MINNEAPOLIS — A federal appeals court on Wednesday accepted the government's request to drop its appeals of the sentences of two former Minneapolis police officers who were convicted of civil rights violations in the murder of George Floyd.
The one-page filings in the cases of ex-officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao gave few details. In July, Federal Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced Kueng to three years in prison and Thao to three-and-a-half years. Those sentences were lower than what federal prosecutors had sought. The court docket indicated there had been little activity in the case since prosecutors filed their notices of appeal in September.
Floyd, who was Black, died on May 25, 2020, when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Kueng helped to restrain Floyd by leaning on his back, while Thao held back bystanders from intervening. A fourth officer, Thomas Lane, was convicted of federal charges in February and pleaded guilty to state charges in May.
The killing sparked worldwide protests, many of which were affiliated with Black Lives Matter, as part of a broader reckoning over racial injustice.
The federal civil rights cases were separate from the state charges that Thao and Kueng faced. Kueng pleaded guilty in October to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, while Thao agreed only to what’s called a stipulated evidence trial on the aiding and abetting count in a deal that avoided a full-fledged trial. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill is expected to rule on Thao's guilt or innocence in the next few weeks, based on prosecution and defense filings.
Next Wednesday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Chauvin's appeal of his conviction on a state charge of second-degree murder, which resulted in a 22 1/2-year sentence. Chauvin later pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges and was sentenced to 21 years. He's serving his federal sentence concurrently with his state sentence.
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