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Smarts and hustle put AP ahead on guilty plea in Floyd killing

Minneapolis Police Officers Thomas Lane, left, and J. Alexander Kueng, right, escort George Floyd to a police vehicle outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, in a May 25, 2020 image from video. Lane pleaded guilty, May 18, 2022, to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool, File)

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The Minneapolis team of Amy Forliti, Steve Karnowski and Mohamed Ibrahim used diligent beat work and hustle to give AP a major win on the surprise guilty plea from one of three fired Minneapolis police officers facing trial in George Floyd’s killing.

In the two years since Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police,Forliti has taken the lead in keeping AP abreast of developments in the prosecutions and trials of the four officers involved. With a June trial looming for three of those officers,Forliti checked the dockets on the morning of May 17 and spotted an unexpected hearing scheduled for Thomas Lane. There was no detail in the entry and no news advisory, unusual for the Floyd case.

Forliti consulted with editors in Chicago,and Karnowski and Ibrahim were hustled to the hearing while she reworked longstanding prep copy for a possible plea — which was exactly what happened. And because the plea document itself wasn’t posted to the docket for several hours,Forliti’s early spotting of the hearing gave AP a major edge over most news organizations.

Also contributing to the beat was a joint decision with Central Region News Director Tom Berman to send two reporters. This enabled Ibrahim to immediately leave the hearing and call in news of the guilty plea. Although two other outlets had also learned of the hearing and were in attendance,AP had an alert out five minutes ahead of the nearest competitor, and an hour or more ahead of some major national news organizations.

Lane’s guilty plea to a state manslaughter charge was one more step toward resolving the criminal fallout from Floyd’s murder and immediately raised the prospect that the remaining two officers might also plead before trial.

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