One of two former police officers who were due to stand trial on Monday on charges stemming from the death of george floyd pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors, a court official told ABC News.
J. Alexander Kueng, 29, pleaded guilty Monday morning to one count of aiding and abetting manslaughter after prosecutors and Kueng’s defense attorney agreed to recommend a 42-month prison sentence , said a spokesperson for the Hennepin County Courts.
A second charge of aiding and abetting second degree unintentional murder will be dismissed against Kueng as part of his plea deal.
Judge Peter Cahill asked Kueng if he understood the plea agreement and informed him that he was entitled to a trial. Kueng told Cahill that he understood the deal and that no one had threatened him to accept it.
A sentencing date for Kueng was not immediately set. Cahill ordered a pre-conviction investigation.
The plea was announced just as a joint trial for Kueng and Tou Thao, 34, was due to begin with jury selection. The lawsuit comes after the two former Minneapolis police officers reported themselves to separate jails this month to begin their federal sentences after being found guilty in February of federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Both men had pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting manslaughter stemming from Floyd’s Memorial Day 2020 death, which sparked massive protests across the country and the world.
Thao is continuing with the trial, but does not want a jury to return a verdict, the court spokesperson said. Thao, instead, wants Cahill to decide his fate based on evidence stipulated by his attorney and the prosecution team, the spokesperson said.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Cahill would only decide a verdict for Thao on the charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. He said in a statement that prosecutors in his office have decided to “hold back” the more serious charge of accessory to second-degree murder until Cahill makes a decision in what will now be a bench trial.
Ellison said the state has agreed to dismiss the accessory to second-degree murder charge if Thao is convicted of manslaughter.
Cahill ordered that evidence agreed for him be submitted to court by November 17. After receiving the evidence, the judge will take up to 90 days to review it and issue a verdict, the spokesperson said.
The state trial for Kueng and Thao was originally scheduled for June 2022, but Cahill delayed it over fears it would be difficult to seat an unbiased jury given the pre-trial publicity. Earlier this year, Thao, Kueng and a third defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, were convicted of federal civil rights charges stemming from Floyd’s death and Lane later pleaded guilty to the charges. of State.
At the time of his decision, Cahill said the postponement of the trial should “lessen the impact of this publicity on the right and ability of the defendants to enjoy a fair trial by an impartial and impartial jury.”
Lane, 39 years old, pleaded guilty in May to declare charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. In exchange for the plea, state prosecutors agreed to dismiss the main charge against him of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder — similar to the plea Kueng accepted on Monday. Lane was sentenced in September to three years in prison, which he is serving concurrently with his 2½-year federal sentence.
“J. Alexander Kueng is now the second officer involved in Floyd’s death to accept responsibility through a guilty plea. This acknowledgment can hopefully bring comfort to Floyd’s family and bring our communities closer to a new era of accountability and justice,” Ellison said in a statement.
Kueng, Thao and Lane were sentenced in February by a federal jury charged with violating the civil rights of George Floyd by failing to intervene or provide medical aid when their superior officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on the back of Floyd’s neck, while he was handcuffed, for more than nine minutes.
Kueng, a rookie cop at the time of Floyd’s death, was sentenced to three years in federal prison, followed by two years of probation. Thao, who had been a nine-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department at the time of Floyd’s death, was sentenced to 3½ years in prison, also followed by two years of supervised release.
Floyd suffered serious injuries when he was handcuffed and in a prone position on the sidewalk after being charged with attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store to buy cigarettes. Security videos, police body cameras and civilian cellphone cameras showed Floyd pleading for his life and complaining that he couldn’t breathe as Chauvin held his knee to the back of his neck, knocking him unconscious and pulseless, according to prosecutors. Floyd was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
Chauvin was convicted in state court last year of second-degree manslaughter, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison.
While Chauvin’s state trial was broadcast live from hammer to hammer due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic limiting public access to the courtroom, cameras are not permitted at the trial. by Kueng and Thao. Cahill ruled in April that the conditions “are materially different from those faced by the Court from November 2020 to April 2021 with the Chauvin trial.”
Chauvin, 46, also pleaded guilty in December to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced in July to 21 years in federal prison.
During their federal trial, Lane, Kueng and Thao each took the witness stand and tried to pin the blame on Chauvin, who was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department. Lane told the jury that Chauvin “diverted” all of his suggestions to help Floyd, while Kueng testified that Chauvin “was my superior officer and that I trusted his advice” and Thao testified that he “would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out. “