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2 former cops awaiting trial in George Floyd case reject plea deal

J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, left, and Tou Thao arrive
Former Minneapolis Police Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao arrive for sentencing July 27 in St. Paul, Minn.David Joles / Star Tribune via Getty Images

The two remaining officers awaiting trial on state charges in the killing of George Floyd rejected a plea deal Monday, paving the way for their trial to begin Oct. 24.

Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. They were offered the same plea deal as another former officer, Thomas Lane, who pleaded guilty in May to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, according to court spokesman Matt Lehman and John Stiles, the spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison whose office is prosecuting the case. As part of Lane's plea deal, which calls for a three-year sentence, a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder was dismissed. Stiles said Lane would serve two years of the three-year sentence; he is due to be sentenced in September.

Kueng's attorney, Thomas Plunkett, did not immediately return a request for comment. Thao's attorney, Bob Paule, declined to comment.

Thao, Kueng and Lane had initially rejected plea deals from the state, prosecutors disclosed in April. Lead prosecutor Matthew Frank said the plea offers were identical and were made in March after a jury convicted the three in a separate trial in February of federal crimes for failing to intervene as then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for 9 ½ minutes. Lane's attorney, Earl Gray, said at the time that it was difficult for the defense to negotiate when the three weren't certain of their federal sentences. 

Floyd, a Black father, died May 25, 2020, after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at Cup Foods, a convenience store. He was 46. Kueng knelt on Floyd's back, Lane held down his legs, and Thao stood nearby and kept concerned bystanders at bay. Floyd's killing was captured on a bystander video and set off protests in Minneapolis and around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.

Chauvin was convicted of murder on state charges last year and was sentenced to 22½ years in prison. He pleaded guilty in December to violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to just over 20 years in prison. His federal sentence will run concurrently with the 22½-year sentence.

Kueng and Lane were rookie officers. Chauvin was the senior officer at the scene.