Former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng reject plea deal offered by state prosecutors in George Floyd murder

Former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao formally rejected a plea offer in court Monday morning that would have saved them from a trial in the state and additional jail time as a result of the federal civil rights sentence they received in the murder of George Floyd.

In a brief hearing, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank offered to drop the charges against Kueng and Thao of aiding and abetting the second-degree murder of George Floyd if they plead guilty to the lesser charge of aiding and abetting the manslaughter. Frank said prosecutors would have recommended a three-year prison sentence to be served alongside the sentences handed down by a federal judge last month for convictions for violating Floyd’s civil rights. Kueng received three years in prison and Thao was sentenced to 3½ years.

Both men declined the offer in front of judge Peter Cahill.

“It would be a lie and a sin for me to take a plea deal,” Thao said.

Frank said the offer expired on Monday, which means Kueng and Thao now head to trial Oct. 24 in Hennepin County.

Rejecting the offer means the two former police officers are betting that a state jury will reach a different conclusion than a federal jury on their guilt in Floyd’s murder. If convicted at trial on both counts, they face up to 16 years in prison based on Minnesota sentencing guidelines, and prosecutors are asking Cahill to give them more time to aggravating factors.

Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, said Attorney General Keith Ellison at one point offered him a deal that carried two years in prison, but his client rejected it. During a federal sentencing hearing last month, Thao gave a 23-minute speech in which he quoted scripture and compared himself to Job, a Christian prophet who endured excruciating sacrifices to test her faith.

Kueng and Thao are the latest of four defendants charged in connection with the May 25, 2020 killing of Floyd, which sparked a global toll on police brutality and led to riots in Minneapolis that culminated in the Third Station fire. Precise. Bystander video showed veteran officer Derek Chauvin pinning Floyd down for more than nine minutes after detaining him on suspicion of passing a $20 counterfeit at a nearby market. Former officer Thomas Lane held down Floyd’s legs, Kueng held down his abdomen, and Thao held off a crowd of bystanders who begged officers to help the dying man.

way agreed to plead guilty in a deal identical to the one the others turned down earlier this summer. Chauvin is serving concurrent state and federal sentences of more than 20 years for Floyd’s murder.

In court on Monday, Cahill denied a request by Paule and Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, to hold the proceedings in private rooms to avoid media attention. Paule said allowing him to proceed in open court rendered it purely “public consummation” and would hinder a fair trial, and Plunkett said prosecutors had unfairly taken advantage of the media spectacle around the high-profile cases against the officers.

Cahill said he didn’t see how their clients refusing to plead guilty would hurt their credibility with a jury. Cahill also denied Paule’s request to block prosecutors from speaking to reporters.

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