Three former cops at the scene of George Floyd’s arrest when ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin murdered him were found guilty of civil rights violations by a federal jury on Thursday.
Just weeks after Chauvin’s convictions, a federal grand jury indicted him and three other officers in May. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were standing by when Chauvin suffocated Floyd to death, and prosecutors accused Thao and Kueng of failing to intervene.
“Specifically, Defendants Kueng and Thao were aware that Defendant Chauvin was holding his knee across George Floyd’s neck as Floyd lay handcuffed and unresisting, and that Defendant Chauvin continued to hold Floyd to the ground even after Floyd became unresponsive, and the defendants willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force,” the indictment stated.
Lane was charged with “deliberate indifference” to Floyd’s medical needs. So were Chauvin, Thao and Kueng. Chauvin pleaded guilty in the federal case; a jury found the three others guilty on all counts.
Entering the courtroom around 4:07 p.m. Central Time, jurors gave an emotional recitation of the verdict. One juror was crying while pronouncing the verdict, and a woman sitting in the front row of the gallery dabbed her eyes, according to pool notes via MPR News.
Lane’s lawyer Earl Gray and his client shook their heads as the guilty verdict for deliberate indifference was pronounced.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ordered the continuation of bond under the present terms and conditions.
Federal prosecutors reportedly told a jury that the former officers “chose to do nothing” when Chauvin squeezed the life out of Floyd. All three men reportedly testified in their own defense, and they face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
Imprisoned at the Oak Park Heights correctional facility in Minnesota, Chauvin has been serving the 22.5-year sentence that was handed down by Judge Peter Cahill after a Hennepin County convicted him of two murder charges and one manslaughter charge in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin faced a second federal indictment accusing him of depriving a Black 14-year-old student of civil rights in 2017. Prosecutors claim that he held the minor down “by the throat” and hit the teen “multiple times in the head with a flashlight.” A second count alleged that Chauvin “held his knee on the neck and the upper back” of the teen who had been “lying prone, handcuffed, and unresisting.”
Chauvin pleaded not guilty to the second indictment in September before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer. That case is currently proceeding through the discovery process.
Following the verdict, Michigan Attorney General Keith Ellison—who brought the state prosecution—declared: “This verdict honors Floyd’s memory.”
“Once again, the principle that no one is above the law and no one is beneath it has been upheld,” Ellison wrote in a statement. “This is not a celebratory moment, but it is an important one. The jury found that the defendants’ deprivation of George Floyd’s civil rights caused his death. The verdicts today vindicate the principle that officers have a duty and a responsibility to intervene and render medical care, and they affirm that it is a violation of federal law not to do so. I hope that law-enforcement departments all over the country will act to ensure that officers will intervene if they see illegal conduct by a fellow officer. That is an important part of the change that we need. These verdicts will help move us toward it.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats, whose district brought the federal charges, also delivered remarks 30 minutes following the verdict.
Elura Nanos contributed to this report.
(Photos via mugshots)
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