Bond denied for ex-N.O. cops who won new trial
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge refused Thursday to free four former New Orleans police officers from custody while they await a new trial on charges in the deadly shootings on a bridge in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt noted in his order that he didn’t dismiss the “serious charges” involving violent crimes when he overturned their convictions and ordered a new trial.
Former Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius and former officers Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso have remained in custody since 2010, when a grand jury indicted them.
Engelhardt agreed in October to set bond for a fifth former officer, Arthur Kaufman, who also won a new trial. Kaufman was convicted of orchestrating a cover-up, but he wasn’t charged in the 2005 shootings that killed two unarmed residents and wounded four others.
In his order, Engelhardt said “the nature of the incriminatory evidence” against the other four officers warrants keeping them in custody despite “certain undeniably positive aspects of their histories and characteristics.”
The Justice Department is appealing Engelhardt’s ruling in September that the officers deserve a new trial due in part to allegations of “grotesque” prosecutorial misconduct. The judge said at least three government attorneys posted anonymous comments on a New Orleans newspaper’s website, creating a “carnival atmosphere” that perverted justice in the case.
Engelhardt had sentenced the five former officers who were convicted at trial to prison terms ranging from six to 65 years.
Five other former officers cooperated with the Justice Department’s investigation and pleaded guilty to engaging in a cover-up to make the shootings appear justified.
Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten resigned in December 2012 after two of his top deputies — Sal Perricone and Jan Mann — acknowledged they had posted anonymous comments on nola.com, The Times-Picayune’s companion website, about cases their office had handled.
Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors’ online comments and leaks to news organizations were part of a “secret public relations campaign” that deprived the former officers of their right to a fair trial.