By AMY FORLITI, STEVE KARNOWSKI and TAMMY WEBBER
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Three former Minneapolis police officers were convicted on Feb. 24 of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, as a federal jury rejected their arguments that inexperience, improper training or the distraction of shouting bystanders excused them from failing to prevent Floyd’s killing.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were convicted of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care as the 46-year-old Black man was pinned under fellow Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee for 9 1/2 minutes while handcuffed, facedown on the street on May 25, 2020. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.
Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin in the videotaped killing that sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the globe as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.
Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, called the verdicts “accountability,” but added: “There can never be justice because I can never get George back”
And Floyd’s cousin, Brandon Williams said he hoped the verdicts would change laws and policies to “protect people from these situations.” He also said the outcome “sends a message that says, if you murder or use excessive or deadly force, there’s consequences that follow.”
Lane shook his head and looked at his attorney as his verdict was read, according to a pool report. Thao and Kueng showed no visible emotion. Their attorneys declined to comment immediately afterward.
Acting United States Attorney Charles Kovats called the convictions a reminder that all sworn law enforcement officers have a duty to intervene.
“These officers had a moral responsibility, a legal obligation and a duty to intervene, and by failing to do so, they committed a crime,” Kovats said.
Chauvin and Thao went to the scene to help rookies Kueng and Lane after they responded to a call that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Floyd struggled with officers as they tried to put him in a police SUV.
During the month long federal trial, prosecutors sought to show that the officers violated their training, including when they failed to move Floyd or give him CPR. Prosecutors argued that Floyd’s condition was so serious that even bystanders without basic medical training could see he needed help, but that the officers “chose to do nothing.”
The defense said their training was inadequate. Kueng and Lane both said they deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene. Thao testified that he relied on the other officers to care for Floyd’s medical needs as his attention was elsewhere.
A jury that appeared to be all-white reached the verdicts after about two days of deliberations. Lane is white, Kueng is Black, and Thao is Hmong American.
The former officers remain free on bond pending sentencing, which has not yet been schedule. Conviction of a federal civil rights violation that results in death is punishable by life in prison or even death, but such sentences are extremely rare.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder last year in state court and pleaded guilty in December in the federal case. He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in the state case. Under the plea deal in the federal case, both sides agreed Chauvin should face a sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.