Thomas K. Lane faces conviction for violating Floyd’s civil rights


ST. PAUL, Minnesota — A former Minneapolis police officer who held George Floyd’s legs as he gasped for breath under Derek Chauvin’s knee faces was convicted on Thursday of violating the black man’s federal civil rights.

Thomas K. Lane is the first of three former crime scene officers with Chauvin, who was convicted for his role in Floyd’s fatal arrest in May 2020.

Lane and two other former officers — J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — were convicted in federal court in February of violating Floyd’s civil rights. A jury found they had not provided medical assistance to Floyd when he complained of difficulty breathing and lost consciousness while being held face down on a South Minneapolis street.

Kueng and Thao were also convicted for failing to intervene with Chauvin when he pressed his knees into Floyd’s neck and back for nearly 9½ minutes.

Chauvin pleaded guilty to federal charges related to Floyd’s death in December and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison this month. Chauvin was already serving a 22½-year state sentence for Floyd’s murder, which he will serve at the same time.

Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, who was presiding over the case, to sentence Lane to between 5¼ and 6½ years for his role in the restraint that killed Floyd.

Earl Grey, Lane’s attorney, said he was seeking a 27-month sentence — slightly shorter than the three-year sentence Lane is facing after he pleaded guilty to a separate state charge in May of aiding and abetting manslaughter in Floyd’s death and a had avoided further proceedings.

As part of the state plea, prosecutors agreed to allow Lane to serve his state sentence concurrently with his federal sentence. They will also allow Lane to serve that time in a federal prison. But it’s ultimately up to Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill to set Lane’s state sentencing for September 21.

In the state case, Lane signed an affidavit admitting his guilt in Floyd’s killing, which was captured in viral video that sparked global protests and a racial and police reckoning. “I’m not claiming I’m innocent now,” the settlement agreement, signed by Lane, reads.

In an interview, Gray said his client, whose wife recently gave birth to their first child, pleaded guilty to avoid a potentially longer sentence because he “wanted to be a part of his child’s life.” He said he asked Magnuson to recommend Lane serve a sentence in a Minnesota federal prison so he could be close to his family, but acknowledged that the Bureau of Prisons would ultimately decide his fate.

Lane will be given an opportunity to speak at Thursday’s hearing, but Gray said it was unclear if his client would do so. “He wants to get on with his life,” Gray said.

Lane, 39, had been a full-time cop for less than a week when he and his partner, Kueng, 28, another newcomer, responded to an emergency call at a market about the alleged passing of a counterfeit $20 bill.

At the scene, store employees pointed out Floyd, who was in a nearby car, and officers approached. Lane drew a gun on Floyd within 15 seconds of his encounter without telling the man what he was investigating, causing Floyd to panic and beg the officer not to shoot him.

Lane testified during the federal trial that he was concerned Floyd had a gun or was trying to flee the scene. Later, Kueng and Lane fought with Floyd when they tried to put him in a squad car.

Chauvin, 46, arrived during the fight and helped place Floyd on the ground where he pressed his knees into Floyd’s neck and back. Kueng held Floyd’s back and Lane held the man’s legs. Thao, 36, who was Chauvin’s partner, held back increasingly concerned onlookers, who asked officers to leave Floyd and provide assistance when the man went limp.

Body camera video of the incident twice captured Lane and asked Chauvin if they should reposition Floyd when the man complained about breathing, but Chauvin rebuffed him. As Floyd went limp, Kueng and Lane checked Floyd for a pulse but couldn’t find one. Kueng relayed this information to Chauvin, who didn’t move, and all three continued to hold the man.

Kueng, Lane, and Thao all testified that they gave in to Chauvin, the senior crime scene officer who had been Kueng’s field training officer and advised Lane. However, prosecutors argued all three had been trained to immediately turn a handcuffed person onto their side if they no longer resisted and to provide medical assistance to someone who was unconscious. They also produced testimonies showing that the officers were trained to intervene with another officer, regardless of rank, if they observed that person using force or violating other department policies.

Lane testified that he didn’t fully realize Floyd was in trouble until a paramedic rolled the man over to place him on a stretcher. His attorney tried to win the jury’s sympathy by pointing out that Lane jumped into an ambulance and Floyd performed chest compressions to revive him.

But prosecutors argued that was too little, too late — a sentiment they echoed in their sentencing motion. They explained that Lane “didn’t intend for Mr. Floyd to die,” but he did nothing to help him when it “could have made a difference.” His “inaction” not only has “serious consequences” for Floyd and Lane, but also for Floyd’s family, other police officers and the broader American public, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors have asked for Kueng and Thao to receive “substantially more” sentences than Lane’s but less than Chauvin’s sentence. The former officers’ attorneys have objected to the exact sentencing guidelines Magnuson is considering — specific details of which remain under the court’s seal.

Thao’s lawyer Robert Paule has suggested that his client should not serve more than two years in prison; Thomas Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney, has not publicly said how much jail time he is seeking for his client. Magnuson has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Kueng and Thao on Friday.

At Chauvin’s July 7 sentencing, Magnuson admonished the former officer not only for his “ruthless” treatment of Floyd, but for how his actions had impacted the lives of Kueng, Lane and Thao. “Not only did you take the life of another human being, you destroyed the lives of three other young officers,” Magnuson said to Chauvin, who showed no reaction.

Kueng and Thao face another trial this fall for aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. In this case, the selection of the jury should begin on October 24th. Thomas K. Lane faces conviction for violating Floyd’s civil rights

James Brien

James Brien is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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