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Ex-officer Tou Thao convicted of aiding and abetting manslaughter in George Floyd’s killing

The last of the four former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death was convicted in state court for his role in the May 2020 arrest, Minnesota’s attorney general said Tuesday.

Tou Thao, who kept bystanders away as former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, was convicted of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter after a stipulated bench trial. Thao rejected a plea deal and waived his right to a jury trial last year. Prosecutors agreed to drop a more serious charge − aiding and abetting murder − if he was convicted on the lesser charge.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill based his verdict on exhibits and transcripts from Chauvin’s murder trial, which he presided over, and the federal civil rights trial of Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Thao testified during that trial that he served as “a human traffic cone” controlling the crowd of bystanders as the other officers restrained Floyd.

“Thao was trained on MPD’s use of force and medical policies, which are consistent with generally accepted policing practices,” Cahill wrote in his 177-page ruling. “Under those policies and practices, it was objectively unreasonable to (among other things): encourage fellow officers to engage in a dangerous prone restraint for 9 minutes and 24 seconds; encourage those officers not to use a hobble; actively assist their restraint by acting as a ‘human traffic cone’; and prevent bystanders from rendering medical aid.

“Thao’s actions were even more unreasonable in light of the fact that he was under a duty to intervene to stop the other officers’ excessive use of force and was trained to render medical aid.”

Floyd’s family “is grateful for another measure of accountability for his death,” family attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms said in a statement.

“Nearly three years after George was killed, the family and Minneapolis community continue to heal as the criminal justice system prevails,” the attorneys said in a statement. “With each of these measures of justice, it is even more so demonstrated that police brutality is an illegal – and punishable – act.”

Thao’s defense attorney, Robert Paule, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thao to be sentenced in August

Thao waived his right to a jury trial just before jury selection was scheduled to begin in his joint state trial with Kueng. Kueng pleaded guilty to to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.

Lane also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison last year. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison in 2021 after he was found guilty of murder and manslaughter. The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday rejected his appeal for a new state trial last month.

The former officers were also convicted in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights and are serving concurrent federal prison sentences. Kueng was sentenced to three years, Thao received a 3½-year sentence, Lane was sentenced to 2½ years in prison, and Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to violating Floyd’s civil rights, was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Thao is scheduled to be sentenced on the state charge in August and probably will face about four years in prison.

Floyd’s murder sparked protests around the world and a national reckoning on police brutality and systemic racism.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the lead prosecutor in Floyd’s murder, called Thao’s conviction “historic and the right outcome,” and Ellison urged federal lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a statement Tuesday.

“While we have now reached the end of the prosecution of Floyd’s murder, it is not behind us,” Ellison said. “There is much more that prosecutors, law-enforcement leaders, rank-and-file officers, elected officials, and community can do to bring about true justice in law enforcement and true trust and safety in all communities.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article was originally publishedhere.