Ruling may mean less time for 2 who violated Floyd’s rights

Jul 22, 2022, 2:20 AM | Updated: 3:40 pm

FILE - This photo provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on June 3, 2020, shows former Minneapolis Police Officer Tou Thao. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson handed J. Alexander Kueng and Thao a victory when he ruled that the complex formulas for calculating their sentences will use the crime of involuntary manslaughter, rather than murder, as a starting point. Magnuson will sentence the men in back-to-back hearings Wednesday, July 27, 2022, after they were convicted of violating George Floyd's civil rights when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed and facedown on the street on May 25, 2020. (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

(Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge on Friday sided with two former Minneapolis police officers who were convicted of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, ruling that the guidelines for their sentences will be calculated in a way that could mean substantially less prison time for them.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson handed J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao a victory when he ruled that the complex formulas for calculating their sentences will use the crime of involuntary manslaughter, rather than murder, as a starting point. Magnuson will sentence the men in back-to-back hearings Wednesday.

Kueng, Thao and their colleague, Thomas Lane, were convicted in February of violating Floyd’s rights by depriving him of medical care as the 46-year-old Black man was pinned under then-Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee for 9 ½ minutes while Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.

Kueng and Thao were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin in the killing, which was recorded on video by a bystander and sparked worldwide protests as part of a reckoning over racial injustice. While Chauvin pinned down Floyd’s neck, Kueng held Floyd’s back, Lane held his feet and Thao kept bystanders back.

Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to one count of violating Floyd’s rights, got a federal sentence of 21 years. Lane was sentenced Thursday to 2 ½.

Prosecutors have requested that Magnuson sentence Keung and Thao to less time than Chauvin, but “substantially” more than Lane. They have not made specific recommendations. Thao’s attorney is asking his client be sentenced to two years in prison, while Kueng’s attorney has filed his request under seal.

A hearing was held Friday to address the complex formulas used to calculate a person’s “offense level,” which then is used to set a guideline range for sentencing that federal judges are not bound to follow but typically do.

All four former officers were convicted of federal civil rights violations, which carry their own offense level, but their crimes are cross-referenced with another offense — in this case murder or involuntary manslaughter — which creates the baseline for calculating a guideline sentence. Different elements are then added or subtracted to come up with a final sentencing range.

Over prosecutors’ objections, Magnuson ruled that involuntary manslaughter should be used as a starting point for Kueng and Thao.

“The facts of this case do not amount to second-degree murder under federal law,” Magnuson wrote. “Defendants Kueng and Thao each made a tragic misdiagnosis in their assessment of Mr. Floyd.” He added that both men genuinely thought Floyd was suffering from a drug overdose and “excited delirium” — a disputed condition in which someone is said to have extraordinary strength.

The result of Magnuson’s ruling means that the starting point for calculating the men’s sentence will be much lower — with a range starting as low as 2 1/4 years in prison, compared with a range starting at 19 1/2 years if the offense were to be cross-referenced with murder, according to a table of U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines. But the calculations don’t stop there.

Magnuson also ruled that this baseline level should be increased because the officers acted under “color of law,” bringing the guideline range to somewhere between 4 1/4 years to 5 1/4 years in prison. Still, that also might not be the final landing point, as Magnuson is expected to rule on other factors that could impact the formula next week.

Kueng, who is Black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, remain free on bond pending their sentencing. They are also charged with state counts of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. They have turned down plea deals in that case and are scheduled to stand trial on those charges on Oct. 24.

Lane, who is white, pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and is still awaiting sentencing in that case. He was allowed to remain free on bond after his federal sentencing, but must report to a yet-to-be-determined federal prison in October.

Chauvin, who is white, was also convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in state court and is serving a 22 1/2-year state sentence. His federal and state sentences are being served simultaneously. Online records show he’s still at the state’s maximum security prison, but he’s expected to be moved into federal custody.


Find AP’s full coverage of the killing of George Floyd at:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Candles are lit on a memorial wall during an anniversary memorial service at the Holy Trinit...

Associated Press

Pain and terror felt by passengers before Boeing Max crashed can be considered, judge rules

Families of passengers who died in the crash of a Boeing 737 Max in Ethiopia can seek damages for the pain and terror suffered by victims in the minutes before the plane flew nose-down into the ground, a federal judge has ruled.

13 hours ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI speaks at University College ...

Associated Press

Artificial intelligence threatens extinction, experts say in new warning

Scientists and tech industry leaders issued a new warning Tuesday about the perils that artificial intelligence poses to humankind.

13 hours ago

FILE - Employees walk through a lobby at Amazon's headquarters on Nov. 13, 2018, in Seattle. A grou...

Associated Press

Amazon workers upset over job cuts, return-to-office mandate stage walkout

SEATTLE (AP) — A group of Amazon workers upset about recent layoffs, a return-to-office mandate and the company’s environmental impact is planning a walkout at the company’s Seattle headquarters Wednesday. The lunchtime protest comes a week after Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting and a month after a policy took effect requiring workers to return to the […]

2 days ago


Associated Press

Body of avalanche victim in Washington state recovered after being spotted by volunteer

Search crews have recovered the body of a climber who was one of three killed in an avalanche on Washington's Colchuck Peak in February.

2 days ago

Eugene and Linda Lamie, of Homerville, Ga., sit by the grave of their son U.S. Army Sgt. Gene Lamie...

Associated Press

Biden on Memorial Day lauds generations of fallen US troops who ‘dared all and gave all’

President Joe Biden lauded the sacrifice of generations of U.S. troops who died fighting for their country as he marked Memorial Day with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

3 days ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI gestures while speaking at Un...

Associated Press

ChatGPT maker downplays fears they could leave Europe over AI rules

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Friday downplayed worries that the ChatGPT maker could exit the European Union

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Ruling may mean less time for 2 who violated Floyd’s rights