Wednesday, five former New Orleans PD officers were sentenced to prison time for shooting unarmed citizens, killing two of them, after Hurricane Katrina.
The shootings occurred on September 4, 2005 when police jumped in a moving van to respond to a call. When they arrived, they encountered the Bartholomew family who were trying to find a grocery store on the Danziger Bridge, and according to witnesses, began shooting immediately. Police killed 17-year-old James Brisette, a family friend, and wounded four others.
The New York Times reports that police then began chasing James Brisette and his 40-year-old mentally ill brother Ronald who were fleeing for their lives to the other side of the bridge. According to reports, police shot Ronald in the back and later charged his brother James with shooting at police. He was later cleared by a grand jury.
Despite the lengthy prison time handed down on Wednesday, the presiding judge criticized prosecutors for striking a deal that resulted in lighter sentences for the officers.
The New York Times reports:
Before delivering the sentences, Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana gave a two-hour speech condemning mandatory minimum sentences for interfering with judicial discretion and criticizing the case put together by federal prosecutors, saying in particular that he was “astonished and deeply troubled” by the plea deals with cooperating witnesses at the heart of the government’s case.
Three police officers who pleaded guilty and later testified at the trial were involved in the shooting on the bridge and received sentences ranging from five to eight years. Two others, a detective and a police lieutenant who helped orchestrate the cover-up, were sentenced to three and four years.
The judge spoke of an “air of mendacity” about the prosecution, charging that the plea bargains — which involved lesser charges that came with capped sentences — had limited his discretion in sentencing those who were convicted.
The four former officers–Kenneth Bowen, 38; Robert Gisevius, 39; Anthony Villavaso, 35; and Robert Faulcon, 48–directly related to the shootings were sentenced to federal prison time ranging from 38 to 65 years, while Arthur Kaufman, a commanding officer who helped orchestrate a cover-up, was sentenced to six years.