- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A former police officer convicted in deadly shootings at a New Orleans bridge following Hurricane Katrina won’t be allowed to finish his prison sentence at home.

A federal judge, in an order made public Monday, turned down the request by Anthony Villavaso, whose release date is less than three months away.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt will allow Villavaso’s temporary release, however, to attend a Wednesday family event.

Villavaso is one of four officers who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from shootings that killed two unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge days after the 2005 storm. A fifth pleaded guilty in the related cover-up.

Lawyers for Villavaso had argued that their client is, in effect, being denied an opportunity for home confinement that federal prisoners generally get when they are nearing their release date.

The yearslong case came to an abrupt end in April with guilty pleas from the five officers. They were quickly given sentences ranging from three to 12 years, with credit for time already served pending resolution of the case. Villavaso, sentenced to seven years, is nearing his Aug. 16 release date.

Generally, his lawyers say, a federal prisoner is assigned to a halfway house with six months left in a sentence, then, after demonstrating responsible behavior, three months of home confinement.

Villavaso, now being held in St. Charles Parish, would have to be transported to a federal prisoner transit hub, assigned to a federal facility, then assigned to a halfway house and transported back there, the lawyers say. The time-consuming process, they argued, would effectively deny him the home incarceration that most inmates are allowed.

Engelhardt, in his brief order signed Friday, said he would not allow Villavaso “to bypass normal Bureau of Prisons procedures and serve the remainder of his sentence on home confinement.”

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