A federal jury found five current or former police officers guilty in the deadly shootings on a New Orleans bridge after Hurricane Katrina.
Four of the officers were convicted of civil rights violations in the shootings that killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the 2005 storm.
All five were convicted with participating in a cover-up that prosecutors said included a planted gun, falsified reports and fabricated witnesses.However, the jury decided that neither fatal shooting was a murder.
Federal prosecutors say police shot unarmed people without justification."The citizens of this country will not and should not, and we intend that they will never have to fear the individuals who were called upon to protect them," said Jim Letten, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
"To the victims and their families who have very patiently worked with an impatient and slow justice system, they have worked with us and waited patiently for today. I am in awe of them, and I want to express my gratitude to them," said lead prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein.
The victims' family members said the verdict is a closure, and having the officers finally held accountable for their actions is a bit of comfort they can hold on to for the loved ones they will never get back.
"We do wish to acknowledge the NOPD officers who finally, after many years, came forward to tell the truth. We regret that they did not have the courage or strength to come forward from the beginning," said Ronald Madison's sister, Jacqueline Madison Brown.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas issued the following statement in response to the verdict:
“Today's verdict reaffirms our belief and support of the justice system. While a terribly dark chapter of the NOPD has closed, these verdicts and those in the Glover case, reaffirm that a small number of NOPD personnel created great pain for the victims of their crimes. They also forever tainted many men and women of the NOPD who gave their all and gave so much each day during Katrina. We look to the future and the continued rebuilding of the NOPD. We will continue to recognize that we must take the first steps to heal our relationship with the people of New Orleans. Our commitment is unwavering.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the verdicts will provide closure for a "dark chapter of the city's history."
"We now have an opportunity to turn the page and to heal," he said. “With these verdicts, the American justice system delivered a clear message that no one stands above the law and that police abuse and misconduct will not be tolerated. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to change. The citizens of New Orleans deserve nothing less than a police department that truly protects and serves -- one that partners with the community to keep New Orleans safe. Our heartfelt apologies and prayers are with the families of James Brissette, Ronald Madison, Leonard Bartholomew III, Susan Bartholomew, Lesha Bartholomew, Jose Holmes Jr., and Lance Madison.”
Sentencing is set for Dec. 14.
Sgts. Robert Gisevius and Kenneth Bowen, Officer Anthony Villavaso and former officer Robert Faulcon were convicted of civil rights violations in the shootings that killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after the storm.
Retired Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman and the other four men also were convicted of engaging in a brazen cover-up that included a planted gun, fabricated witnesses and falsified reports. The five men were convicted of all 25 counts they faced.
"Of all the cases concerning alleged misconduct by police officers after Katrina, this was the one that had the highest national profile."
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten echoed that, saying the verdicts send a message that "public officials, and especially law enforcement officers, that they will be held accountable and that any abuse of power will have serious consequences."
In March, the Justice Department issued a blistering report that said New Orleans police officers have often used deadly force without justification, repeatedly made unconstitutional arrests and engaged in racial profiling. Landrieu has said he expects the federal review to bring about court-ordered reforms.
Five former officers pleaded guilty to participating in cover-up of the bridge shootings and testified during the trial. Another former officer, retired Sgt. Gerard Dugue, has a separate trial scheduled to start in September.
One of the reasons I post this in this group was for Lynn. On the first "police state" thread...
-took guns away from law abiding citizens
-called in mercenaries (blackwater)....note that Prince is now overseas avoiding prosecution
-held guns on people trying to cross the bridge to get to safety and made them stay in the stadium without food and water where some of them died
All I can say is that could be you someday....and when it is I hope you remember this
Rhonda "-held guns on people trying to cross the bridge to get to safety and made them stay in the stadium without food and water where some of them died" Is that TRUE??? If it is..........be afraid, be very afraid!
NOPD officers convicted in the deaths of innocent civilians or covering up crimes on the Danziger Bridge may not work for the Department any longer, still some of them will collect sizable pensions.
“Louisiana law allows for individuals convicted of a felony in the capacity of law enforcement or any other capacity to keep their pensions,” says Rafeal Goyeneche
Our partners at City Business reports, Sergeants Arthur Kaufman and Kenneth Bowen will receive monthly payments, despite the guilty verdicts against them. Kaufman will get more than $2,900 a month. Bowen is set to get nearly $2,100 a month.
Rafeal Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission says he doesn’t believe the officers should get their pensions.
“It’s matter of these public officials and employees betraying the public’s trust and their needs to be a consequence for it,” says Goyeneche
Another high profile NOPD conviction happened after the 2005 beating death of Raymond Robair. Officer Melvin Williams was found guilty. Regardless, he’s set to collect a monthly check of nearly $2,500 dollars.
Officer Greg McCrae is set to collect nearly $3,600 a month. He was found guilty in the Henry Glover killing case.
“State law provides that if you meet the minimum requirements for a pension based upon the years of service that you’ve earned that pension, that’s an issue of legislation,” says Ronal Serpas
Several attempts have been made in the past by legislators to eliminate the pensions of public officials, including police officers who are convicted of certain felonies.
“That bill was introduced in 2006 and it died in the legislature,” says Goyeneche
Two years later, in 2008 and then again in 2010, Representative Anthony Ligi introduced the same bills. Both failed. Ligi told City Business, opponents to the bill said it breached community property rights and unfairly punished the families of those convicted.
Goyeneche hopes for a constitutional amendment so that the public would be able to vote on the issue.
“I think the public, if they were given the opportunity to vote on whether to enact this legislation, I think it would be a landslide,” says Goyeneche
For now, though, the taxpayer funded pensions remain in place despite the conviction of the NOPD officers.
Former NOPD Deputy Superintendent Marlon Defillo never faced any charges, but he did retire just one day before he was to appear before a disciplinary hearing for failing to properly investigate Henry Glover’s death.
Defillo is getting a full pension of nearly $6,600 a month for the rest of his life.