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Former Minneapolis Police Officer From George Floyd Killing Pleads Guilty

A former Minneapolis police officer charged with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd pleaded guilty Monday, just as jury selection was set to begin.

J. Alexander Kueng’s plea deal called for 3 1/2 years in prison, after he originally had rejected the plea agreement in August. Prosecutors agreed to drop a count of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Kueng is the second officer to plead guilty. Thomas Lane pleaded guilty in May. Tou Thao, their former colleague, was also convicted and sentenced to 3 1/2 years, but rejected a plea deal earlier this year, saying that “it would be lying” to accept the deal.

The three officers were convicted in February on federal counts of violating the civil rights of Floyd, a Black man and Minneapolis resident. The conviction followed after a month-long trial that focused on the officers’ training and the police department’s culture.

The jury found that they willfully deprived Floyd of necessary aid or medical assistance while he was pinned to the ground in handcuffs by former officer Derek Chauvin, who proceeded to kneel on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes.

Floyd, 46, repeatedly told the officer that he couldn’t breathe during the restraint, and died from the encounter. His death on May 26, 2020, was captured on video by bystanders and sparked protests in Minneapolis, along with a surge of Black Lives Matter protests in cities all over the country.

Chauvin was convicted in April of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.

While Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, Kueng and Lane restrained him by kneeling on his back and holding his legs. Thao prevented bystanders from intervening in the arrest.

Kueng admitted in his plea agreement that he held Floyd’s torso knowing that restraining a person in handcuffs in such a position can create significant risk. He also admitted that under the circumstances, restraining Floyd was unreasonable.

Lane has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in the federal case, while Kueng was sentenced to 3 years and Thao sentenced to 3 1/2 ― penalties that activists and Floyd’s family members deemed to be too small for the three officers.

Legal experts predicted that after their federal sentences, Kueng and Thao would likely seek a plea deal with the state, allowing them to serve both federal and state sentences at the same time.

If prosecutors hadn’t dropped the count for Kueng, he would have faced 12 1/2 years in prison.

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