Thomas Lane, a former Minneapolis police officer who pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison.
Lane held down Floyd’s legs as he cried out that he couldn’t breathe, while another former officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 ½ minutes on May 25, 2020. Lane pleaded guilty in May to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. State prosecutors and Lane’s attorney had jointly recommended a three-year sentence.
The hearing was held via WebEx to accommodate Lane, who is serving a 30-month sentence at a federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Englewood, Colorado, after a jury found him guilty on a federal charge of violating Floyd’s rights by not providing him with medical care after Chauvin knelt on his neck. He reported to the facility sometime around Aug. 28, according to a court order made public Tuesday. No media or other members of the public, including family members of Lane or Floyd, were allowed to attend the hearing in person at the Hennepin County Government Center. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank read a statement on behalf of Floyd’s family.
As part of Lane’s plea deal, a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder was dismissed, a spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, previously said.
Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said in May that his client has a newborn baby “and did not want to risk not being part of the child’s life” or possibly losing the murder case and facing a mandatory sentence of 12 years.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill told Lane during the hearing that it was a “wise decision” for Lane to “accept responsibility” and move on with his life. Cahill said Lane’s state sentence will be concurrent with his federal sentence and that he will serve his time in a federal institution.
Evidence showed Lane asked twice if Floyd should be turned on his side but still assisted in restraining him face down on the pavement despite the risk.
Two other former officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, are scheduled to stand trial next month on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Kueng helped restrain Floyd and Thao kept concerned bystanders at bay. They were offered the same deal as Lane but rejected it last month.
Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, was convicted in April 2021 of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced in June 2021 to 22 ½ years in prison.
Kueng and Lane helped Chauvin restrain Floyd outside a convenience store after a clerk said Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Floyd, 46, was Black. Chauvin and Lane are white, Kueng is Black and Thao is Hmong American. Video of Floyd’s final moments taken by some of the bystanders touched off protests around the world against police brutality and systemic racism.
Kueng, Lane and Thao were found guilty of federal crimes in February, depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority when they failed to give him medical aid. Kueng and Thao, additionally, were convicted for failing to intervene as Chauvin killed Floyd by pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“I really don’t know why you did what you did. But to put your knee on another person’s neck until they expired is simply wrong, and for that conduct you must be substantially punished,” Judge Paul Magnuson of U.S. District Court in St. Paul said in imposing the sentence. He added that Chauvin “absolutely destroyed the lives of three other young officers” who were involved.