Kueng, Thao reject state’s plea deal offer, head to trial

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Two former Minneapolis police officers who are charged in connection to George Floyd’s death in May 2020 have rejected a plea deal offer, cementing a state trial.

Monday morning, ex-officers Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng rejected a final plea deal of 36 months from the state. The deal would’ve dropped the highest offense of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and required both defendants to admit to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The deal would have run concurrently with a federal sentence they received earlier this year. Kueng was sentenced to three years in prison, while Thao was sentenced to three and a half years.

During the hearing, Thao said, “It would be a lie and a sin for me to accept a plea deal.”

Thao’s attorney said during Monday’s hearing that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison had once offered Thao 24 months in a previous deal.

Kueng and Thao’s jury trial is currently scheduled to begin in October 2022.

If convicted on the top count, both men could face more than 12 years in state prison.

After court Monday morning, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank was asked about the former officers rejecting a plea deal and responded, “It’s up to them.”

“I think a lot of people are going to be very surprised that this deal was turned down, and a lot of people guessing at motivations as to why they would do so,” former federal prosecutor and current St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler said.

“We have to remember it’s not the attorneys who make the decision, this is one of the decisions that solely rests in the client, so Kueng and Thao making the decision, their attorneys might be saying, begging them to take the deal, but it’s still their call,” Osler added, calling the decision “a real risk.”

In court, Frank said the offer was the state’s final one but could prosecutors offer another one before the trial? Osler says it’s possible.

“Sometimes there’s a final, final offer and sometimes there’s a final, final, final offer,” Osler said.

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