A judge scheduled a hearing for Monday on the “status of plea negotiations” for the two remaining officers awaiting trial on state charges in the killing of George Floyd, with the hearing coming after the judge's window for accepting any deal appears to have closed.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said in previous orders that he would not accept plea agreements unless they came within a 15-day window after former Officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were sentenced in federal court on separate civil rights charges. Those sentences came down July 27. His orders did not specify business days or calendar days.
Court spokesman Matt Lehman said only that Monday's scheduled 9 a.m. hearing was “to discuss the status of plea negotiations.”
The Minnesota attorney general's office had no comment on the nature of the hearing. Thao’s attorney, Bob Paule, and Kueng's attorney, Thomas Plunkett, did not immediately return phone messages.
Local defense attorney Mike Brandt, who's been following the case, said deadlines like the one Cahill set are more the exception than the rule, but they're not unusual either. Some judges don't want to go to the effort and expense of gearing up for a big trial, including summoning potential jurors, if a case is going to settle anyway, he said.
The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 24, with opening statements Nov. 7.
Thao and Lane are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. Former Officer Thomas Lane pleaded guilty in May to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in a deal that calls for a three-year sentence. His sentencing is Sept. 21.
Thao, Kueng and Lane were working with then-Officer Derek Chauvin when he pinned Floyd’s neck with his knee for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old Black man said he couldn’t breathe and eventually grew still. The killing, captured in bystander video, sparked protests worldwide and a reckoning on racial injustice. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder last year and sentenced to 22 1/2 years on the state charge.
The four have already been sentenced on the separate federal civil rights charges, ranging from 21 years for Chauvin to 3 1/2 years for Thao, 3 years for Kueng and 2 1/2 years for Lane. Chauvin remains in the state's maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights pending his transfer to federal prison. The other three remain free on bail.
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