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Months After Federal Sentencing, Ex-Cop Pleads Guilty in State Court to Aiding and Abetting Manslaughter in George Floyd’s Death

J. Alexander Kueng mugshot

J. Alexander Kueng

One of the four fired Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd pleaded guilty on Monday in a Minnesota state court to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Back in July, J. Alexander Kueng was sentenced to federal prison for violating Floyd’s rights alongside co-defendant Tou Thao. As part of the new plea, Kueng, 29, will serve his state and federal sentences concurrently.

“In exchange for Kueng’s guilty plea, the State of Minnesota has agreed to drop the charge of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder against Kueng and its request for an upward departure from sentencing guidelines,” said the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (DFL). “The State and Kueng jointly recommended to the court a sentence of 42 months, to be served in a federal prison concurrently with Kueng’s federal sentence. Sentencing will be set for a later date.”

Kueng was previously sentenced to three years behind bars the federal in federal case.

Kueng, lead defendant Derek Chauvin, and co-defendant Thomas Lane held George Floyd down while Tou Thao stood between them and bystanders who tried to intervene on May 25, 2020. Jurors convicted Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, leaving the other officers to face lesser charges in the death of the 46-year-old father.

Minnesota prosecutors on Monday also announced that Thao, who was sentenced to three years and six months in federal prison, opted for a bench trial in state court.

“In addition, former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao today waived his right to a jury trial and joined the State in asking the court for a bench trial on the charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter on stipulated evidence, thereby waiving his right to present and confront witnesses in person and testify in his own defense in person,” authorities said. “This means the court, not a jury, will reach a verdict on the evidence that the State and Thao will agree upon and submit jointly for the court’s consideration. The state will hold back the charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder against Thao until the resolution of the bench trial. If the court finds Thao guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, the State will agree to dismiss the charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and withdraw its request for an upward departure from sentencing guidelines.”

At the federal trial, Kueng’s attorney Thomas Plunkett described his client as a new officer who simply deferred to the authority of a much more senior officer, according to pool notes by Stephen Montemayor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper. He said Kueng was the youngest and least experienced officer at the scene.

Kueng said during testimony at his federal trial that he had “tunnel vision” while restraining Floyd, and he was not aware of what Chauvin was doing or the position of his knee, according to MPR News.

“To argue Mr. Kueng is something less than an average participant thus ignores the facts of the case,” U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson said, according to the pool notes.

The judge pointed out that Kueng played an active role by holding Floyd down while Chauvin murdered Floyd.

“Someone can be a person” who “does good things and and has the right ambitions — but on one occasion has a catastrophic lapse that causes a person death,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich. “Even if the death was unintended, a serious punishment is warranted.”

Aaron Keller contributed to this report.

[Mugshot via Hennepin County Jail]

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