- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Prosecutors have asked federal appeals court again to reinstate guilty verdicts against five former New Orleans police officers on charges connected to deadly shootings that followed Hurricane Katrina.

Four were convicted in the shootings of six unarmed people at the Danziger bridge a week after the 2005 storm. A fifth ex-cop was convicted in a cover-up.

But their convictions were thrown out by a federal judge who cited misconduct, including prosecutors’ anonymous online postings that he said tainted the judicial process.

Justice Department prosecutors said there was no evidence the verdict itself was tainted.

But, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the judge in a 2-1 ruling. Prosecutors now want a rehearing from the full 15-member court.

The motion for a full-court hearing was filed late Thursday. It was filed under seal because, according to prosecutors, it contains information that is under seal by court order. A version with that information redacted will be filed later.

The Danziger shootings happened on Sept. 4, 2005. The city remained badly flooded, with utilities out everywhere and the police force under strain. Police shot and killed two unarmed people - Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, and James Brissette, 19. Four others at the bridge were wounded.

Police said at the time that the officers were responding to a report of other officers down when they came under fire.

The five were convicted in federal court in 2011. But as a result of U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt’s decision - upheld by the three-judge appellate panel in August - the convictions were thrown out.

Barring a reversal by the full court, former sergeants Robert Gisevius and Kenneth Bowen and former officers Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon, are in line for new trials in the shooting and cover-up. Former Sgt. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman faces a new trial in the cover-up alone.

Faulcon was sentenced to 65 years in prison; Bowen and Gisevius, 40 years; Villavaso, 38; and Kaufman, six. Kaufman was released on bond in 2013. The others remain jailed.

In the August ruling, 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones wrote the majority opinion on behalf of herself and Judge Edith Clement. “No less than three high-ranking federal prosecutors are known to have been posting online, anonymous comments to newspaper articles about the case throughout its duration,” Jones wrote. “The government makes no attempt to justify the prosecutors’ ethical lapses, which the court described as having created an ‘online 21st century carnival atmosphere.’”

Judge Edward Prado dissented. He criticized prosecutors but said a new trial could be granted only if there were new evidence that would probably result in acquittal.

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