NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – A major break in the Danziger Bridge case. The five former NOPD officers accused of shooting unarmed men following Hurricane Katrina plead guilty at their re-arraignment hearing, Wednesday.
Judge Kurt Engelhardt read out the proposed plea deal for Arthur Kaufman, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso, suggesting ten years incarceration for Bowen and Gisevius, 12 years for Faulcon, 7 years for Villavaso and 3 years for Kaufman.
All of the men have been imprisoned since July of 2010 and will be credited for time served. Judge Engelhardt accepted the plea deal. He told the court, typically, judges will review a pre-investigation report and schedule a sentencing within 60 days, but under the case’s circumstances, he did not want to delay.
Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso were brought into the courtroom in orange jumpsuits. Kaufman also was present. The family of Ronald Madison, one of the victims, also attended.
Extra security measures were taken as people packed into the newsroom.
The original seven-count indictment against the five former cops was filed in 2010. 11 years ago, six days after Hurricane Katrina, four of the officers shot and killed two unarmed men. They also injured four others. Nearly five years ago, they were convicted, receiving sentences ranging from 38 to 65 years. Sergeant Arthur Kaufman was sentenced to six years in prison for helping with the cover up.
In 2013, a judge threw out the five officers’ convictions, after it was revealed that federal prosecutors were anonymously commenting on the cases on a local newspaper’s website.
In August 2015, a federal appeals court upheld the judge’s order for a new trial, denying the government’s request to have those convictions reinstated, and now the deal has been worked out.
This case does not affect former officer Gerard Dugue’s case. He was accused of abetting the cover up. His case was declared a mistrial by Judge Engelhardt. Charges are pending, no new trial date has been set.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite was present in court before the re-arraignment hearing, as well. But he left for a news conference at his office at 11 a.m. on a different case.