New Orleans Louisiana Police Officers Sentenced To Just 6 To 65 Years In Federal Prison After Opening Fire On Unarmed Citizens After Katrina – Department Wanted To Prosecute Two Survivors For Lying After Official Investigation Resulted In Report Full Of Lies

April 4, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – A federal judge Wednesday sentenced five former New Orleans police officers to prison terms ranging from six to 65 years for the shootings of unarmed civilians in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, prosecutors said.

The shootings occurred on the Danziger Bridge on September 4, 2005, six days after much of New Orleans went underwater when the powerful hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast. The ex-officers were convicted in August on a combined 25 counts of civil rights violations.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt imposed the stiffest sentence on former officer Robert Faulcon, who was handed a 65-year term for his involvement in shooting two of the victims. Former sergeants Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius got 40 years for their roles in the incident, while ex-officer Robert Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years.

The lightest term went to former detective sergeant Arthur Kaufman, who was sentenced to six years for attempting to cover up what the officers had done, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in New Orleans.

The men were accused of opening fire on an unarmed family, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four others. Minutes later, Faulcon shot and killed Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man described by Justice Department officials as having severe mental disabilities and who was trying to flee the scene when he was shot, according to the Justice Department.

At the time, New Orleans police said they got into a running gun battle with several people. Prosecutors said Kaufman wrote the department’s formal report on the incident, which concluded the shootings were justified and recommended the prosecution of two of the survivors “on the basis of false evidence.”

During the trial, the defense asked the jury to consider the stressful circumstances the officers were operating under following Katrina. The shootings took place during a week of dire flooding, rampant looting and death by drowning, and police were strained by suicides and desertion among their ranks.

But U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said the prison sentences send the message that “when the crisis we face is the most threatening, that when the challenges are the greatest, the rules don’t go out the window.”

“In fact, that’s when the discipline, when the honesty of our public servants, our police and the men and women of law enforcement are most critical,” Letten said.

Romell Madison, brother of victim Ronald Madison, told reporters after Wednesday’s proceedings that his family was happy with the sentences, even though prosecutors had to enter into plea agreements with several other officers to obtain the convictions.

“I think it made a big difference, even though they did give them lower sentences, that they did come forth and testify to get the truth out,” Madison said. “At least we got to the truth.”

Five other officers, including a lieutenant, have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison terms of up to eight years in the case for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Letten said the plea deals were necessary to break a “logjam” that had prevented investigators to get the whole story of what happened on the Danziger Bridge, in New Orleans East.

The Justice Department brought charges after a similar case brought by local prosecutors foundered. Thomas Perez, the head of the department’s civil rights division, said the feds inherited a “cold case” when they took over in 2008.

“There were many, many New Orleans police officers who performed courageous, selfless acts of heroism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” Perez said. “But regrettably, the acts of heroism of so many have been overshadowed by the misconduct of a few.

“What we learned in this trial — what we learned in these convictions — is that the Constitution never takes a holiday. The Constitution applies every day of every week, and no police officer can take it upon himself or herself to suspend the Constitution.”

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division launched an investigation into what it called “patterns or practices” of alleged misconduct by New Orleans police in the aftermath of Katrina, which killed nearly 1,500 people in Louisiana and more than 1,700 across the Gulf Coast. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said Wednesday that his department “will continue to take bold and decisive actions to right the wrongs inside the department, some of which we now know go back seven full years.”

Mary Howell, a lawyer for the Madison family, said those promised reforms are “the most critical part in all of this.”

“This just can’t ever happen again,” she said.

Lance Madison, who was with his brother on the bridge that September day, told reporters that he is grateful that his brother had received justice. But he added, “I try to avoid the Danzinger Bridge, because when I go there, it just brings back memories of what I went through.”

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Unarmed And Shot In The Back: New Orleans Police Officers David Warren And Gregory McRae Murdered Man And Burnt Body – Sentenced To Just 25 And 17 Years In Prison

March 31, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday for shooting a man to death without justification after Hurricane Katrina, and his ex-colleague was given 17 years for burning the body.

Former officer David Warren was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Henry Glover, 31, outside a strip mall less than a week after the August 2005 storm. Ex-officer Gregory McRae was found guilty of burning Glover’s body in a car near a police station.

Warren faced a maximum sentence of life in prison while McRae could have received 50 years.

Lawyers for the men argued they deserved some leniency, partly because of the horrific conditions they faced in the chaos that followed the hurricane.

The judge said he didn’t believe Warren’s testimony that Glover posed a threat. “He was not at the strip mall to commit suicide, he was there to retrieve some baby clothing,” U.S. District Judge Lance Africk said. “You killed a man. Despite your contentious arguments to the contrary, it was no mistake.”

Glover’s family sat in the courtroom as he was sentenced.

“I forgive these men because if I don’t forgive them Jesus won’t forgive me,” said his mother, Edna Glover.

Jurors also convicted former Lt. Travis McCabe of writing a false report on the shooting. His sentencing has been postponed while his lawyers seek a new trial based on what they say is newly discovered evidence.

The jury cleared Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann of charges he burned Glover’s body and beat one of the men who brought the dying Glover to a makeshift police compound in search of help after the Sept. 2, 2005, shooting. Robert Italiano, a retired police lieutenant, was acquitted of charges he submitted a false report on the shooting and lied to the FBI.

Prosecutors said Glover was unarmed when Warren, 47, shot him in the back. But the former officer said he opened fire because he feared for his life. Warren said he was guarding a police substation at a shopping mall when Glover and a friend, Bernard Calloway, pulled up in a stolen truck and started running toward a gate that would have given them access to the building. He testified that the men ignored his commands to stop and that he thought he saw a gun in Glover’s hand before he fired one shot at him from a second-floor balcony.

His partner that day, Officer Linda Howard, testified Glover and Calloway weren’t armed and didn’t pose a threat.

McRae, 49, admitted he drove Glover’s body from the police compound to a nearby Mississippi River levee and set it on fire. The car belonged to one of the men who had driven Glover to the compound. McRae said he burned the vehicle because he was weary of seeing rotting corpses after the storm. Another officer, however, testified he saw McRae laughing after he set the fire.

McRae’s attorney argued his client deserved some leniency for accepting responsibility and admitting during the trial that he set Glover’s body on fire.

“Your conduct was barbaric,” Africk told McRae. “The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was made uglier by your disturbing actions. At a time when more was expected of you, you failed miserably.”

Warren has been in custody since his indictment last year. McRae has been free on bond but was immediately taken into custody after sentencing.

A total of 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged last year in a series of Justice Department civil rights investigations. The probe of Glover’s death was the first of those cases to be tried.

Next week, two officers are scheduled to be tried on charges stemming from the July 2005 beating death of a 48-year-old man. And a trial is scheduled to start in June for five current or former officers charged in deadly bridge shootings and an alleged plot to make the shootings appear justified.

Police shot and killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after Katrina. Five other former officers already have pleaded guilty to participating in a cover-up of the shootings.

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