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Thomas Lane, former police officer convicted in George Floyd's killing, sentenced to 2 1/2 years on federal charge

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3 ex-cops found guilty of violating George Floyd's civil rights
3 ex-officers found guilty in federal civil rights trial over George Floyd's death 05:01

Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on Thursday for violating George Floyd's civil rights. Lane is one of four ex-officers convicted of violating Floyd's constitutional rights during the violent arrest that led to his killing on May 25, 2020.

Floyd's family members had pushed for a stiffer sentence, with his brother, Philonise Floyd, arguing in court that Lane "did not intervene one way or another" when Floyd was killed.

Philonise Floyd called the sentence "insulting" and suggested Lane was offered lenience because of a double standard. 

"I think that it's insulting that he didn't get the maximum amount of time because to me, if it was me, and that was accessory to murder, they would've gave me the maximum amount of time," he said outside the federal courthouse in St. Paul after the sentencing. "And you're a police officer who was sworn to protect, who took a oath, and you didn't get the maximum amount of time."

Lane, along with former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, were found guilty of federal civil rights offenses in February. The convictions followed a trial that examined each of their parts in the unlawful restraint that killed Floyd and determined that they failed to act in accordance with both Minneapolis police protocol and the U.S. Constitution.

Jurors found that all three men "deprived Floyd of his constitutional right to be free from a police officer's deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs when they saw him restrained in police custody in clear need of medical care," the Department of Justice wrote in a statement announcing the convictions. This directly contributed to the physical injuries that caused Floyd's death, the department said.

Kueng and Thao were also found guilty of violating Floyd's constitutional right "to be free from an officer's unreasonable force" by willfully failing to intervene as former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for roughly 9 1/2 minutes. Lane, who asked twice if officers should turn Floyd on his side while he was pinned to the ground, did not face that charge.

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Thomas Lane is pictured in a courtroom illustration. Cedric Hohnstadt

Chauvin was convicted on state charges of murder and manslaughter in addition to federal civil rights offenses for killing Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man and Minneapolis resident. A video recording that showed Floyd's death, and the circumstances that preceded it, surfaced online soon after it happened and gave rise to nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. In the video, which lasted eight minutes and 46 seconds, Lane was seen holding Floyd's legs while Kueng knelt on his back and Thao kept bystanders away.

Prosecutors indicated in a sentencing memo filed last month that Lane's offense could warrant a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 6 1/2 years, citing federal guidelines. His attorney Earl Gray had asked for 27 months. Lane pleaded guilty in May to a state charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter and agreed to serve three years in prison. He has not yet been sentenced in that case.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson — who presided over the federal cases for each of the former police officers convicted in Floyd's killing, including Lane — described the ex-officer's crime as "a very serious offense in which a life was lost" during Thursday's hearing, according to the Associated Press. The sentence, however, was well below non-binding federal guidelines and the prosecution's corresponding recommendation.

"To me, I think this whole criminal system just needs to be torn down and rebuilt," Philonise Floyd told reporters. "... To me, I just don't understand how can you just give somebody the minimum amount of time that you want to give them."

George Floyd's nephew, Brandon Williams, shared similar frustration over the sentence and criticized Magnuson.

"I'm angry and fed up," said Williams, noting how Lane's 30-month sentence was at the judge's discretion. 

"For what reason?" he asked. "... It's time and time again that his discretion, when he can give a max sentence, for some reason, he chooses not to."

Williams was referring to the judge's recent decision to sentence Chauvin to more than 20 years in federal prison, where he will serve his federal and state sentences concurrently, despite prosecutors' recommendation of 25 years.

Hearings for Kueng and Thao, who are expected to receive longer federal sentences than Lane, have not yet been scheduled. The state trial for both former officers was delayed until later this year.

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