One of the former officers connected to the 2020 death of George Floyd has pleaded guilty to charges admitting he was complicit in the Black man’s killing.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he was “pleased” that the man “accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death,” while the man’s defense lawyer says his client was afraid of losing at trial and having to spend more than a decade behind bars — missing out on much of his newborn’s early life.
Thomas Lane, one of the three ex-Minneapolis cops facing aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder of the 46-year-old, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter Wednesday, May 18, as part of a plea deal.
The prosecutors worked out an arrangement where in exchange for Lane’s admission, they would dismiss the murder charge, drastically reducing his potential sentencing. According to Ellison, both the state and defense attorneys recommended to the court the former civil servant should receive a sentence of 36 months.
Defense attorney Earl Gray noted the negotiated reduction of Lane’s sentence played a major part in him accepting the plea deal. If he had been convicted of the murder charge, he would have received a mandatory sentence of 12 years.
“My client did not want to risk losing the murder case so he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter with a 3-year sentence, to be released in 2 years, and the murder case dismissed,” Gray explained.
“The sentence will be concurrent with his federal sentence, and he will serve his time in a federal institution.”
Less than a week from Floyd’s second death anniversary, The Guardian reports, the deceased’s family watched Lane’s plea hearing virtually. It lasted five minutes, almost four and a half minutes less than the event that took their loved one away.
The lawyer also explained that Lane has a newborn and was afraid he might not be able to be a “part of the child’s life.”
Lane and two other former colleagues were convicted in federal court in February of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Sentencing for this conviction has not been set, even as the state is pushing for the 39-year-old to be sentenced by its court on Sept. 21.
The plea deal comes a year after Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for close to ten minutes, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.
Chauvin pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Floyd’s civil rights through unreasonable force and by ignoring his medical needs, among other charges. He is still awaiting sentencing in that case.
A federal jury convicted Lane, Kueng, and Thao also of violating Floyd’s civil rights. They believed because the men failed to provide aid to Floyd, he died.
Lane and Kueng were on their first week on the force when they had their encounter with Floyd.
Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci, and Jeff Storms, the Floyd family attorneys, said they were pleased with the plea deal.
Today’s guilty plea by former officer Thomas Lane brings the Floyd family another step towards closure for the horrific and historic murder of George Floyd,” their statement said.
“While today is a step in the right direction, we only need to look to the recent and tragic killing of Amir Locke to understand that the City of Minneapolis has a long journey ahead to regain the trust of its citizenry.”