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Federal jury convicts former cops involved in George Floyd’s death

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images, FILE

(ST. PAUL, Minn.) — A federal jury has convicted all three former Minneapolis police officers on all charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights by failing to intervene or provide medical aid as their senior officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the back of the handcuffed Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes.

The all-white U.S. District Court panel of eight women and four men announced its decision Thursday afternoon after roughly 13 hours of deliberations over two days.

Former Minneapolis police officers Thomas Lane, 38, J. Alexander Kueng, 28, and Tou Thao, 35, are all convicted of using the “color of the law,” or their positions as police officers, to deprive Floyd of his civil rights by willfully being indifferent to his serious medical needs.

Thao and Kueng were also convicted of violating Floyd’s right to be free of unreasonable seizure by willfully failing to intervene to prevent Chauvin from applying bodily injury to Floyd.

They face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Today is a good day for us,” Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said following the announcement of the verdict, adding that the U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the case “did a hell of a job.”

“This is just accountability,” Philonise Floyd said. “It can never be justice because I can never get George back.”

The Floyd family’s attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms released a joint statement praising the jury’s verdict and saying, “Today closes another important chapter in our journey for justice for George Floyd and his family.”

“These officers tried to devise any excuse that could let them wash the blood from their hands, but following these verdicts, George’s blood will forever stain them,” the famlily’s attorneys said.

They added that the verdicts should serve as a “guiding example” of why law enforcement agencies nationwide should expand and prioritize instruction on an officer’s duty to intervene when they witness a fellow officer using excessive force.

“Nothing will bring George Floyd back to his loved ones, but with these verdicts, we hope that the ignorance and indifference toward human life shown by these officers will be erased from our nation’s police departments, so no other family has to experience a loss like this,” the family’s attorneys said.

Attorneys for the three convicted men left the St. Paul, Minnesota, courthouse without commenting.

Judge Paul Magnuson ordered presentence investigation reports for Lane, Kueng and Thao and allowed them to remain free on bail until their sentencing date, which has yet to be scheduled.

Charles Kovats, the acting U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, held a post-verdict news conference with the team of federal prosecutors who handled the case.

“Today, former officers Thao, Kueng and Lane stand convicted by a jury of their peers for willfully violating Mr. Floyd’s civil rights, the same rights guaranteed to all of us by the United States Constitution,” Kovats said. “These officers had a moral responsibility, a legal obligation and a duty to intervene and by failing to do so they committed a crime.”

Kovats added, “This is a reminder that all sworn law enforcement officers regardless of rank or seniority, individually and independently, have a duty to intervene and provide medical aid to those in their custody. It’s a fundamental duty of policing.”Kueng and Lane were rookie police officers under the tutelage of Chauvin, who was their field training officer.

During the trial, which began on Jan. 24 with opening statements, the three defendants took the witness stand and each attempted to shift the blame to Chauvin, who was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department.

“I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out,” Thao testified. Lane told the jury that Chauvin “deflected” all his suggestions to help Floyd and Kueng testified that Chauvin “was my senior officer and I trusted his advice.”

In her closing argument, U.S. Assistant Attorney Manda Sertich told the jury that Chauvin barely spoke to Lane, Kueng and Thao during the incident and certainly wasn’t “ordering them around.”

“No one did a thing to help,” Sertich told the jury.

Chauvin was convicted in state court last year of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison.

Chauvin later pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges stemming from Floyd’s death and the physical abuse of a handcuffed 14-year-old boy in 2017.

The legal battles of Lane, Kueng and Thao aren’t over. They face a joint state trial in June on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter for their alleged roles in Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death.

“The Floyd family will have to relive the traumatic disregard for George’s life once again in June, when these officers will stand trial in state court,” the Floyd family’s attorneys said in their statement. “We hope, and we expect, that these officers will once again be held accountable for their lack of humanity.”

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