Tou Thao should receive a sentence in line with the two other former Minneapolis police officers who failed to try to stop Derek Chauvin from using the excessive force that led to George Floyd murder, federal prosecutors argued Thursday.
In the last of four court filings in the federal civil rights prosecution of the officers involved in Floyd's death in 2020, the government asked Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson to sentence Thao to between five years and three months to 6 ½ years in prison for violating Floyd's civil rights.
A federal jury convicted Thao and ex-officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng in February, and a sentencing date has yet to be set. The government's request for Thao's sentence mirrors that of what prosecutors sought for Lane and Kueng in court filings Wednesday but far less than the 25 years it says Chauvin should receive for his guilty plea in the case.
"A significant sentence will serve as a reminder to other officers that although they undoubtedly have a difficult job, they cannot ignore a crime happening in front of them, especially when it is perpetrated by their fellow officer," Assistant U.S. Attorney LeeAnn Bell and Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel wrote in their position-on-sentencing memo filed Thursday.
Thao was found guilty of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd's neck and to help Floyd as he saw him "lying on the ground in clear need of medical care."
Prosecutors said Thao saw Floyd restrained for more than six minutes before he "had any significant interactions with the bystanders" seen on cellphone and body camera footage pleading for officers to give Floyd medical care.
"Thus, he was able to focus on the events occurring right in front of him. And, even once he engaged with the bystanders, they provided him with a play-by-play of the events unfolding before them," the prosecutors wrote.
"Armed with a full understanding of his duties and with a clear opportunity to act, the defendant chose to ignore the facts right in front of him."
Prosecutors, meanwhile, cited Thao's trial testimony as an unsuccessful attempt to excuse and justify his behavior, such as arguing that he believed Floyd was suffering from a condition known as excited delirium and needed to be restrained for his own safety until medical personnel could arrive to sedate him. Thao's attempts to justify his behavior, they wrote, "demonstrate a clear disrespect for the law" and came close to an obstruction of justice.
Thao and Kueng are scheduled to stand trial Oct. 24 on state charges related to Floyd's murder.