J. Alexander Kueng, a former officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison over state charges for his involvement in the death of George Floyd.
The sentence on Friday comes after Kueng in October pleaded guilty to one state count of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
As part of a plea deal, Kueng agreed to a sentence of 3.5 years in prison in exchange for prosecutors dropping one count of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
The state sentence is to be served simultaneously as his federal sentence and in federal custody. Since early October, Kueng has been in prison in Ohio. He appeared at his sentencing via video from the prison and declined a chance to address the court.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement before the hearing that Kueng’s sentencing “delivers yet another piece of justice for the Floyd family.”
“While the family faces yet another holiday season without George, we hope that moments like these continue to bring them a measure of peace, knowing that George’s death was not in vain,” he said.
As part of his 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.
Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, on Friday noted that Kueng was a rookie who had only been on the job on his own for three days. Plunkett accused the department leadership of having failed to train to encourage officers to intervene when their colleagues are doing something wrong.
“On behalf of Mr. Kueng, I’m not calling for justice. I’m calling for progress,” he said.
Before ultimately agreeing to a plea deal, Kueng and fellow former Minneapolis officer Tou Thao had told a judge in August they had rejected plea deals that would have given them state prison sentences of three years. At the time, Thao told the court it would be a “lie and a sin” if he pleaded guilty. Thao has not since changed his plea.
In October, Thao agreed to a “stipulated evidence trial” on the count of aiding and abetting manslaughter, which means that he waived his right to testify and his right to a jury. His attorneys and prosecutors are working out agreed-upon evidence in his case and filing written closing arguments. Judge Peter Cahill will then decide the verdict.
George Floyd, then 46, died in May 2020. His death sparked protests nationwide in which people rallied against racism and police brutality.
Four former officers from the Minneapolis Police Department—Kueng among them—were convicted over Floyd’s death. During the arrest, Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Thomas Lane restrained Floyd’s lower body, and Tou Thao was standing nearby to work the crowd that had gathered near the scene.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who had held his knee against Floyd’s neck during the arrest for almost nine minutes, was convicted in April 2021 of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter charges in connection to Floyd’s death. He was sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison in June 2021 on the state convictions.
Chauvin later pleaded guilty in December 2021 to violating Floyd’s civil rights and came to a plea agreement for the federal charges. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison in July. The federal sentence is being served concurrently with the state sentence. Chauvin is incarcerated in federal prison.
Kueng, Lane, and Thao were convicted by a jury in federal court on Feb. 24 of violating Floyd’s civil rights by not coming to his aid. Kueng and Thao were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin. Lane was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and two years of supervised release. Thao was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison, and Kueng was sentenced to three years.
Lane had also separately reached a plea agreement for state charges. He pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, and prosecutors dropped one count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder. He was sentenced on the state charges on Sept. 21 to three years in prison, which will be served in federal custody at the same time as his federal sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.