MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Kueng was formally sentenced on Friday to 42 months in prison after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter in the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
Kueng pleaded guilty in October, as his criminal trial was scheduled to begin in Hennepin County. Under terms of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a count of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Kueng appeared remotely for Friday's formal sentencing announcement; he's currently serving a three-year federal prison sentence in Ohio after he and fellow officers Tou Thao and Thomas Lane were previously convicted in federal court of depriving George Floyd of his civil rights. His original sentencing hearing on Friday morning was postponed to the afternoon due to difficulties making a virtual connection with Kueng for the hearing.
Kueng's state sentence will be served concurrently with the federal prison term.
Kueng, Thao and Lane were working alongside Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, when Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the pavement for more than nine minutes even as the 46-year-old Black man pleaded with the white officer that he couldn’t breathe. Body camera and cell phone footage from the scene showed that Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.
"Mr. Kueng was an active part of this, he kneeled on Mr. Floyd the entire time," prosecutor Matthew Frank said to the court during the hearing. Frank said that while the state appreciated that Kueng pleaded guilty, he added, "It took too long to get there."
Kueng chose not to address the court at the brief sentencing hearing, however his attorney, Thomas Plunkett did acknowledge the three-and-half year prison term.
"That is a year in prison for each day he served the city of Minneapolis as a police officer. He was a three-day rookie." Plunkett said. He also criticized the training that Kueng received from the Minneapolis police department saying, "They failed Mr. Kueng, they failed Mr. Floyd, and they failed the community."
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump, Anotonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms, who represent George Floyd's family, released a statement about justice in the case.
"The sentencing of Alexander Kueng for his role in the murder of George Floyd delivers yet another piece of justice for the Floyd family. While the family faces yet another holiday season without George, we hope that moments like these continue to bring them a measure of peace, knowing that George’s death was not in vain," the statement said.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in a jury trial in 2021 and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. Chauvin later pleaded guilty to federal charges of depriving George Floyd of his civil rights and was sentenced to serve 21 years. He's currently serving both sentences simultaneously at a federal facility in Arizona.
Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter in May. He's concurrently serving his three-year state sentence and 2 1/2-year federal sentence at a federal facility in Colorado.
Thao, who was set to go to trial alongside Kueng in October, chose to forgo a jury trial and let a judge decide his criminal case on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. He's currently serving 3 1/2 years on his federal conviction at a facility in Kentucky.
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