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COVID-19 disrupts federal trial over George Floyd’s death

Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office

(ST. PAUL, Minneapolis) — The federal trial of three former police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights during his 2020 fatal arrest was abruptly suspended on Wednesday after one of the defendants tested positive for COVID-19, the judge presiding over the case said.

The trial, now in its second week in the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, was put on recess until Monday.

As court got underway Wednesday morning, Judge Paul Magnuson announced that one of the defendants had tested positive for coronavirus.

Neither Magnuson nor the court clerk would identify the COVID-positive defendant.

At the time of the announcement, defendants J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were seated in the courtroom, but their co-defendant, Thomas Lane, was not.

Lane’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

“The case participant will be retested prior to trial resuming,” court officials said in a statement. “All other case participants within proximity to the COVID-positive individual will be tested before the trial resumes.”

At the outset of the trial, Magnuson expressed concern that the pandemic could lead to delays in the trial and asked attorneys to be cognizant of that and to speed the proceedings along. With that in mind, the jury of 18 people, including six alternates, was seated in one day.

To guard against the virus, trial participants have been required to answer questions on if they have any COVID symptoms before the start of court each morning, officials said. COVID tests are immediately administered if the individual does have symptoms, officials said.

People inside the courtroom have been required to wear N-95 masks and the courtroom itself has been fitted with plexiglass protection barriers and has been arranged to accommodate social distancing.

All three are charged with using the “color of the law,” or their positions as police officers, to deprive Floyd of his civil rights by allegedly showing deliberate indifference to his medical needs as Derek Chauvin kneeled on the back of the handcuffed man’s neck, ultimately killing him.

Kueng and Thao both face an additional charge alleging that they knew their senior officer, Chauvin, was kneeling on Floyd’s neck but did nothing to stop him. Lane, who appeared to express concern for Floyd’s well-being during the encounter, does not face the additional charge.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

Chauvin, who was convicted last year of murdering Floyd, was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. He has also pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations in Floyd’s death and to assaulting a teenager during a 2017 incident.

ABC News’ Matthew Stone and Janel Klein contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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