In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the murder charge, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office said. State and defense attorneys jointly recommended to the court a sentence of 36 months, according to his office.
“I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death,” Ellison said. “His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation. While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”
Defense attorney Earl Gray said Lane agreed to plead guilty because he faced a mandatory 12-year sentence if he were to be convicted of the murder charge.
“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,” Gray said. “The sentence will be concurrent with his federal sentence and he will serve his time in a federal institution. He has a newborn baby and did not want to risk not being part of the child’s life.”
In a statement, Floyd family attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms praised the guilty plea but said there was still more to be done.
Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman last month declined to file charges against any officers involved in the shooting.
What Lane did during the Floyd’s arrest
Former officers Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng faced state and federal charges for their actions — or lack thereof — as their colleague Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck and back of Floyd, who was handcuffed and lying on his stomach, for over nine minutes.
During the arrest, Lane held down Floyd’s legs, Kueng held down Floyd’s torso, and Thao stood nearby and kept a crowd of upset bystanders back. Harrowing video taken by a bystander showed Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, desperately pleading for them to let him breathe and calling for his mother before he lost consciousness and died.
Outrage over the incident led to an international protest movement against the ways that police treat Black citizens. All four officers were fired and charged after Floyd’s death.
In the federal trial, Lane testified that he was on his fourth day on the job, while Chauvin had worked for the department for over 18 years. Lane twice asked Chauvin to reposition Floyd during the restraint but was denied both times, according to his testimony and body camera footage.
The first time, Lane asked Chauvin whether they should put Floyd’s legs up, as they are taught in the academy. “No, we’re good,” Chauvin said, according to Lane’s testimony.
Lane then said he asked Chauvin whether they should roll Floyd on his side. “No, we’re good like this,” Chauvin responded, according to Lane’s testimony.
An ambulance eventually arrived and first responders lifted Floyd, who was limp at that point, into the vehicle. Lane joined them in the ambulance and did CPR on Floyd.