Two former Minneapolis police officers who were found guilty on federal charges of violating the civil rights of George Floyd were sentenced to prison Wednesday.

A judge sentenced J. Alexander Kueng to three years and Tou Thao to three and a half years for their roles in Floyd’s 2020 death. Both are also required to complete two years of supervised release when their prison sentences end.

Kueng and Thao were convicted in February of depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority when they failed to give him medical aid, and also of not intervening to stop their fellow officer Derek Chauvin from using excessive force.

Former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, left, and J. Alexander Kueng, center, along with his attorney leave the US District Court in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 11, 2022.
Former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, left, and J. Alexander Kueng, center, along with his attorney leave the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 11, 2022.Kerem Yucel / AFP via Getty Images file

Last week, a federal judge ruled that guidelines for Kueng and Thao’s sentences would be calculated in a way that would reduce their potential prison time. The two headed into Wednesday’s hearing with a recommended sentencing range of 4 1/4 years to 5 1/4 years.

Kueng and Thao still face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, in a trial set for late October.

On May 25, 2020, Kueng, Thao, Chauvin and former Minneapolis police Officer Thomas Lane had responded to a call about a counterfeit bill from a convenience store in Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Park neighborhood when they encountered Floyd, 46.

Lane and Kueng, both rookie officers and partners on the call, were on top of Floyd, a Black man, as Chauvin applied deadly pressure to Floyd’s neck and he gasped for air. Thao had been in charge of crowd control. Floyd’s death spurred protests against systemic racism around the world.

Thao spoke for roughly 20 minutes before his sentence was handed down, making multiple references to his Christian faith in the often meandering address. He did not mention Floyd nor did he directly address Floyd’s family and friends present in court.

“Throughout this two year journey, I’ve never seen so much corruption in this case,” Thao told the court. “I thought this was Hollywood.”

At the end of his statement, Thao said that as a father of three, he could plead for mercy, but said that he instead wanted to ask his friends to turn to God to save their souls. 

Kueng did not speak during the hearing.

Attorneys for both men asked Magnuson to consider in his sentencing that they had been following Chauvin’s orders, as he was in charge of the scene.

Chauvin pleaded guilty in December to violating Floyd’s rights and was sentenced July 7 to just more more than 20 years in federal prison. That sentence will run concurrently with the 22½-year sentence he is serving after being found guilty of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, in a state case.

Lane was sentenced July 21 to 2 1/2 years in prison on a federal civil rights charge for his role in Floyd’s death. He has pleaded guilty on state charges and faces a hearing in September on those charges.

Daniella Silva is a reporter for NBC News, focusing on education and how laws, policies and practices affect students and teachers. She also writes about immigration.

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