Ex-cop Kueng gets 3 1/2 years prison for his role in George Floyd's killing

A court sketching of a man
Former officer J. Alexander Kueng (right) sits with his attorney Thomas Plunkett in federal court on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.
Cedric Hohnstadt for MPR News

Updated: 1:53 p.m.

Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Kueng was sentenced Friday to 3 1/2 years in prison for his role in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd while in police custody.

Under the terms of his October plea deal, Kueng pleaded guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with a proposed sentence of 3 1/2 years. That’s what he received.

Kueng will serve that at the same time as his federal prison sentence of three years for violating Floyd’s constitutional rights. In exchange for the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a more serious charge against Kueng for aiding and abetting second-degree murder.   

Just before sentencing Friday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill asked Kueng if he had anything to say. "Nothing, your honor. Thank you,” Kueng responded.

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Kueng was sentenced to 42 months with 84 days credit for time served. He’s prohibited from possessing firearms.

Prior to the sentencing, prosecutor Matthew Frank expressed hope that the resolution of Kueng’s case “reaffirms that police officers cannot treat people who are in crisis as non-people, second-class citizens, people who are not entitled to the sanctity of life.”

Defense attorney Thomas Plunkett called out the Minneapolis Police Department for criticism, telling the court the force failed Kueng and the community.

“Protesters have called for justice. Unfortunately, justice has become nothing more than mean-spirited revenge,” he said. “On behalf of Mr. Kueng, I’m not calling for justice, I’m calling for progress."

Rookie cop, fateful call

Kueng was one of the first officers responding to a 911 call that reported that Floyd had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a store at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. 

Kueng and his partner Thomas Lane handcuffed Floyd then tried to force him into the back of a police SUV. Kueng kneeled on Floyd’s back as his former colleague Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, which killed him. 

In his plea deal, Kueng admitted that he should have known that “positional asphyxia” was a danger for Floyd, and that the force used on Floyd was unreasonable. 

Kueng was a rookie cop at the time Floyd was killed, and testified in his federal trial that he deferred to Chauvin, who had been his field training officer. 

Kueng’s former co-defendant Tou Thao, who held bystanders at bay as Floyd was killed, asked in October for a bench trial on the charge of second-degree manslaughter. That case could be decided early next year. 

Former officer Thomas Lane pleaded guilty in May to state charges and was later sentenced to three years in state prison. Former officer Chauvin was convicted of murder in state court last year and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. 

All four men have also been convicted or pleaded guilty on federal charges of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights and are serving their sentences in federal prison. 

Kueng is currently being held at the low-security Federal Bureau of Prisons Elkton facility in Lisbon, Ohio, according to Cahill’s order on the sentencing.