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3 Ex-Officers Found Guilty Of All Federal Charges In George Floyd's Death

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- The three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights have been found guilty of all charges against them.

The jury deliberated for nearly two days in deciding the fates of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

All three were found guilty of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care. Kueng and Thao were also found guilty of a federal charge accusing them of failing to intervene to stop fellow officer Derek Chauvin during the May 25, 2020, a killing that was captured on bystander video that triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.

Before Judge Paul Magnuson entered the courtroom late Thursday afternoon, Kueng, Lane and Thao walked in, each appearing confident yet nervous. Lane was the sole defendant to visibly react to the verdicts. He shook his head and dropped something on the table, which made an audible noise.

When the jurors were being polled by the judge on whether they agreed with the reported verdicts, three female members wiped tears from their eyes. One's voice trembled as she said "yes."

In an unusual move, the defendants were not taken into custody. Judge Magnuson told the three men they were released on bond. They will all return to court for sentencing at an undetermined date after meeting with their probation officers and lawyers.

Verdict Read in Lane Kueng Thao federal trial
(credit: Cedric Hohnstadt)

After Magnuson left the courtroom, Lane was embraced by attorney Earl Gray, while attorney Robert Paule touched Thao's shoulder. All three defendants were then escorted out of the building by U.S. Marshals.

Acting United States Attorney Charles Kovats and prosecutors held a press conference following the verdicts.

Thao, Lane, Kueng React to verdict in federal trial
(credit: Cedric Hohnstadt)

"This is a reminder that all sworn officers, regardless of rank or seniority, individually and independently have a duty to intervene and provide medical aid to those in their custody," Kovats said. "It's a fundamental duty of policing. It's good policing."

Civil rights trials against police officers are rare. Thursday's guilty verdict could change the scope of what is expected of police officers, and how they are trained in the future.

Local attorney Abou Amara, who is not affiliated with the case, believes we are going have to support, train and educate young officers so they can assert themselves when they see something wrong.

"When you raise your hand and you take that oath to serve and protect as an officer, you have a duty," Amara said. "You have a duty to stop wrongdoing, and that wrongdoing can include other officers wrongdoing, so this is pretty unprecedented."

During closing arguments, prosecutors said the three ex-officers violated their training and chose to "do nothing" while Chauvin slowly killed Floyd.

Defense attorneys for Lane and Kueng argued their clients were trained inadequately, were too inexperienced, and deferred to senior officer Chauvin's leadership.

Thao's attorney said his client thought the officers were doing what they believed was best for Floyd — holding him until paramedics arrived – while he did crowd control.

A key factor in deliberations is that jurors had to sort out if the defendants acted willfully. In jury instructions, the judge said willfully meant "acting with a bad purpose or improper motive" and "specifically intending to deprive that person of his rights."

The 12 jurors are all white and many from outside the metro area, which is a very different makeup than the jury that found Chauvin guilty in the state case. Chauvin has already pleaded guilty in this federal case. He faces a sentence of 20 to 25 years -- so it's highly likely that their sentences will be less than 20 years.

WCCO's Esme Murphy spoke with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison after Thursday's verdicts, who says he's evaluating how to move forward with the state trial for the three officers, now scheduled for June. They are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

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