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Danziger Bridge shootings following Hurricane Katrina

NOPD Officers Tried In Danziger Bridge Shootings To Get a New TrialFive men – Arthur Kaufman, Anthony Villavaso, Robert Gisevius, Kenneth Bowen, and Robert Faulcon – who were all New Orleans Police officers at the time, allegedly shot at six people as they crossed the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, just days after Katrina. Two people were killed – Ronald Madison, 40, and James Brisette, 17 – and four others were seriously wounded in the shooting.

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The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an appeal against a ruling by Federal Judge Kurt Engelhardt that overturned the conviction of the defendants in the Danziger Bridge Shooting Case, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Engelhardt threw out the convictions citing misconduct on the part of the prosecution stemming from anonymous internet postings by then-Federal Prosecutor Sal Perricone.

The appeal was filed Thursday, but did not detail the argument of the Federal Government for overturning Judge Engelhardt’s ruling.

Arthur Kaufman is the first of the former NOPD officers convicted in the Danziger bridge case to be free again.

A judge allowed Kaufman to post a $10o,000 bond and get out of prison.

Last month, the same judge threw out the convictions of Kaufman and his co-defendants.

Judge Kurt Engelhardt based his decision… on the blogging scandal in the US Attorneys Office.

He ordered the danziger cops be retried.

News
10/01/13

Danziger defendant granted bail

NOPD Officers Tried In Danziger Bridge Shootings To Get a New TrialU.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt has granted bail to Arthur Kaufman, a former NOPD officer convicted of taking part in the cover up of the shootings of civilians on the Danziger Bridge in the days following Hurricane Katrina.

Engelhardt  ordered a re-trial for Kaufman and his co-defendants on Sept. 17th and saw no reason to deny Kaufman’s request for bond.

Kaufman was in a federal prison in Virginia and has been released on $100,000 surety bond.

News with a Twist
09/20/13

Will justice be served by re-trying the Danziger cops?

Will justice be served?  Jim Letten is causing quite a mess lately.  More specifically, former higher ups in Jim Letten’s old office are causing that mess.

We all know by now that former prosecutors Jan Mann and Sal Perricone were acting the fool at work, posting comments on Nola.com.  We know that many of the comments were caustic and way beyond the scope of their jobs as federal prosecutors.

But we also ask two questions as well: not many folks read the anonymous postings on Nola.com. Does anyone take them as real information being revealed or just comments from the peanut gallery?  And, can anyone name a poster on Nola.com or anywhere else for that matter?

Judge Englehardt says the Danziger cops may have not received a fair trial because of the online postings from inside Letten’s office. I say who knew the comments at the time were coming from Letten’s office, and who was actually believing them as fact?   Probably no one.

If I’m the Feds, I appeal this ruling. Did Letten lose control of his office at the end? No doubt.  Mann and Perricone are causing quite a mess, but influencing the public through postings on Nola.com is a huge stretch and a federal appeals judge might agree.

And lets also remember, the criminal facts in these cases has not changed, we are still talking about criminals that committed crimes against us, the citizens of New Orleans.

I’m not concerned about the criminal cops from Danziger or ex-mayor Nagin, all I’m concerned about is justice for all of us.

My God! The fallout from the online postings in Jim Letten’s office doesn’t stop.  What a horrible day yesterday was for all of New Orleans: a federal judge granted a new trial for the five former NOPD officers directly involved in the Danziger Bridge shooting and cover up.  Two innocent New Orleanians were shot and killed for no apparent reason. Several others were shot and wounded.

Now the out-of-control cops are getting a retrial. Why? Because Jim Letten didn’t have control over his office when prosecutors Jan Mann and Sal Perricone posted comments online. Now, at least temporarily, justice is lost.

Black and white New Orleans was pleased with this verdict. Justice was served. Now this ugly chapter in our history gets re-opened. It’s bad enough for all of us, but can you imagine being a member of the Madison, Brissette, or Bartholomew familiy.  These folks suffered tremendous loss and now have to relive it all over again.

Jim Letten, arguably, is the greatest crime fighter this city’s ever seen. Jan Mann and Sal Perricone’s legal expertise helped put dozens of white collar criminals behind bars.  Now they’ll all be known as the group whose shenanigans lead to a new trial for a bunch of crazy cops who killed innocent people after Katrina.

The evidence against these cops hasn’t changed but the old U.S. Attorney’s Office postings on social media is opening the door for these criminals to get a second chance at freedom. Jim Letten once was a New Orleans hero. Now the final chapter of his otherwise sterling career will always be remembered for the Danziger retrial.

Let’s hope the feds appeal the ruling and avoid a retrial, but if a new trial does take place, hopefully the same verdict is reached the second time around. If not, the final chapter for Jim Letten’s public work will get even uglier.

Inside of the Danziger – Motion for a New Trial are 129 pages worth of reasons why Federal Judge Kurt Engelhardt believes five former NOPD officers tried and convicted for shooting and killing two men on the Danziger Bridge days after Hurricane Katrina did not get a fair trial. Now the Danziger case, one that had wrapped up in years ago, is going back to court.

“It’s rare that you have a reversal in any case really, it really is, but to have a reversal in this one? I mean in terms of New Orleans criminal justice, this is the biggest case in decades,” says attorney and legal analyst Robert Jenkins.

