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Ex-cops in Danziger case are denied bond

13th January 2014   ·   0 Comments

A federal judge refused last week to free four former New Orleans police officers from custody while they await a new trial on charges stemming from deadly shootings on a bridge in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, The Associated Press reported.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt noted in Thursday’s order that he didn’t dismiss the “serious charges” involving violent crimes when he overturned their convictions and ordered a new trial.

“Despite having ordered a new trial because of various acts of governmental misconduct, the court did not dismiss the serious charges pending against the defendants, which include crimes of violence, one or more firearm charges and obstruction of justice charges,” Engelhardt wrote. “And though the court has expressed serious concerns regarding the fairness of the 2011 trial in this matter, the nature of the incriminatory evidence against these four defendants, notwithstanding certain undeniably positive aspects of their histories and characteristics, is colorable.”

The four former NOPD officers denied bond are Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon Jr., Robert Gisevius Jr. and Anthony Villavaso II.

Bowen was convicted of six counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, two counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy, two counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of civil rights conspiracy. Faulcon was convicted of six counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, three counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy, two counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of civil rights conspiracy. Gisevius was convicted of five counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, two counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy, one count of obstruction of justice, and two counts of civil rights conspiracy. Villavaso was convicted of counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, two counts of using a weapon during commission of a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of civil rights conspiracy.

On April 4, 2012, Engelhart sentenced Faulcon to 65 years behind bars, Gisevius and Bowen to 40 years and Villavaso to 38 years.

Engelhardt had agreed 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 shootings that killed two unarmed residents and wounded four others.

The officers were granted new trials after details surfaced of an online posting scandal involving several top prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. It was discovered that at least three members of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s prosecutorial team had posted comments about active Department Justice cases at nola.com. The scandal ultimately forced Letten to resign his post as the longest-serving U.S. attorney in the nation’s history.

The Danziger Bridge shooting, which took place on September 4, 2005, claimed the lives of Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, and 17-year-old James Brissette. The four unarmed residents who were wounded in the case were Jose Holmes, Susan Bartholomew, Lesha Bartholomew and Leonard Bartholomew III.

The case, along with several others involving deadly shootings and excessive force by NOPD officers, led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and a federally mandated consent decree aimed at implementing major reforms in the troubled police department.

The Justice Department is appealing Engelhardt’s ruling in September that the officers deserve a new trial due in part to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

“The bottom line is people are still waiting for justice almost nine years after these unarmed taxpayers were gunned down by cops,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly. “Both the District Attor?ney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office made mistakes that are putting these victims’ families through pure hell after already enduring these emotionally draining trials. Some?body should be made to answer for that.”

“It is impossible for the people of New Orleans to move beyond this case because justice has still not been served in this case, the Henry Glover case and several others,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly Friday. “The lingering effects of this case and all of the mistakes made by both the local and federal justice system suggest that the system in New Orleans is besieged by corruption and ineptitude and needs to be thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. Those responsible for taking the lives of unarmed citizens. as well as those whose mistakes have allowed these officers to get away with murder, need to be brought to justice by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Without justice, there cannot be and will not be peace.”

Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund w. Lewis.

This article originally published in the January 13, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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