ST. PAUL, Minn. — A former Minneapolis police officer who helped pin George Floyd down as he struggled to breathe and later died was sentenced Wednesday morning to three years in prison for violating Mr. Floyd’s rights. A colleague who was present and kept bystanders away from what was happening was scheduled to be sentenced later in the morning.
A federal judge sentenced the former officer, J. Alexander Kueng, after a jury convicted him earlier this year on charges that he failed to provide medical aid to Mr. Floyd or to intervene as another officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
The death of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, prompted protests against police abuse and racism across the country in the spring and summer of 2020 that were joined by millions of Americans.
Mr. Kueng, 28, who is Black, was next to Mr. Chauvin for much of the encounter, and placed his own knee on Mr. Floyd for several minutes as Mr. Floyd begged for air and eventually lost consciousness.
Judge Paul Magnuson, who has overseen the federal case against the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death — all of whom were fired — handed down Mr. Kueng’s sentence in a federal courthouse in St. Paul.
Understand the Trials Stemming From George Floyd’s Death
Manda Sertich, a federal prosecutor, said at the hearing that Mr. Kueng had not tried to aid Mr. Floyd once he lost consciousness, and that Mr. Keung deserved a “serious penalty,” even though he had not intended for Mr. Floyd to die.
Later on Wednesday, Judge Magnuson was expected to sentence the former officer Tou Thao, who kept worried bystanders away from Mr. Floyd as they shouted that he was in a dire condition.
Mr. Thao, 36, who is Asian American, and Mr. Kueng each still face state charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter and murder, and they are scheduled to go to trial in January.
Thomas Lane, 39, who is white and who helped to restrain Mr. Floyd by holding his legs, has pleaded guilty both to a federal charge of violating Mr. Floyd’s rights and to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Last week he received a federal sentence of two and a half years in prison; he is scheduled to be sentenced in the state case in September.
Federal prosecutors had asked the judge to imprison Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng for “significantly longer” than the six and a half years that they requested in Mr. Lane’s case, but less than 20 years.
On May 25, 2020, the day of Mr. Floyd’s death, the officers went to a South Minneapolis street corner after a clerk at a convenience store there called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. When they arrived and tried to place Mr. Floyd in the back of a police car, he struggled with them, saying he was claustrophobic and was having trouble breathing.
Video taken by a bystander outside the store, showing officers pinning Mr. Floyd face down on the pavement, fighting for breath, ricocheted around the world and set off protests against police violence and racial injustice.