The former Minneapolis police officer who held down George Floyd‘s legs while Derek Chauvin murdered the unarmed, handcuffed Black man had his charges reduced significantly after striking a plea deal with the Minnesota attorney general’s office.
Thomas Lane, who is shown on police body camera footage playing an aggressively hostile role as Chauvin used his knee to apply deadly to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine straight minutes, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, CNN reported. He — along with J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, the two other former cops fired for participating in the police murder — was previously facing state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder.
The plea deal, which comes exactly one week before the two-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder, assures Lane will receive significantly less prison time than previously expected. Instead of possibly being sentenced to the mandatory 12 years in prison for the murder charges, the Minnesota attorney general’s office said it would recommend just three years that will run concurrently with his federal sentence.
Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who has represented Floyd’s family, said in an email to NewsOne that the plea deal was “a step toward closure” and “accountability.” But he also pointed out that the plea deal “comes only after Mr. Lane was already convicted by a federal jury on a related charge.”
Lane only agreed to the plea deal to avoid a longer prison sentence, his lawyer said.
“My client did not want to risk losing the murder case so he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter with a 3-year sentence, to be released in 2 years, and the murder case dismissed,” defense attorney Earl Gray said before adding: “He has a newborn baby and did not want to risk not being part of the child’s life.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, however, said the plea deal means that “Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death.”
Lane and his two co-defendants were all convicted in February of violating Floyd‘s civil rights during their federal trial.
The three former cops previously rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors.
The only details about the plea deals made public were that they were offered on March 22 and they all ultimately rejected the deals. At the time, Lane’s lawyer suggested there was no point in negotiating deals when the former officers still didn’t know what their federal sentences would be.
Prosecutors previously rejected a plea deal by the three former officers, including Lane.
The status of the other former officers and their charges was not immediately clear.
The transcript from body cam footage recorded during Floyd’s fatal encounter with police shows Lane, in particular, was extra hostile from the moment he arrived.
The transcript opens with Lane speaking with his partner and fellow co-defendant, J. Alexander Kueng, before they approach the car that Floyd was inside after he allegedly tried to use a counterfeit bill at a store. Lane tells Floyd to “let me see your hands,” but when Floyd — who apologized profusely and showered Lane with politeness — apparently doesn’t comply either fast enough or to Lane’s liking, the officer barked back: “Put your fucking hands up right now!”
When Floyd repeatedly asks what he was being accused of, Lane stuck to his script of anger, hostility and aggression. “Put your fucking hands up there!” Lane ordered, ignoring Floyd’s question before giving mixed signals: “Jesus Christ, keep your fucking hands on the wheel!”
Floyd then apologizes again and tells Lane that he “got shot the same way, Mr. Officer, before.”
Lane’s response was absent of any empathy and dripping with apparent anger.
“Well, when I say ‘let me see your hands,’ you put your fucking hands up!” Lane fired back.
Floyd responded with yet another apology. “I am so sorry, Mr. Officer,” he said. “Dang man.”
As he was being removed from the car, Floyd kept begging Lane not to shoot him. To Lane’s credit, he kept telling Floyd that he would not shoot him. But once Floyd was out of the car, Lane yelled at him: “Put your fucking hands behind your back!”
Both officers accused Floyd of “resisting” despite Floyd saying, “I’m not going to do nothing.”
As they begin questioning Floyd’s companion in the car, identified as Shawanda Renee Hill, Lane’s words in the transcript begin to come across as a lot more calm and even-tempered than displayed moments earlier. Hill explained to Lane that Floyd has had “problems all the time when they come,” seemingly referring to the police, “especially when that man put the gun like that.” It was unclear if that meant that Kueng was brandishing his service weapon when the officers first approached the car.
Hill also denied that Floyd was “drunk” or “on something,” as asked by Lane. She said Floyd is “a good guy.”
Finally, Lane explains to Floyd and Hill that “someone passed a fake bill” and then accuses Floyd of “getting weird” when police approached. Ignoring Floyd’s complaints of being in pain, Lane again asks if he is “on something right now.”
Floyd says no but admits that he is “scared, man.”
Kueng accused Floyd of having “foam around your mouth” but Floyd said that was because he had been playing basketball earlier.
As the cops apparently tried to put Floyd into a squad car, he warned them that he’s “claustrophobic.” He begged them to “crack the window.” He went on to repeat that “I can’t breathe” at least 20 times before Chauvin arrived.
“You’re going to kill me, man,” Floyd tells Lane at one point.