One of the three ex-Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder in the death of George Floyd has pleaded guilty to the former charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping the latter. The deal means former officer Thomas Lane will only serve up to three years in prison for his role in Floyd’s death. Some may call this outcome justice while others will certainly see it as diet justice at best.
According to CNN, Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office said state attorneys and defense attorneys agreed to recommend a 36-month sentence for Lane so that he could avoid the mandatory 12-year sentence he would have been facing if he was found guilty of the murder charge.
“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.”
According to Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, Lane won’t even serve the full three-year sentence which will run concurrently with his federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights.
“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.”
Yeah, sorry, but less than three years for holding a man down while another cop choked the life out of him? This really is some justice light sh** that would never be afforded to a Black civilian who helped kill someone. To be fair, trial testimony and video footage do show that Lane asked Derek Chauvin, the head killer cop in charge, if he could reposition Floyd multiple times, to which Chauvin repeatedly responded, “No, we’re good.” Still, the blue-on-Black aggression committed by all four cops—including Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, whose fates are still pending—led to Floyd’s death. A two to three-year sentence hardly seems appropriate for any of them.
Of course, according to Floyd family attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms, the guilty plea is a “step in the right direction.”
“Today’s guilty plea by former officer Thomas Lane brings the Floyd family another step towards closure for the horrific and historic murder of George Floyd,” the attorneys said in a joint statement. “While today is a step in the right direction, we only need to look to the recent and tragic killing of Amir Locke to understand that the City of Minneapolis has a long journey ahead to regain the trust of its citizenry.”
I mean, this is barely a baby step in the right direction, but fine, we can call this Justice Zero, I guess.