
He is serving the sentences concurrently at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.
Kueng, Lane and Thao were convicted on federal charges in February.
All three were convicted of depriving Mr. Floyd of his right to medical care, and Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to intervene to arrest Chauvin during the murder.
Lane is serving his two-and-a-half-year federal sentence at a facility in Colorado.
He is serving a three-year state sentence at the same time.
Kueng was sentenced to three years on the federal charges, while Thao received a federal sentence of three and a half years.