MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The former Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s back While another officer knelt on the black man’s neck, he was sentenced on Friday to 3 and a half years in prison.
J. Alexander Kuang pleaded guilty in October to the count of aiding and abetting second degree murder. In return, a charge of aiding and abetting murder was dropped. Kuang is already serving a federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights, and the state and federal sentences will run concurrently.
Quang appeared at the hearing via video from a federal prison in Ohio. When he was given the opportunity to go to court, he refused.
With credit for time served and various parole guidelines in the state and federal systems, Kuang is expected to serve a total of about 2 1/2 years behind bars.
Floyd’s family members had the right to make victim impact statements, but none did. Family lawyer Ben Crump, who has taken on some of the country’s most high-profile police killings of black people, said in a statement before the hearing that Kuang’s sentence “provides another piece of justice for the Floyd family.”
“As the family faces another holiday season without George, we hope that moments like these will continue to bring them a measure of peace, knowing that George’s death was not in vain,” he said.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and eventually went limp. The killing, which was captured on video by a bystander, sparked protests around the world as part of a wider reckoning with racial injustice.
Quang kneeled on Floyd’s back during the restraint. Police officer at the time Thomas Lane held Floyd’s legs and Taw Taw, also an officer at the time, prevented bystanders from intervening. All the officers were fired and faced state and federal charges.
As part of his plea agreement, Kuang admitted that he held Floyd’s body, that he knew from his experience and training that restraining a handcuffed person in a prone position creates a substantial risk, and that Floyd’s restraint is unreasonable under the circumstances.
Matthew Frank, who led the prosecution for the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, said repeatedly during the hearing that Floyd was the victim of a crime and that the prosecution was “focused on the officers” who caused his death. He added that the case was not intended to be a broader examination of policing, but added that he hoped it would reaffirm that officers cannot treat those “in crisis as non-people or second-class citizens.”
“Sir. Kuang was not just a bystander that day. He did less than some of the bystanders tried to do in helping Mr. Floyd,” Frank said.
Quang’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, on Friday blamed Minneapolis police leadership and a lack of training for Floyd’s death. He emphasized Kuang’s status as a rookie — saying he had only been on the job himself for three days — and accused department leadership of failing to implement training to encourage officers to step in when one of their colleagues does something wrong.
“On behalf of Mr. Kuang, I am not calling for justice. I am calling for progress,” he said.
Then-Chief Madaria Arradondo fired Quang and the three other officers the day after Floyd’s killing and later testified at Chauvin’s trial that the officers did not follow training. The former head of the department’s training division also testified that the officers acted in a manner inconsistent with department policy.
Kuang’s sentencing brings the cases against all the former officers one step closer to resolution, although the state’s case against Thao is still pending.
Thao previously told Judge Peter Cahill it “would be a lie” to plead guilty. In October, he agreed to a so-called evidentiary hearing under the count of aiding and abetting murder. As part of this process, his lawyers and prosecutors work on agreed-upon evidence in his case and submit written closing arguments. Cahill will decide if Teo is guilty or not.
If Teo is convicted, the murder charge – which carries a reasonable penalty of 12 and a half years in prison – will be dropped.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges in the state last year and is serving 22 and a half years in the state case. He also pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years. He is serving the sentences concurrently at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.
Quang, Lane and Thao were convicted of federal charges in February: all three were convicted of denying Floyd’s right to medical care, and Thao and Quang were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the killing.
Lane, who is white, is serving his 2 1/2-year federal sentence at a facility in Colorado. He is serving a concurrent three-year state prison sentence. Kuang, who is Black, was sentenced to three years on the federal counts; Thao, who is Hmong American, received 3 1/2 years in federal prison.
Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
For more AP coverage of the killing of George Floyd: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd