The four former Minneapolis Police Officers involved in the fatal arrest of George Floyd in May 2020 pleaded “not guilty” in court on Tuesday to the federal charges they face for allegedly violating Floyd’s civil rights.
The four ex-cops—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane—were charged by a federal grand jury in May 2021 with violating Floyd’s constitutional rights to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer.
All the officers were also charged with violating Floyd’s civil rights by denying him access to medical care, while two of them—Thao and Kueng—were charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s “unreasonable force” when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.
The officers all pleaded not guilty during a virtual court appearance on Tuesday morning for which Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering Floyd earlier this year, appeared from the Minneapolis maximum security prison where he is serving out his more than 22-year sentence.
Lawyers representing Thao, Kueng and Lane all asked the judge to separate their client’s trials from Chauvin’s, with Lane’s attorney Early Grey arguing jurors will immediately associate the officers with Chauvin’s “conviction of murder.”
“I can’t imagine something more prejudicial than a juror knowing one of these guys has already been convicted,” Grey told the judge, who did not make an immediate decision on this motion but highlighted that this is an uncommon move in federal court.
Giving some insight into what their arguments will be at trial, defense attorneys for Lane and Keung also emphasized during the hearing that their clients were both rookies at the time of the arrest, having each completed less than a week of shifts as fully fledged members of the police department.
“Defendants Kueng and Thao were aware that Defendant Chauvin was holding his knee across George Floyd’s neck as Floyd lay handcuffed and unresisting, and that Defendant Chauvin continued to hold Floyd to the ground even after Floyd became unresponsive,” reads the indictment unsealed by the Department of Justice in May. “The defendants willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force.”
The federal charges are in addition to state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter filed against Thao, Kueng and Lane. The three officers are set to stand trial together in March 2022. Meanwhile, Chauvin has already been convicted on charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder. He was found guilty of all three counts after a weeks-long trial and is currently serving out his sentence at the Oak Park Heights correctional facility in Minnesota. With good behavior, Chauvin could be paroled after serving two-thirds of his sentence, amounting to roughly 15 years in prison.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.