One of the the former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd has pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter ahead of his state trial.
J. Alexander Kueng accepted the plea deal, which comes with a recommended sentence of 42 months imprisonment, just before his joint trial with former fellow officer Tou Thao was set to begin, a spokesperson for the Hennepin County District Court confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
As part of the deal, an additional charge against Kueng of aiding and abetting second-degree murder was dropped.
On May 25, 2020, Floyd was killed after then-officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds during an arrest. Floyd, 46, repeatedly begged for help, crying out, "I can't breathe." His death was captured on video, which spread widely, sparking mass protests and a nationwide reckoning on anti-Black racism and deadly police brutality.
Kueng pleading guilty on Monday was a reversal of his original decision to reject the plea deal. Thao also rejected the deal in August, saying that to take it "would be lying," the Associated Press reported at the time.
Thao did not join Kueng in changing course Monday, but did waive his right to a trial by jury, allowing the judge to decide the case.
Kueng, Thao, and fellow former officer Thomas Lane are already serving federal prison sentences, having previously been found guilty on federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights for failing to intervene in his killing.
During the federal trial for Kueng, Thao, and Lane, prosecutors argued that they failed to intervene and provide medical aid to Floyd, instead just standing by as he died a "slow, agonizing death."
"Each made a conscious choice over and over again," Samantha Trepel, a special litigation counsel from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said during the trial. "They chose not to intervene and stop Chauvin as he killed a man. They chose not to protect George Floyd, the man they handcuffed."