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Ex-MPD officers guilty on all counts in federal civil rights trial

A federal jury found three ex-Minneapolis officers guilty on all civil rights charges related to the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Three former Minneapolis police officers charged with depriving George Floyd of his civil rights on the day of his murder in 2020 were each found guilty on all counts Thursday in federal court.

All three officers -- J Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane -- were charged with denying Floyd his right to medical care, while Kueng and Thao also faced charges for failing to intervene with former officer Derek Chauvin's use of force.

Following Thursday's verdict, the defendants were instructed to return to court for sentencing after a pre-sentence investigation with the probation office. After it was ordered that bond be continued according to current terms and conditions, the men were then escorted out by a member of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Judge Paul Magnuson gave the jury, made up of 12 people from nine different Minnesota counties, instructions on Wednesday morning before handing off the case for deliberation. The jury, which was not sequestered, deliberated for about 13 hours before reaching its unanimous decision.

The three former officers all entered pleas of not guilty in a pre-trial hearing in September 2021. 

Attorneys for the former officers relied heavily on the notion that prosecutors would need to prove the defendants acted with a bad purpose or motive in order to "willfully" deprive Floyd of his rights -- legal language the jury had to consider.

The prosecution's case ultimately tried to convey that the defendants knew the law, but decided not to follow it.

Some prominent figures surrounding the case started releasing statements following the verdict, including Floyd family attorney Ben Crump.

"George's blood will forever stain them," he said, adding, "Nothing will bring George Floyd back to his loved ones, but with these verdicts, we hope that the ignorance and indifference toward human life shown by these officers will be erased from our nation’s police departments, so no other family has to experience a loss like this."

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he believes the verdicts are an "important part of the change we need," and that they will "help move us forward."

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, prosecutors were joined by other investigative agencies, and supporters and members of George Floyd's family. 

FBI special agent in charge for the agency's Minneapolis field office, Michael Paul, was among them. He thanked the partners in law enforcement for their "swift investigative action." 

He also thanked the jury, saying their "discerning ear, their diligence, and their fortitude" helped "bring forth a very important verdict for our country."

Assistant U.S. Attorney LeeAnn Bell said, "My hope and the hope of our team is that today's verdict will bring a measure of peace."

George Floyd's brother, Philonise, said he was "grateful" for the team of prosecuting attorneys, calling them "friends." But, he said, the verdict doesn't quite bring justice.

"This is just accountability," he said. "There can never be justice because I can never get George back. It’s still gonna be hard."

Derek Chauvin, the former MPD officer convicted of Floyd's May 25, 2020 murder, was also charged in federal court with failing to render Floyd medical aid, in addition to violating his right to be "free from unreasonable seizure and force by police." 

In December 2021, Chauvin waived his right to a trial by pleading guilty to one count of violating Floyd's rights -- in addition to a guilty plea in a separate incident involving a neck restraint used on a teenager in 2017 -- in exchange for other charges connected to those cases to be dismissed.

Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder in state court in April 2021, over a year after the world watched him kneel on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, causing his death. 

He was sentenced two months later to 22.5 years in state prison.

For the federal charges, Chauvin faces up to 25 years to serve concurrently with his state prison sentence.

Chauvin is currently serving his time in Minnesota's only maximum security prison, Oak Park Heights.

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