Thomas Lane sentenced to prison on federal civil rights charge in killing of George Floyd


Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane has been sentenced to 2½ years in prison on a federal civil rights charge for his role in the killing of George Floyd.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Lane on Thursday for his February conviction of depriving Floyd of medical care as he lay dying under officer Derek Chauvin’s knee in May 2020.

Magnuson said Lane, who faces sentencing in September on state charges in Floyd’s killing, will remain free on bond until Oct. 4, when he must turn himself in to authorities.

Floyd’s family members had asked Magnuson to give Lane the stiffest sentence possible, with brother Philonise Floyd rejecting the idea that Lane deserved any mercy for asking his colleagues twice if George Floyd should be shifted from his stomach to his side.

“Officer Lane did not intervene in one way or another,” he said.

Prosecutor Manda Sertich had also argued for a higher sentence, saying that Lane “chose not to act” when he could have saved a life.

“There has to be a line where blindly following a senior officer’s lead, even for a rookie officer, is not acceptable,” she said.

Judge’s sentence is under federal guidelines

Federal prosecutors had asked for a sentence of up to 6½ years, in line with federal guidelines.

“Mr. Lane, this is a very serious offence, in which a life was lost,” Magnuson said. “The fact that you did not get up and remove Mr. Chauvin when Mr. Floyd became unconscious is a violation of the law.”

A middle-aged man sits in an office.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson is shown in his chambers in St. Paul, Minn., on Nov. 30, 2021. He sentenced Lane on Thursday for his February conviction of depriving Floyd of medical care as he lay dying under officer Derek Chauvin’s knee in May 2020. (Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press/The Associated Press)

But the judge also held up 145 letters he said he had received supporting Lane, saying he had never received so many on behalf of a defendant. And he faulted the Minneapolis Police Department for sending Lane with another rookie officer on the call that ended in Floyd’s death.

Lane did not speak at the hearing, and neither he nor his lawyer commented to reporters afterward.

Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, had asked for a little over two years. He had argued that Lane, a rookie officer, was the least culpable of the officers in part because he had asked his colleagues twice whether Floyd should be turned on his side but was rebuffed by Chauvin.

“Any reasonable person should just be disgusted, should be infuriated” that Lane was ever charged, Gray told jurors in his closing argument.

2 other ex-officers yet to be sentenced

Lane faces a separate sentencing on Sept. 21 in state court after changing his plea to guilty to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter.

Lane and fellow rookie, J. Alexander Kueng, helped restrain Floyd while Chauvin, who is white and was the most senior officer on the scene, killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly 9½ minutes, despite the handcuffed Black man’s fading pleas that he couldn’t breathe.

Chauvin’s partner, Tou Thao, helped hold back an increasingly concerned group of onlookers outside a Minneapolis convenience store where Floyd, who was unarmed, was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 US bill in May 2020.

Lane testified he didn’t realize how dire Floyd’s condition was until paramedics turned him over. Sertich, the prosecutor, countered that his expressions of concern showed he knew Floyd was in distress but “did nothing to give Mr. Floyd the medical aid he knew Mr. Floyd so desperately needed.”

Chauvin pleaded guilty to separate federal civil rights charges in December in Floyd’s killing and in an unrelated case involving a Black teenager. That netted a 21-year sentence when he appeared before Magnuson two weeks ago.

Magnuson had harsh words for Chauvin at the hearing, saying, “You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene.”

Chauvin was already serving a 22½-year state court sentence for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His federal and state sentences are running concurrently, and he has not yet been transferred to the federal prison system.

Magnuson has not set sentencing dates on the federal charges for Thao, who is Hmong American, and Kueng, who is Black.

Thao and Kueng are free on bond pending sentencing. The pair turned down plea deals in the state’s case and are scheduled to go on trial Oct. 24 on state charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

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