Prosecutors: Longer sentences needed for Floyd officers

Posted at 10:23 AM, October 13, 2020 and last updated 2:21 PM, June 21, 2023

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, shows Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.  (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors have offered additional explanation about why they believe longer sentences should be given if four former Minneapolis police officers are convicted in the death of George Floyd.

In a court filing Monday in Hennepin County, prosecutors said the position of trust the officers held and Floyd’s vulnerability are two reasons why the men, if convicted, should receive longer sentences than guidelines recommend.

Prosecutors previously requested longer-than-recommended sentences for former officers Derek Chauvin, his partner, Tou Thao, and the initial arresting officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. The filing from Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office offers an explanation for enhanced sentences that Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill requested.

Lane’s defense attorney Earl Gray said the request for an upward sentencing departure is an attempt to poison the potential pool of jurors.

“They first have to get a conviction,” he said.

Chauvin, who is white, was captured on cellphone video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a Black man, for several minutes May 25 while Floyd was handcuffed face down on the street and begged to breathe. Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Kueng, Lane and Thao each are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Kueng pinned Floyd’s torso and Lane controlled his legs, while Thao kept angry bystanders away from the officers and Floyd.

When they arrived in full uniform to question Floyd about a counterfeit bill, the officers held a “defined relationship” of authority over Floyd, which they used to “dominate and control” him, prosecutors wrote. They handcuffed him, pinned him to the ground and ultimately caused his death, their memo said.

Prosecutors cited an appellate ruling that endorsed longer sentences when there’s a power imbalance that makes it difficult for the victim to protect himself, the Star Tribune reported. The courts also allow longer sentences when a victim is vulnerable due to reduced physical or mental capacity.