MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Former Minneapolis Police Officer Thomas Lane has pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter in George Floyd's killing.
Lane entered the guilty plea during a court hearing Wednesday morning as part of a plea agreement. Under the agreement, Lane agreed to serve three years in prison, with the recommendation being for federal prison, not state. In return, prosecutors dropped the second-degree murder charge him.
Lane's attorney, Earl Gray, released a statement on the plea deal, highlighting the risk involved in the murder case and Lane's newborn baby.
"The state prosecution has a mandatory 12-year sentence if convicted of the unintentional murder," Gray said. "My client did not want to risk losing the murder case so he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter with a three year sentence, to be released in two years, and the murder case dismissed. The sentence will be concurrent with his federal sentence and he will serve his time in a federal institution. He has a newborn baby and did not want to risk not being part of the child's life."
In documents filed Wednesday, Lane admitted he "agrees that the restraint of Mr. Floyd was unreasonable under the circumstances and constituted an unlawful use of force that is not authorized by Minnesota law." He also admitted he "was conscious and aware" of the risk of death associated with how he and his fellow officers were restraining Floyd.
"The defendant had specific knowledge of the risk to Mr. Floyd because he perceived Mr. Floyd being restrained prone on the ground and was able to hear Mr. Floyd repeat that he could not breath [sic] numerous times during the restraint," Lane's guily plea reads. "The defendant was also aware that Mr. Floyd fell silent as the restraint continued, eventually did not have a pulse, and appeared to have lost consciousness."
The plea agreement comes a day after paperwork was filed for a new attorney, Washington, D.C.-based Dana Raphael, to work pro bono for the prosecution.
Watch: Legal Expert Unpacks Lane's Plea Deal
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison released a statement following the court hearing, saying he is "pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility" for his part in Floyd's death.
"His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community & the nation. While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case & a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice," Ellison said.
Ellison also said his thoughts are with Floyd's family and that Floyd "should still be with us."
Floyd Legal Team: 'Another Step Towards Closure'
The legal team for George Floyd's family, including attorney Ben Crump, said the plea agreement is "another step towards closure" after Floyd's murder. Read the full statement below.
"Today's guilty plea by former officer Thomas Lane brings the Floyd family another step towards closure for the horrific and historic murder of George Floyd. While this plea reflects a certain level of accountability, it comes only after Mr. Lane was already convicted by a federal jury on a related charge. Attorney General Keith Ellison, all of the state and federal prosecutors, the brave men and women who served on the state and federal juries, and the community compelled this result. These individuals and many more should be commended for their efforts leading towards today. Hopefully, this plea helps usher in a new era where officers understand that juries will hold them accountable, just as they would any other citizen. Perhaps soon, officers will not require families to endure the pain of lengthy court proceedings where their criminal acts are obvious and apparent. It is equally critical that the municipalities who are responsible for employing, training, and supervising their officers take their duties to the community to heart, and hold their own officers accountable before a criminal court is required to do so. While today is a step in the right direction, we only need to look to the recent and tragic killing of Amir Locke to understand that the City of Minneapolis has a long journey ahead to regain the trust of its citizenry."
Lane and former officers Kueng and Thao were charged with aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter after Floyd's death on May 25, 2020.
George Floyd's Family Reacts To News Of Thomas Lane's Guilty Plea
In February, all three were found guilty of depriving Floyd of his rights in a federal trial, and have yet to be sentenced. Earlier this month, the judge in that case denied motions from the defense for acquittal and mistrial based on "prosecutorial misconduct."
Former officer Derek Chauvin has already been convicted in the state trial and sentenced for murdering Floyd. Chauvin also pleaded guilty in the federal trial.
During the 2020 arrest, Floyd, a Black man, repeatedly said he couldn't breathe as Chauvin, who is white, pinned him to the ground. Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd; Kueng knelt on Floyd's back, and Lane held Floyd's legs, according to evidence in state court. Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.
A lot has happened since Floyd's death, both in the Twin Cities and across the country — from protests, to efforts to change the law, to a renewed focus on inequality throughout the world.
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