Thomas Lane Pleads Guilty in George Floyd Case

A former Minneapolis police officer, Thomas Lane, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of George Floyd in 2020, Minnesota’s attorney general said.

“I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death,” the attorney general, Keith Ellison, said in a statement. “His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation.”

Mr. Lane, 39, had been scheduled to go on trial on June 13 with two other former officers, J. Alexander Kueng, 28, and Tou Thao, 36, on charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s death.

In a separate case, the three former officers were found guilty of federal crimes in February for failing to intervene as another officer, Derek Chauvin, killed Mr. Floyd by pressing his knee on his neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020.

John Stiles, a spokesman for Mr. Ellison, said Mr. Lane entered the guilty plea on the state charge in front of Judge Peter Cahill of Hennepin County District Court, who set a sentencing date for Sept. 21. State prosecutors and Mr. Lane’s defense have jointly recommended a three-year prison sentence, he said.

Now that Mr. Lane has entered the plea, the June 13 trial will go ahead without him, because the state dismissed Mr. Lane’s second charge, Mr. Stiles said.

“We are still full speed ahead on the trial for both charges” of the other defendants, Mr. Stiles said.

Mr. Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Lane, who has a newborn baby, “wanted to be a part of the child’s life” and did not want to risk possibly losing the murder case.

“After a lot of soul-searching that is what we decided to do,” Mr. Gray, said, referring to the guilty plea. It will be served concurrently with his federal sentence, for which there has not been a date. Mr. Lane would serve two years of the 36-month sentence, Mr. Gray said.

Lawyers for Mr. Floyd’s family said in a statement on Wednesday that the guilty plea “brings the Floyd family another step towards closure for the horrific and historic murder of George Floyd.”

“Hopefully, this plea helps usher in a new era where officers understand that juries will hold them accountable, just as they would any other citizen,” the statement said. “Perhaps soon, officers will not require families to endure the pain of lengthy court proceedings where their criminal acts are obvious and apparent.”

Mr. Chauvin was convicted of murder last year and was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.

Mr. Lane and Mr. Kueng helped Mr. Chauvin restrain Mr. Floyd outside a convenience store after a clerk said Mr. Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. As Mr. Chauvin pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, Mr. Thao, who was Mr. Chauvin’s partner, was keeping bystanders away.

Video taken by some of the bystanders outside the store in South Minneapolis ricocheted around the world, setting off protests against police violence and racial injustice.

Mr. Lane’s guilty plea was a “significant moment” in the case, Mr. Ellison said.

“Today my thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family,” he said. “Nothing will bring Floyd back. He should still be with us today.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting.

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