Ex-Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to State Charge of Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter of George Floyd   

On May 18, 2022, former Minneapolis Police Officer Thomas Lane in state court pleaded guilty to the charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. [1]

Before Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill, this guilty plea was part of a plea agreement which dismissed the separate charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and for a sentence of three years imprisonment in federal prison to be served concurrently with his upcoming sentence for his February 2022 conviction in federal court for violating Floyd’s civil rights. The state court sentencing is scheduled for September 21.[2]

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a statement saying, “Today my thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family. Nothing will bring Floyd back. He should still be with us today.” Ellison then said, “I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death. His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation. While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”  Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, however, declined to comment on this development.

Two other ex-MPD officers, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng still face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. That trial is scheduled to commence on June 13. [3]

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[1] Olson, Ex-MPD officer Thomas Lane pleads guilty to manslaughter charge for role in George Floyd’s murder, StarTribune (May 18, 2022); Forlitti & Karnowski (AP), Ex-cop pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd killing, Wash. Post (May 18, 2022); Ex-Minneapolis police officer pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd’s death, NBC News (May 18, 2022); Minnesota Attorney General, ‘Pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility ‘: Attorney general Ellison statement on guilty plea in death of George Floyd (May 18, 2022). Apparently in April, Lane, Kueng and Thao rejected a plea deal (details not publicly available) offered by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. (Jimenez, 3 former police officers charged in George Floyd’s death reject plea deal, CNN.com (April 13, 2022).

[2] Federal Criminal trial for Killing George Floyd: Jury Deliberations and Verdict, dwkcommentareis.com (Feb. 25, 2022).

[3] Hennepin County District Court Enters Order Regarding Trial of Three Former Minneapolis Policemen Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (April 30, 2022).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

3 thoughts on “Ex-Officer Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty to State Charge of Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter of George Floyd   ”

  1. More Details on Thomas Lane’s Guilty Plea

    Later on May 18, the state court filed Thomas Lane’s Petition To Enter Plea of Guilty in Felony Case Pursuant to Rule 15.

    This eight-page document initialed and signed by Lane said the “factual basis for my plea is set forth in the attached addendum and is incorporated herein by specific reference” (Para. 20a).
    That Addendum stated the following:

    • Lane and other officers on May 25, 2020, “encountered Mr. Floyd, handcuffed him and eventually restrained him in the prone position on the asphalt pavement with his stomach facing the ground and officers applying pressure to his neck, back, and legs for approximately 9 minutes and 29 seconds. [Lane] knowingly and intentionally assisted in restraining Mr. Floyd by holding his legs.”
    • “Restraining a handcuffed person in the prone position in this manner poses a serious risk of death due to positional asphyxia. This is a known risk in the law enforcement profession and [Lane] was aware of this risk based on his experience and training. [Lane] had specific knowledge of the risk to Mr. Floyd because he perceived Mr. Floyd being restrained prone on the ground and was able to hear Mr. Floyd repeat that he could not breath[e] numerous times during the restraint. [Lane] was also aware that Mr. Floyd fell silent as the restraint continued, eventually did not have a pulse, and appeared to have lost consciousness. [Lane] was then specifically aware that then-Officer Chauvin was restraining Mr. Floyd by placing his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and upper back area, and that then-Officer Kueng was restraining Mr. Floyd’s hands. At the time of the restraint, [Lane] knew from his training that the officers should have placed Mr. Floyd in the side-recovery position to facilitate breathing. [Lane] nonetheless continued to intentionally assist in the restraint, creating and consciously taking an unreasonable risk of causing death, and in fact caused the death of George Floyd.”
    • “[Lane] agrees that the restraint of Mr. Floyd was unreasonable under the circumstances and constituted an unreasonable use of force that is not authorized by Minnesota law.”

    This Petition in paragraph 20a also stated, “ I have been told by my attorney and I understand that My attorney discussed this case with one of the prosecuting attorneys, and my attorney and the prosecuting attorney agree that if I enter a plea of guilty, the prosecutor will do the following: In exchange for my guilty plea to count 2 of the complaint, aiding manslaughter in the second degree—culpable negligence creating an unreasonable risk, and providing an adequate factual basis, the State will dismiss count 1 of the complaint. The State and the defense will jointly recommend that the Court sentence me to an executed prison term of 36 months, which under Minnesota law means the defendant would serve two-thirds of that term in prison plus any lost good time, to be served concurrently with a prison sentence imposed in [Lane’s federal criminal case] in the United States District court for the District of Minnesota, charging deprivation of civil rights under color of law. The parties will jointly recommend that no fine be imposed. This agreement binds only the defendant, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. The United States Attorney’s Office is not a party to this agreement and is not bound by its terms.”

    In paragraph 28 Lane states, “I wish to enter a plea of guilty to the offense of aiding manslaughter in the second degree in violation of Minn. Stat. [sections] 609.205(1) and 609.05, subd.1.”

    The balance of this Petition contains provisions waiving his rights to a pretrial hearing and to his rights if he chooses to go to trial

    After the court hearing on this Petition, Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, issued a written statement saying his client faced the prospect of a mandatory 12-year sentence if he were convicted on the heavier charge of aiding and abetting murder. “My client did not want to risk losing the murder case so he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter with a three-year sentence, to be released in two years,” Gray said. “He has a newborn baby and did not want to risk not being part of the child’s life.”

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    [1] Petition To Enter Plea of Guilty in felony Case Pursuant to Rule 15, State v. Lane, Fourth Judicial District, Court file No. 27-CR-20-12951 (May 18, 2022). https://www.mncourts.gov/mncourtsgov/media/High-Profile-Cases/27-CR-20-12951-TKL/TL-GuiltyPlea.pdf

    [2] Olson, Ex-MPD officer Thomas Lane pleads guilty to manslaughter charge for role in George Floyd’s murder, StarTribune (May 18, 2022). https://www.startribune.com/ex-mpd-officer-thomas-lane-pleads-guilty-to-manslaughter-charge-for-role-in-george-floyds-murder/600174315/

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