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Former officer who held down George Floyd’s legs gets 3 years in prison for aiding and abetting manslaughter

<i>Brandon Bell/Getty Images</i><br/>Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane
Brandon Bell
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane

By Eric Levenson, Brad Parks and Omar Jimenez, CNN

The former Minneapolis Police officer who held down George Floyd’s legs in May 2020 was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday on a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

Thomas Lane, who is currently in federal prison for violating Floyd’s civil rights during his fatal restraint, appeared remotely at the hearing, wearing beige prison clothing. He began his federal 2.5-year sentence in a Bureau of Prisons facility in Colorado late last month.

Lane received credit for 31 days already served. Prosecutors did not ask for restitution as part of the sentence. He will be prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition for the rest of his life, Judge Peter Cahill ruled.

The former officer did not address the court Wednesday, but some of his comments after the hearing were audible.

At one point, Cahill said Lane must “register as a predatory offender if required by law.” Once the WebEx sentencing hearing had ended, Lane could be heard asking his attorney Earl Gray, “I have to register as a predatory offender, what the f**k is that?”

“That’s what Chauvin has to do,” Lane said, referring to former officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder in Floyd’s death. “If I had a minimal role, why the f**k do I have to do that?” Lane asked Gray over WebEx.

In Chauvin’s state sentencing memo, Cahill wrote Chauvin must “register as a predatory offender as required by law.”

In comments to CNN after the hearing, Gray emphasized the “if” in his client’s case: “‘If required’ and it’s not required so he will not have to register” as an offender.

Lane was one of three former officers to face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder related to Floyd’s death. In June, Lane pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge as part of a plea deal in which state and defense attorneys jointly recommended a sentence of three years to be served concurrently with his federal time, according to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office.

A victim impact statement was read by prosecutors Wednesday on behalf of Floyd’s family. “We want everyone here today to know we will never move on,” prosecutor Matthew Frank read. “You will always show up for George Floyd, but never move on.”

How we got here

The sentence comes more than two years after former officers Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were first arrested for their actions — or lack thereof — in May 2020 as their colleague Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck and back of Floyd, who was handcuffed and lying on his stomach, for more than nine minutes.

Lane, a rookie officer in his fourth day on the job, held down Floyd’s legs during the arrest, while Kueng restrained his torso and Thao stood nearby and held back a crowd of upset bystanders.

An ambulance eventually arrived and first responders lifted Floyd, who was limp at that point, into the vehicle. Lane joined them in the ambulance and performed CPR on Floyd.

Defense attorney Earl Gray said Lane agreed to plead guilty to the state charge because he faced a mandatory 12-year sentence if he were to be convicted of the most serious murder charge. He also noted that Minnesota law allows defendants to be released from custody after serving two-thirds of a sentence.

“My client did not want to risk losing the murder case so he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter with a 3-year sentence, to be released in 2 years, and the murder case dismissed,” Gray said in June. “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.”

Harrowing video taken by a bystander showed Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, desperately pleading for them to let him breathe and calling for his mother before he lost consciousness and died. Outrage over the incident led to an international protest movement against the ways that police treat Black citizens. All four officers were fired and charged after Floyd’s death.

The city of Minneapolis agreed to pay Floyd’s estate $27 million after the city council in March 2021 voted to settle a lawsuit with his family.

In federal court earlier this year, Lane testified that he asked Chauvin twice to reposition Floyd while restraining him but was denied both times.

Lane, Thao and Kueng were each convicted of violating Floyd’s civil rights during the fatal restraint. Thao and Kueng were also found guilty of an additional federal charge earlier this year for failing to intervene to stop Chauvin. Thao and Kueng were sentenced to 3.5 years and 3 years in federal prison, respectively.

Thao and Kueng still face a state trial that is slated for late October on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They have pleaded not guilty.

Chauvin was convicted in state court last year of murder in Floyd’s death and was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. As part of a plea agreement, Chauvin pleaded guilty in December to federal civil rights charges related to Floyd’s death and the restraint of a teenager in a separate incident.

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