J. Alexander Kueng, the former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s back during the May 2020 killing that sparked an international outcry, has been sentenced Friday to 3 1/2 years in prison for manslaughter.
Kueng, who is already serving a federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights, appeared at the sentencing hearing at the Hennepin County (Minnesota) Courthouse via video from a low-security federal prison in Ohio.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank described Floyd on Friday as a “crime victim.” He said Kueng, who “swore an oath to protect life” in becoming a police officer, “didn’t follow” the oath the day Floyd died.
Kueng chose not to comment during the hearing.
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Kueng pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 to a state count of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. The plea came on the same day jury selection was set to begin in his trial.
Floyd died May 25, 2020, after former Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and eventually went limp. The killing, which was recorded on video by a bystander, sparked worldwide protests as part of a broader reckoning over racial injustice.
Kueng kneeled on Floyd’s back during the restraint. Then-Officer Thomas Lane held Floyd’s legs and Tou Thao, also an officer at the time, kept bystanders from intervening. All of the officers were fired and faced state and federal charges.
As part of a plea agreement, Kueng admitted that he held Floyd’s torso, that he knew from his experience and training that restraining a handcuffed person in a prone position created a substantial risk, and that the restraint of Floyd was unreasonable under the circumstances.
Chauvin, who is White, was convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges last year and is serving 22 1/2 years in the state case. He also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years. He is serving the sentences concurrently at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.
Kueng, Lane and Thao were convicted of federal charges in February. All three were convicted of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care, and Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the killing.
The sentencing hearing for Kueng was supposed to begin at 8:30 a.m. local time Friday morning, but was delayed as there were issues with Kueng logging in from prison to attend virtually, according to Fox9. However, the law firm of Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Floyd family, tweeted out prematurely a statement reacting to Kueng’s sentence hours before it actually was issued, the station added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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