Last ex-cop convicted in George Floyd's killing sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison

Tou Thao stands with his defense attorney
Tou Thao, right, stands with his defense attorney Robert Paule during his sentencing hearing in Hennepin County District Court on Monday in Minneapolis.
Leila Navidi | Star Tribune via AP

Updated: 1:15 p.m.

The final former Minneapolis police officer convicted in connection with George Floyd’s killing more than three years ago was sentenced Monday to nearly five years in prison.

In May, a Hennepin County judge convicted Tou Thao of aiding and abetting manslaughter. The 57-month sentence he received on Monday was slightly longer than the 51 months that prosecutors asked for.

Thao, 37, was one of four ex-officers charged in Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death. He spoke for 23 minutes before he was sentenced, spending most of that time quoting from the Bible. Thao compared his situation to the suffering of Job.

“On that day, we didn’t intend on — I didn’t intend on — doing any malice or anything like that, or try to hurt anyone. That was never my intent. I did the best I thought I could,” Thao told the court.

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“I know we cannot hide our thoughts or intent from God. For we must give an account on the day we appear before God. Therefore I must obey, to hold on to the truth I did not commit these crimes,” Thao said, later in his statement. “My conscience is clear.”

After Thao finished speaking, Judge Peter Cahill told him that “to be perfectly honest, after three years of reflection, I was hoping for a little more remorse, regret, acknowledgement of some responsibility and less preaching.”

“I think your culpability is less than Mr. Chauvin, but well above Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane, as an experienced senior officer who was in the best position to save George Floyd,” Cahill told Thao, referring to the other former officers convicted in Floyd’s killing, before issuing a sentence at the top end of the guideline range.

Thao will be credited for 340 days he’s already served.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a statement after the sentencing.

“I respect the sentence Judge Cahill imposed today. Even though I am disappointed Thao expressed no remorse today and accepted no responsibility for his actions, his sentence is one more measure of accountability for the Floyd family and every community that suffered from Floyd’s murder,” Ellison wrote. “It shows once again that no one is above the law and no one is beneath it.”

After a three-week trial in 2021, a jury convicted the most senior officer, Derek Chauvin, of murder and manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine-and-a-half minutes. Thao, along with J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, were charged separately for their actions during the incident.

Kueng and Lane, who helped Chauvin pin Floyd to the ground, each pleaded guilty last year to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Thao, who’s seen on video keeping concerned bystanders at bay, rejected a similar plea deal and told Cahill that “it would be a lie and a sin” to accept guilt.

Thao waived his right to have a jury hear the case and opted to have a bench trial with Cahill presiding, which took place after the other cases concluded.

The presumptive prison sentence for aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota is four years, although Cahill had some discretion in determining Thao’s sentence.

Cahill sentenced Kueng to 42 months for the same count, and Lane to 36 months. Prosecutors agreed to a shorter term for Lane, noting that he was “less culpable” in Floyd’s death.

Lane can be heard on body camera video twice asking Chauvin whether they should move Floyd onto his side so he could breathe, but Chauvin rebuffed the rookie officer’s suggestions.

Cahill’s sentences in the state cases are in line with those that U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson gave all four ex-officers in 2022 following their convictions on separate federal civil rights charges.

After a month-long trial early last year, a federal jury in St. Paul found Kueng, Lane, and Thao guilty of neglecting to provide George Floyd with medical care. They also found that Kueng and Thao failed to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of excessive force.

Chauvin pleaded guilty to violating Floyd’s civil rights, and to charges from a 2017 incident in which he struck 14-year-old John Pope with a flashlight and knelt on his neck and back as he lay handcuffed. Chauvin is serving concurrent state and federal sentences of around 20 years in a medium-security federal prison in Tucson.

Kueng is at a low-security facility in eastern Ohio, and Lane is at a similar prison near Denver. The two are due to be released next year, according to the Bureau of Prisons.