George Floyd: Former police officer Thomas Lane pleads guilty to manslaughter

George Floyd died in May 2020. Credit: AP

A former Minneapolis police officer pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.As part of the plea deal, Thomas Lane will have a count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder dismissed.

Second-degree manslaughter is defined as the reckless, or unintentional killing of a person without lawful justification, while second-degree unintentional murder is causing the death of a person without intending to kill them.

Lane, along with J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, has already been convicted of willfully violating Mr Floyd's rights during the May 2020 restraint that led to his death.

The state is recommending a sentence for Lane of three years — which is below state sentencing guidelines — and has agreed to allow him to serve the time in a federal prison. He has not yet been sentenced in the later, federal case.Lane's former colleague, Derek Chauvin, pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and faces a federal sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years.

Chauvin earlier was convicted of state charges of murder and manslaughter and sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison.

Mr Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as Mr Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.

Lane and Kueng helped to restrain Mr Floyd, who was handcuffed. Lane held down Mr Floyd’s legs and Kueng knelt on Mr Floyd’s back. Thao kept bystanders from intervening during the nine-and-a-half-minute restraint.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, issued a statement saying he was pleased that Lane accepted responsibility for his role in Mr Floyd's death.

“His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation,” Mr Ellison said.

“While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”

Lane's attorney, Earl Gray, said he and Lane would have no comment.

Lane was not taken into custody and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered. He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 21 on the state charge.

The hearing was streamed over Zoom for Mr Floyd's family members.

Kueng and Thao are scheduled to go to trial in June on state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Mr Floyd's death - which was filmed - led to anti-racism protests worldwide in 2020.