The murder of George Floyd

Ex-cop Lane gets 2 1/2 years for violating George Floyd's civil rights

George Floyd Officers Civil Rights
Attorney Earl Gray (right) questions ex-Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane (left) in February during Lane's federal trial in St. Paul in the killing of George Floyd.
Cedric Hohnstadt | AP

Updated 1 p.m.

Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 30 months — 2 1/2 years — in prison for violating George Floyd's civil rights.

Lane was found guilty along with two other former colleagues at a federal trial in February of failing to provide Floyd with needed medical care. He was the officer who held down Floyd’s legs and repeatedly asked his colleagues if they should flip Floyd over so he could breathe. 

In his sentence, Judge Paul Magnuson recommended Lane serve his time at a facility in Duluth, Minn., with two years of supervised release afterward. He set the date of surrender for Oct. 4. Federal inmates typically serve 85 percent of their sentences in prison after “good time” is factored in.

In court Thursday, Magnuson showed a pile of 145 letters he received on Lane's behalf, describing it as the most letters he's ever received for a defendant. The fact was Lane was less responsible for Floyd’s killing was also factored into his sentence by the judge.

Magnuson told Lane his sentence must promote respect for the law and serve as a deterrent to law enforcement violations of human rights. He also called out the Minneapolis police for their "convoluted" policy of pairing rookie cops together.

Lane chose not to make any comments during his sentencing.

Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd asked the judge to sentence Lane to the maximum penalty, pointing out that no officers at the scene took any actions to help Floyd.

A man in sunglasses speaks at a press conference.
George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd spoke at a press conference following the sentencing of Derek Chauvin outside of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 25, 2021.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2021

”I ask, where is the humanity?” Philonise Floyd said. “Not one officer apologized for his role on May 25, when George’s life was taken from him.

Federal prosecutors had urged Magnuson to sentence Lane to between 63 and 78 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

“Although the defendant did not intend for Mr. Floyd to die, the defendant’s failure to provide medical aid had serious consequences for Mr. Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s family, defendant Lane’s fellow law enforcement officers and the broader community,” federal prosecutors wrote in a filing last month.

During Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Manda Sertich described Lane’s decision not to provide Floyd with medical aid as a “catastrophic lapse” that resulted in his death.

”He failed to act when it mattered,” she said. “He didn’t try to correct his failures; he tried to cover them up."

Lane’s defense sought 27 months. Attorney Earl Gray argued Lane should receive downward departures in his sentence because he was “substantially less culpable” than the other defendants and has accepted responsibility for the crime.  

During her victim impact statement, Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross said she didn’t believe that Lane was a bad guy, but that he had to pay his dues. She said she hopes that he finds his inner “hero” when he gets out.

Lane testified during his trial that he was trying to help Floyd, and that he rode in the ambulance with Floyd and helped paramedics after he was taken away. Prosecutors argued that those actions came too late to save Floyd’s life. 

Lane pleaded guilty in state court in May to charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. As part of that deal, prosecutors agreed to a sentence of three years and that he'll serve the time in federal prison rather than state prison. 

Former officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes, was sentenced to over 20 years in federal prison earlier this month. At the sentencing, Magnuson chided Chauvin, telling him that he not only took a man’s life, but “absolutely destroyed the lives of three other young officers by taking charge at this scene.” 

Former officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng have not yet been sentenced in federal court. They're scheduled to go on trial on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter on Oct. 24.

Thao and Kueng are scheduled to be in court on Friday for a hearing on their objections to how their sentencing guidelines are calculated.  

On May 25, 2020, the four Minneapolis police officers responded to a call that a man was trying to pass a counterfeit 20 dollar bill at a corner store on the city’s south side. Lane drew his weapon within moments of confronting Floyd, helped handcuff him, then tried to force him into the back of a squad car.

Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck while Kueng held down his back and Lane put his weight on Floyd’s legs, even after Floyd stopped responding and showed no signs of a pulse.

Floyd’s killing sparked protests across the country. And it led to calls for change in the Minneapolis Police Department, which is currently under investigation by the United States Department of Justice. 

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