- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2016

Five former New Orleans Police Department officers pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to resolve charges brought more than a decade ago after two unarmed men were fatally shot on Danziger Bridge in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The five — Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, Anthony Villavaso and Arthur Kaufman — were originally convicted in 2011 of civil rights violations stemming from the Sept. 4, 2005, Danziger Bridge shooting that left two civilians dead, and had previously been handed prison sentences ranging from 72 months to 65 years.

Those convictions were later tossed out amid discovery of a wide-ranging scandal that implicated federal prosecutors, setting the stage for a possible retrial that was averted this week when all five pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and civil rights charges.

The former officers said they arrived at Danziger Bridge six days after the hurricane hit the city in order to respond to reports of an officer down.

Two unarmed men, including a teenager, were shot and killed on the bridge by police, and four others were injured. Following the launch of a federal investigation, prosecutors accused the officers of orchestrating a coverup by planting evidence and falsifying reports, and later convicted all five on charges that ranged from conspiracy to construction of justice.

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt vacated those convictions in 2013 and ordered a new trial after it was revealed that federal prosecutors had leaked details to the media and left anonymous comments on various press reports concerning the case. In lieu of being tried again, all five pleaded guilty on Wednesday this and received new sentences that pale in comparison to what was handed out previously.

Bowen and Gisevius, who were originally sentenced to 40 years each, will now only have to serve one-fourth of that; Faulcon’s sentence was reduced from 65 years to 12 years; Villavaso was sentenced to seven years, down from 38; and Kaufman got three years instead of six.

“It is unfortunate that New Orleans has had to relive this dark chapter in our city’s history, and I hope that the decision today will allow us to finally turn the page and begin to heal,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. “Police misconduct and abuse will not be tolerated.”

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