Thao, Kueng reject plea deals, will go to trial
Two former Minneapolis police officers rejected last and final plea deals in state court Monday for their roles in George Floyd’s killing.
Prosecutors had offered Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng sentences of 36 months for pleading guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter, according to prosecutor Matthew Frank.
The former officers would have served that time in federal prison because they’ve both already been sentenced to more than three years in prison for federal crimes. Both men rejected the plea deals. Frank asked Thao and Kueng if they understood that the presumptive sentences for the charges they’re facing — if found guilty — is 150 months for aiding and abetting murder and 48 months for aiding and abetting manslaughter. He also asked if they understood that the prosecution has asked for an aggravated sentence.
The men told the court that they understood what they were facing by rejecting the deals. Thao told the court that it would be a “lie and a sin” for him to plead guilty. Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, told the court that he’d offered the prosecution a deal where his client would be sentenced to 24 months, but that the state rejected it.
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Kueng and Thao’s former colleague Thomas Lane pleaded guilty in May to the manslaughter charge in exchange for a deal similar to the one they rejected. Lane is scheduled to be formally sentenced for that plea deal at the end of next month, and then taken into federal custody in October. Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck in May 2020 was sentenced to 21 years by a state court for murdering Floyd. He also was sentenced to more than 22 years by a federal court for violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Thao kept bystanders at bay while Chauvin kneeled on his neck. Kueng held down Floyd’s back while Lane held down Floyd’s legs.
Kueng and Thao were found guilty in federal court in February of violating George Floyd’s civil rights by failing to intervene with Chauvin and failing to provide medical aid to Floyd. In July, Thao was sentenced by the federal court to 42 months in prison and Kueng was sentenced to 36 months.
Prosecutors declined comment after court. Judge Peter Cahill has set pre-trial motions in their trial for Oct. 6 and 7. It will be the third criminal trial for officers involved in Floyd’s death.