For the second time this month, a Minnesota judge has changed the start date of a state trial for two former Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting in George Floyd’s 2020 in-custody death.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill moved up the state trial date of Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng to Oct. 24 during a court hearing on Tuesday, according to ABC affiliate station KSTP in Minneapolis. Earlier this month, Cahill postponed the trial until Jan. 5, 2023 from its original start date of June 13, 2022.
Cahill’s decision Tuesday came after prosecutors and defense attorneys made dueling requests to change the date of the trial, with prosecutors asking it start as early as this summer and the defense requesting it be put off until the spring of 2023.
Kueng’s lawyer, Thomas Plunkett, had asked Cahill to reconsider the January trial date due to a personal commitment from January to March he said is “etched in stone.”
Minnesota assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank countered by requesting a speedy trial on Friday, suggesting it be moved up until August of this year. Frank argued that the wait has been tough on the Floyd family, saying, it “hangs over their head like a dark cloud and really prevents them from grieving and moving on.”
Cahill decided to split the difference and both sides agreed to the October trial date, which will begin with jury selection.
Kueng, 28, and Thao, 35, are charged with aiding and abetting in murder and aiding and abetting in manslaughter.
In deciding earlier this month to delay the trial to January, Cahill noted that pretrial publicity over the plea deal struck with a third defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, and the convictions in February of Lane, Thao and Kueng on federal civil rights charges, could make it difficult to select an impartial jury.
At that time, the judge said postponing the trial should “diminish the impact of this publicity on the defendants’ right and ability to receive a fair trial from an impartial and unbiased jury.”
Lane, 39, pleaded guilty in May to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. In exchange for the plea, state prosecutors agreed to dismiss the top charge against him of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder.
Under the agreement, prosecutors and Lane’s attorneys will jointly recommend a sentence of 36 months in prison. Had he gone to trial and been convicted on all charges, he faced a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, according to the plea agreement.
All three defendants were convicted in February by a federal jury on charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights by failing to intervene or provide medical aid as their senior officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on the back of the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes in the May 25, 2020, incident. All three men are waiting to be sentenced in federal court.
Cahill presided over Chauvin’s state trial last year when he was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison.
Chauvin also pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights and is awaiting sentencing after a judge accepted his plea deal in May.
During their federal trial, Lane, Kueng and Thao all took the witness stand and each attempted to shift the blame to Chauvin, who was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Lane told the jury that Chauvin “deflected” all his suggestions to help Floyd and Kueng testified that Chauvin “was my senior officer and I trusted his advice.” Thao testified, “I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out.”