Thomas Lane, one of the former Minneapolis police officers found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, was on Thursday sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, CNN reported. Three other former Minneapolis police officers were also similarly convicted of federal civil rights violations for the May 2020 death of Floyd.
Lane’s sentencing also comes about two months after he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd. Prosecutors and Lane’s attorneys asked the court to hand Lane a three-year prison sentence that would run concurrently. The sentencing date for that state charge is reportedly scheduled for September 21.
Floyd passed away after former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes despite pleading for his life and telling the law enforcement officer that he couldn’t breathe.
Prosecutors had pushed for Lane to be handed a prison sentence ranging from 5.25 years to 6.5 years. The former police officer’s attorney, however, asked Judge Paul A. Magnuson to sentence his client to 2.5 years in prison.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Magnuson said that Lane’s role in the fatal arrest was “minimal.” He also described Lane as a person of “outstanding character,” adding that he received 145 letters offering support for Lane.
“It’s not unusual to receive letters. But I have never received so many letters,” he said.
The judge also suggested that Lane serve his sentence at the Duluth federal prison so he has close proximity to his friends and family.
In February, Lane and two former officers – J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – were convicted of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Their convictions came after a jury determined the three men “deprived Floyd of his constitutional right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs when they saw him restrained in police custody in clear need of medical care,” the Department of Justice said in a statement, adding that this caused Floyd to sustain physical injuries that resulted in his death, per CBS News.
Lane was a rookie police officer at the time of the Black man’s killing. The video of the fatal arrest showed him holding Floyd’s legs while Kueng placed his knee on the Black man’s back. Thao, on the other hand, restrained bystanders. During the trial at the beginning of the year, Lane told the court that he twice asked Chauvin to reposition Floyd while he was being restrained. But his request was declined, CNN reported.
But Floyd’s family registered their displeasure with Lane’s sentencing in a press conference on Thursday.
“The fact that this judge had a chance to deliver a maximum amount of time and he chose not to — what did that tell other people around the world? What does that tell people of color?” Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said. “The fact that they went below the (recommended) sentence, that’s terrible, because you give other people, for other crimes, way more time than that.”
The deceased Black man’s nephew, Brandon Williams, also described the 2.5-year prison sentence as a “slap in the face.”
“(Lane) also made the decision to kill my uncle. He knew exactly what he was supposed to do and he chose not to do it. That’s not an accident. That is a choice,” Williams said.
Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, also said that though she informed Lane that she didn’t think he was a bad person, he still had to face the consequences of his actions.
“I think he was caught up in a moment where he didn’t do the right thing. He fell to the pressures of a man that he should have no respect for,” she said. “I hope that in the future, we’re going to start to see that people’s lives need to be valued. And part of that value is holding people accountable.”
In June last year, Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison after he was found guilty of Floyd’s murder. He received a 21-year prison sentence a few weeks ago after he pleaded guilty to violating Floyd’s civil rights. Both sentences will run concurrently.
The sentencing date for Kueng and Thao is yet to be set.