Filed Under:  Local

Settlement sought in Glover, Danziger Bridge cases

31st October 2016   ·   0 Comments

Less than two weeks after a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against several former NOPD officers and the City of New Orleans was resumed in New Orleans, the Landrieu administration has begun quietly making moves to settle both the lawsuit filed by the family of Henry Glover and another filed by survivors and loved ones of family members shot and killed by police on a bridge in eastern New Orleans.

The two high-profile, officer-involved shootings occurred less than a week after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Glover shooting on Sept. 2 and the Danziger Bridge massacre two days later on Sept. 4.

Henry Glover, 31, was walking in the parking lot of a West Bank strip mall when he was shot by NOPD Officer David Warren. Glover was taken by a good Samaritan, William Tanner, and several other people to a makeshift police station at an Algiers elementary school where they hoped he might receive medical attention. Instead, Tanner said all of the men were beaten by police and separated from Glover. That was the last time Tanner would see Glover alive.

Glover’s remains were later found in Tanner’s car, which had been burned and abandoned on the Mississippi River levee. At some point, someone removed the victim’s charred skull from the grisly murder scene and to this date it has not been returned to the family or authorities for proper burial.

In the Danziger Bridge massacre, NOPD officers killed two unarmed Black people and wounded four others as they attempted to cross the eastern New Orleans bridge. Police fatally shot 17-year-old James Brissette and Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, and wounded four others, including Susan Bartholomew, who had her arm shot off.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan indicted the officers involved in the shooting but those charges were later thrown out by Criminal Court Judge Raymond Bigelow. But before the charges were dropped, the “Danziger 7” turned themselves in amid a throng of fellow officers, loved ones and supporters who applauded them, hugged and kissed them and held signs that read “Heroes.”

After a campaign of phone calls, emails and letters and several meetings with relatives of the Danziger Bridge and Henry Glover shootings most notably the family of Ronald Madison, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a federal probe of those two shootings and others involving the NOPD.

As a result of its investigation, the DOJ released a scathing report that said the NOPD was “abusive” and “corrupt” and indicted five officers for the shootings and cover-up. The probe also led to a federally mandated consent decree aimed at overhauling the police department.

After a grueling trial, the officers were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from a few years to 65 years. However, a federal judge threw out the convictions after it was revealed that several top prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office had posted online comments at about several active DOJ cases including the Danziger Bridge shootings.

Several grassroots community and civil rights organizations accused the U.S. Attorney’s Office of purposely posting the online comments as a way to ensure that the officers could escape lengthy prison terms in the event that they were convicted.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office denied those accusations and the online posting scandal cost U.S. Attorney Jim Letten his job as the nation’s longest-serving U.S. Attorney and led to the termination of three key federal prosecutors.

As the five former NOPD officers awaited new trials, they were offered a plea deal that would allow them and the victims and their families to avoid a new trial.

The plea deal dramatically reduced the sentences, in some cases, shaving decades in prison time for Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius, Arthur Kaufman and Anthony Villavaso. U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt accepted the plea deals in federal court earlier this year.

Under the plea agreement, Gisevius agreed to 10 years, Faulcon to 12 years, Bowen to 10 years, Villavaso to seven years — each with credit for six years of time served. Kaufman agreed to three years with time served.

Initially, Bowen received a 40-year sentence, Faulcon got a 65-year sentence, Gisevius was handed down a 40-year sentence, Kaufman a six-year sentence and Villavaso a 38-year sentence. Faulcon received the stiffest sentence for shooting Madison in the back with a shotgun.

Both the Glover and Danziger Bridge cases have civil lawsuits pending 11 years after Hurricane Katrina.

It was reported last week that the Landrieu administration recently reached out to the 15 plaintiffs in both cases and asked them to document their losses and/or medical expenses and to submit their proposed settlement figures to the City of New Orleans. At least one media report said that the mayor said that he would like to reach settlement agreements in both cases by the end of the year.

“Outstanding liabilities and legacy debt continue to burden the city’s budget, but we cannot continue to kick the can down the road,” Hayne Rainey, the major’s press secretary, told The Louisiana Weekly in an email Wednesday. “To address legal obligations such as judgments and settlements, the City will borrow $10 million in the latter half of 2017. Together with a $10 million certificate of indebtedness issued this fall, we will invest a total of $20 million to address our outstanding legal liabilities against the City.”

“The City of New Orleans does not have a long history of paying off its civil lawsuits, especially those involving the police killing innocent and/or unarmed Black and Brown people,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly Tuesday. “It will be very interesting to see how this all works out.”

It is unclear how many civil lawsuits the Landrieu administration is targeting, but in addition to the Glover and Danziger Bridge cases, there have been a number of other lawsuits filed against the City of New Orleans including suits by the families of Wendell Allen, a 20-year-old man who was killed by a cop while standing shirtless and unarmed on the stairwell of his Gentilly home, and Justin Sipp, another 20-year-old killed by police while traveling with his brother to work a breakfast shift at a Burger King restaurant near City Park.

Asked Wednesday about the Sipp and Allen cases, Landrieu press secretary Hayne Rainey told The Louisiana Weekly, “Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen have already been resolved through dismissal and settlement. We have no comment at this time on the settlements of the Danziger and Henry Glover lawsuits.

“The total amount of unpaid judgments against the City is approximately $40.5 million which accounts for 661 payees dating back to 1996.”

Rainey also said that the City resolved its settlement issues with the Firefighters Union over the firefighters pension fund in October 2016 and has in place a plan to fully pay what is owed over the next 12 years. In order to make that happen, the mayor is firmly backing the firefighters millage which will be weighed by New Orleans voters in a Dec. 10 election.

“Unlike L.A., Chicago and New York — cities with large tax bases that are more likely to settle these kinds of lawsuits out of court — New Orleans is not in the habit of paying those mistreated and violated by its police department what is rightfully and constitutionally owed to them,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly. “But these families deserve justice and financial restitution for what they have been put through by the NOPD and every effort should be made by the City of New Orleans to do whatever is possible to make them whole again, or at least as close to whole as they can get.”

Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.

This article originally published in the October 31, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.