Jenkins calls the move extraordinary.

Inside the document Judge Englehardt reveals three government attorneys allegedly posted “inflammatory” comments anonymously online about the case. Former U.S. prosecutors Sal Perricone and Jan Mann previously resigned, but it’s the first time we’re hearing Karla Dobinski, a government prosecutor out of Washington, D.C., also allegedly posted anonymously.

The filing goes on to say former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten knew about it and did nothing.

“It deprived the defendants of a true and fair trial,” says Jenkins.

Former NOPD officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, and Anthony Villavaso were convicted of firing on unarmed civilians and killing two men. Another former cop, Arthur Kaufman, was convicted of covering up the crime.

Defense Attorney Eric Hessler who represented Gisevius says, “We’re pleased that the officers will get a chance to defend themselves with a fair trial this time around.”

The family of Ronald Madison who was killed by police on the Danziger is disappointed. Ronald’s brother Dr. Romell Madison says, “We are extremely disappointed in Judge Engelhardt’s decision granting a new trial in the Danziger Criminal Civil Rights Case. It has been over eight years since our brother Ronald was shot and killed on the Danziger Bridge and our brother Lance was falsely arrested and framed on eight counts of murder. This decision reopens this terrible wound not only for our family, but our entire community. From the beginning of this ordeal our family has sought justice, not just for ourselves but for all the victims and families. We urge the Department of Justice to appeal Judge Engelhardt’s decision. Our fight for justice continues.”

Tonight all the defendants are serving time in federal prisons and are scattered throughout the country. WGNO has been told all five could petition for a release pending a new trial.

Judge Engelhardt has given attorneys on both sides a month to prepare to select a trial date.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the newly appointed U.S. District Attorney Kenneth Polite, who now takes over for Jim Letten, can appeal the judge’s ruling, but many in the legal community feel that is unlikely given all the details in the Danziger – Motion for a New Trial.

(CNN) — A federal judge on Tuesday granted a new trial for five former New Orleans police officers convicted in the Danziger Bridge case, citing prosecutorial misconduct. The five officers were convicted in 2011 for civil rights violations in the shootings of unarmed civilians in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Click here to read the Motion for a New Trial (PDF, 129 pages): Danziger – Motion for a New Trial.

A federal judge has sentenced five former NOPD officers to prison for their role in the Danzinger Bridge shooting and cover up.

Read the Department of Justice news release on the sentencings: Danziger Sentencings: DoJ news release [PDF]

Sgt. Robert Gisevius – 40 years in prison

Sgt. Kenneth Bowen – 40 years in prison

Officer Robert Faulcon – 65 years in prison

Officer Anthony Villavaso – 38 years in prison

Sgt. Arthur Kaufman – 6 years in prison

Federal prosecutors called it a somber day as they spoke with reporters outside the courthouse.

“Everyone will have their own thoughts about the sentences. Some may think they’re too high. Some may think they’re too low,” said Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez.

Family members of the victims agreed with the sentences. Lance Madison was on the Danziger Bridge that day and watched his brother, Ronald, get shot and killed.

“We loved each other. I really miss him. I’m just thankful we got some justice for him,” Madison said.

The shootings on the bridge happened in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina. But prosecutors were quick Wednesday afternoon to defend most NOPD officers who stayed after the storm.

“Regrettably, the acts of heroism of so many have been overshadowed by the misconduct of a few,” said Perez.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten responded to questions regarding now-retired prosecutor Sal Perricone who is accused of anonymously blogging about some of the fed’s investigations, and if the comments could give the former officers a foothold for appeals.

“Every charge we brougth, every sentence we sought, every conviction we obtained was done appropriately. It was done fairly,” Letten said.

The NOPD is currently investigating a pair of deadly shootings involving some of its officers. The FBI Special Agent In Charge for the New Orleans Area, David Welker, says his office is watching the process but not investigating.

“We are monitoring the investigations that are going on locally to ensure that they are being done correctly,” Welker said.

danziger bridge 1Just three days after an historic verdict in the Danziger police shooting trial, a juror speaks out for the first time. Dwayne Farlough was juror number three, the lone black jury member who sat on the six-week trial.

Farlough said all of the jurors were nervous the first two days or so, but settled in quickly.

He said they all realized they had serious work to do, that’s why all of the jurors took a lot of notes.

“There were a number of jurors who took more notes than I did,” said Farlough. He said they knew they had to pay attention, because so many lives were affected.

According to Farlough, the jury gave the defendants every benefit of the doubt. Farlough said the government’s evidence was so overwhelming the verdict was unanimous.

Police shot six civilians on the Danziger Bridge six days after Katrina. Two people were killed.

The defense claimed the officers were returning fire and that some of the victims had guns. At trial the defense failed to produce any weapons or gun casings from the scene.

“I didn’t see anything, any evidence, that the officers were being shot at,” said Farlough.

Farlough said the jury realized the officers had a very difficult job and there was no hard feelings against the officers.

He said the challenge was difficult. Again, he said it came down to the evidence. Farlough said the most damaging evidence came from victim’s testimonies.

Susan Bartholomew was shot multiple times and lost her right arm in the hail of gunfire.

“I think that was the most compelling part,” said Farlough. “To ask her to raise her right hand and she doesn’t have right hand. Those are some of the things I will never forget.”

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