One of the officers with the Minneapolis Police Department charged in connection with the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 was sentenced on Thursday to 30 months in federal prison for violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Former officer Thomas Lane was found guilty earlier this year by a jury in federal court of violating Floyd’s right to be free of a “police officer’s deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”
Federal prosecutors argued to the jury that Lane’s failure to intervene when he observed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for an extended period violated civil rights statutes. In convicting Lane, the jury found that the failure to render aid also contributed to Floyd’s death.
Lane pleaded guilty in May to a separate charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in relation to Floyd’s death.
The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Judge Magnuson was appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan in 1981.
Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke said that the “tragic death of George Floyd makes clear the fatal consequences” that can occur if a law enforcement officer does not take proper steps to protect a person who has been reduced to physical custody. She said that if Lane and other officers present had taken simple common sense steps, Floyd would still be alive.
Clarke added that the sentence imposed should remind every law enforcement officer of their duties to protect suspects who have been taken into physical custody.
Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger told the court that even though Lane knew that Floyd needed medical care, he “chose passivity rather than action.” Luger noted that every sworn officer has a “duty to step in and save a man’s life.”
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Magnuson told Lane that he could not excuse the violation of the law when he failed to remove Chauvin from Floyd when he was obviously unconscious. The sentence the judge imposed was on the lower end of the range available under the statute violated and the federal sentencing guidelines.
Federal prosecutors initially asked for a sentence of just over five years. Floyd’s family asked the court to impose the maximum sentence possible under the law. Floyd’s brother, Philonise, said that the sentence passed by the court was “insulting” because Lane is an “accessory to murder.”
The other two officers who were present, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, were also convicted by the jury earlier this year for failing to stop Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd. Thao held back onlookers and Kueng pinned Floyd’s back during the initial restraint. They are both still awaiting sentencing.