MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane was sentenced to 30 months in prison Thursday by a federal judge for his role in the killing of George Floyd.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson recommended Lane serve his sentence in Duluth, and also sentenced the ex-officer to two years of supervised release. Lane was ordered to surrender by Oct. 4, 2022 and can have no contact with Floyd's family without prior consent of a probation officer.
Lane will also have to pay mandatory restitution.
Before Judge Magnuson handed down his sentence, several members of George Floyd's family delivered victim impact statements to the courtroom, including Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother and Brandon Williams, Floyd's nephew.
Speaking directly to Lane, Floyd's girlfriend Courteney Ross said, "I don't think you're a bad guy. I think you are one man in a system that perpetuates ideologies that are based in supremacy and hate. Neither you or I started it, but we must be the ones to stop it."
Outside the federal courthouse following the sentencing George Floyd's brother Philonise and his nephew Brandon Williams both expressed frustration at the length of the sentence, saying Lane should have been given the statutory maximum.
"I just don’t understand how can you just give somebody the minimum of time that YOU want to give them, and you seen on the video, he did not try to reposition my brother, he did not try to administer CPR to my brother, they basically all of them together just stood there and gave my brother no option but to die," Philonise Floyd fumed. "No option but for the world to see a video of a man being murdered in broad daylight."
"We’re pissed off, we’re fed up, it’s happening time and time again," added Williams. "These guys are murderers. These guys didn’t go and accidentally push somebody on the ground, they murdered a man in broad daylight, and yet at his discretion he chooses to give lighter sentences then his guidelines. It’s ridiculous…. It’s a slap in the face."
U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Andrew Luger also reacted to the sentencing, saying Lane understood the seriousness of the situation that day and yet decided not to intervene in the "critical last moments" of Floyd's life. “He knew that Mr. Floyd was in grave need of medical care, but he chose passivity rather than action," Luger said in a released statement. "As a sworn law enforcement officer, he failed to uphold his duty to step in and save a man’s life.”
Lane is one of three former Minneapolis officers who were convicted by a federal jury in February of violating Floyd's civil rights by depriving him of medical care. He faces a separate sentencing Sept. 21 in state court after changing his plea to guilty to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter.
Lane's attorney Earl Gray had argued that the rookie was the least culpable of the four officers involved in Floyd’s death under Officer Derek Chauvin's knee in May 2020. The killing sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the world, and launched a national reckoning on race. In the federal courthouse in St. Paul Thursday, Gray asked the judge for a 27 month sentence, while prosecutors reiterated their request for 63-78 months.
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Lane and fellow rookie J. Alexander Kueng helped restrain Floyd while Chauvin, who is white and was the most senior officer on the scene, killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 1/2 minutes despite the handcuffed and unarmed Black man’s fading pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin’s partner, Tou Thao, helped hold back an increasingly concerned group of onlookers outside a Minneapolis convenience store where Floyd tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
Gray argued during the trial that Lane "did everything he could possibly do to help George Floyd.” He pointed out that Lane suggested rolling Floyd on his side so he could breathe, but was rebuffed twice by Chauvin. He also noted that Lane performed CPR to try to revive Floyd after the ambulance arrived.
"Any reasonable person should just be disgusted, should be infuriated” that Lane was ever charged, Gray told jurors in his closing argument.
Lane testified he didn’t realize how dire Floyd’s condition was until paramedics turned him over. Prosecutor Manda Sertich countered that his expressions of concern showed he knew Floyd was in distress but “did nothing to give Mr. Floyd the medical aid he knew Mr. Floyd so desperately needed.”
When Lane pleaded guilty in state court in May, Gray said Lane hoped to avoid a long sentence. “He has a newborn baby and did not want to risk not being part of the child’s life,” he said.
Chauvin pleaded guilty to separate federal civil rights charges in December in Floyd's killing and in an unrelated case involving a Black teenager. The former Field Training Officer received a 21-year sentence when he appeared before Magnuson two weeks ago, toward the low end of the range of 20 to 25 years both sides agreed to under his plea deal.
Chauvin was already serving a 22 1/2-year state court sentence for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His federal and state sentences are running concurrently. While his plea agreement meant accepting nearly three more years behind bars than his state sentence alone, he's expected to be safer and have more freedom in the long run. Minnesota corrections officials have kept Chauvin in solitary confinement in the state's maximum security prison for his own safety, given his notoriety. He has not yet been transferred to the federal prison system.
Magnuson has not set sentencing dates for Thao and Kueng, but he has scheduled a hearing for Friday on objections by their attorneys to how their sentences should be calculated under the complicated federal guidelines. Prosecutors are seeking unspecified sentences for them that would be lower than Chauvin's but "substantially higher” than Lane's.
Thao and Kueng, who have turned down plea deals, are scheduled to go on trial Oct. 24 on state charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
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