Federal Prosecution Proposes Criminal Sentences for Ex-Officers Lane, Kueng and Thao’s Convictions for Involvement in the Killing of George Floyd

On June 29 , federal prosecutors asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to impose a sentence of up to 6.5 years for Thomas Lane’s conviction for his involvement in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. The prosecutors also asked on June 29 and 30 for higher sentences for ex-officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who also have been convicted for their involvement in that killing.[1]

The prosecution’s reasons for these recommendations were very detailed in compliance with the requirements of the federal statute for the imposition of sentences (18 U.S.C. sec. 3553).

All of these convictions are based upon a February 2022 federal jury’s verdict of guilty for these three men for violating Floyd’s civil rights by failing to give Floyd medical care while Kueng also was found guilty of not trying to stop Derek Chauvin from using excessive force. [2]

Reasons for Proposed Sentence of Lane[3]

According to the prosecution, a “within guideline range sentence of 63 months (5.25 years) to 78 months (6.5 years) [for Lane] is reasonable and appropriate in light of the serious consequences of . . . Lane’s criminal omissions and in consideration of the 18 U.S.C. sec. 3553(a) factors.”

“As the jury necessarily found, . . . [Lane] recognized that  . . . Floyd was suffering from a serious medical need and failed to provide him with the basic medical aid and that . . .[Lane] was trained and duty-bound to give such aid at a time when that would have made a difference. . . . . [Lane’s] failure to provide medical aid had serious consequences for Mr. Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s family, . . . Lane’s fellow law enforcement officers, and the broader community. . . . [This proposed sentence] is justified by the gravity and impact of his inaction.”

The prosecution then rejected, with appropriate legal citations, the following Lane objections to this proposed sentence:  (1)  the victim was lawfully restrained; (2) Lane was a minimal participant in the restraint; (3) there was double counting of Lane’s status as someone acting under color of law; and (4) Lane’s guilty plea justifies a downward adjustment because it came after conviction at trial.

Next the prosecution argued that the section 3553(a) factors justified a within-guidelines sentence for Lane: the nature and circumstances of the offense (Lane was well placed to save Floyd’s life) and Lane had information about Floyd’s condition and information and training of how to respond to this condition. In addition, a guideline-range sentence will most appropriately capture the significance of Lane’s inaction, the lasting harm his inaction inflicted on Floyd, the other officers and the larger community.”

Lane’s being a police officer is another reason justifying a higher sentence, and his relative inexperience as an officer is undermined by Lane’s recognition of Floyd’s condition and Lane’s initial training and knowledge.

A within-guidelines sentence of Lane “will remind other officers of their constitutional obligations as law enforcement officers, including an affirmative obligation to protect the lives and safety of those in their custody and thus serve to protect the American public by promoting respect for the law.

Therefore, Lane “should be sentenced to a within-guidelines sentence of 63 months (5.25 years) to 78 months (6.5 years).”

This statement by the prosecution also constitutes a rejection of Lane’s motion for a downward sentencing variance.

Reasons for Proposed Sentence of Kueng[4]

The prosecution argued that a sentence of Kueng should be “significantly more “ than the proposed sentence of 63 to 78 months for Lane because (1) Kueng abused state powers to cause the death of . . . Floyd; (2) Kueng lacked “acceptance of responsibility , including his (at time obstructive and incredible) trial testimony;” (3) the need to promote respect for the law and deter other police officers from standing by as their fellow officers inflict abuses on unresisting arrestees,” and (4) “the need for consistency with respect to other cases in which officers have been convicted of failing to intervene to protect an arrestee from abuse.” The prosecution also argued that Kueng’s sentence should be less than the expected sentence of 240-300 months of imprisonment for Derek Chauvin.

Reasons for Proposed Sentence of Thao[5]

The prosecution argued that Thao’s sentence would be less than the 240-300 months’ anticipated sentence for Chauvin and “significantly more that the Guidelines range applicable to . . . Lane . . . of 63 to 78 months’ imprisonment. Such a sentence is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the requirements of 18 U.S.C. sec. 3553(a).”

This proposal, said the prosecution, was justified by the following: (1) ‘the offense resulted in the death of . . Floyd, and thus caused the gravest of harms;” (2) “Floyd was in [Thao’s] custody and care and [he] knew he had a duty to protect . . . [Floyd];” (3) Thao “had the knowledge, opportunity, information and time to recognize the need for action to stop the unreasonable force and to provide medical aid—and yet he failed to act;” (4) Thao’s “lack of acceptance of responsibility, including his (at times incredible)  trial testimony merits a significant sentence;” and (5)  “a significant sentence is needed to promote respect for the law and to deter other police officers from standing by as their fellow officers commit a crime.”

Thao, on the other hand, stated he believes the appropriate calculated Guidelines Range for him is 24-30 months  and requested the Court to impose a sentence of 24 months imprisonment. “This sentence would be sufficient, but not greater than necessary to achieve the goals outlined in [section] 3553.”

Conclusion

We all now wait to see if these defendants offer any other contrary arguments and the decisions on the sentences by Judge Magnuson.

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[1] Montemayor, Federal prosecutors seek up to 6 ½ years for ex-officers for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, StarTribune (June 29, 2022); Karnowski (AP), Prosecutors seek prison for 3 ex-cops in Floyd killing, StarTribune (June 29, 2022); Montemayor, Feds ask for up to 6 ½ years  in prison for ex-MPD officer Thao for failing to help George Floyd, StarTribune (June 30, 2020).

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

[3]  United States’ Sentencing Memorandum, U.S. v. Lane, Case 0:21-cr-0018, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. MN (June 29, 2022); Ex-Officer Thomas  Lane Pleads Guilty State Charge of Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (May 18, 2022).

[4]  Government’s Position with Respect to Sentencing, U.S. v. Kueng,, Case 0-21-cr-00188, U.S. Dist. Ct. MN (June 29, 2022); Defendant Kueng’s Motion for a Sentencing Variance, U.S. v. Kueng,, Case 0-21-cr-00188, U.S. Dist. Ct. MN (June 29, 2022).

[5] Government’s Position with Respect to Sentencing, U.S. v. Thao, U.S. Dist. Ct. MN, Case No. 0:21-cr-00108 (June 30,2022); Defendants’ Position with Respect to Sentencing, U.S. v. Thao, U.S. Dist. Ct. MN, Case No. 0:21-cr-00108 (June 30,2022).