- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Federal felony charges for the lone remaining defendant in the cover-up of deadly shootings by New Orleans police following Hurricane Katrina were reduced to a single misdemeanor Thursday.

The new charge was filed a day before the scheduled change-of-plea hearing for retired Sgt. Gerard Dugue.

The decade-old case involved shootings that killed two unarmed people and wounded four at New Orleans’ Danziger bridge six days after levees failed in the 2005 storm, inundating the city.

Dugue had faced multiple felony counts including conspiracy to obstruct justice. The misdemeanor count is for “willful deprivation of rights under color of law.” The charging document says he assisted former Sgt. Arthur Kaufman in the cover-up.

Kaufman was among five other officers who pleaded guilty in April, ending a see-saw legal battle that saw them convicted by a jury, their convictions overturned due to prosecutors’ misconduct, and, ultimately a plea bargain.

Kaufman got a three-year sentence for the cover-up.

Four others, each of whom faced decades in prison after their initial convictions in connection with the shootings, received sentences ranging from seven to 12 years after the April guilty pleas.

Dugue, who was not at the bridge on the day of the shooting, had been tried separately in 2012. That trial ended in a mistrial when the judge ruled a prosecutor may have unfairly influenced the jury by mentioning an unrelated case.

The Danziger case was among pre- and post-Katrina scandals that brought heightened federal scrutiny of the New Orleans Police Department.

The Justice Department and the city reached agreement on a lengthy set of court-backed reforms in 2012.

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