WASHINGTON – A former lieutenant with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), was sentenced today for his role in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and for misprision of a felony (for concealing a known crime), in connection with a federal investigation of two police-involved shootings that left two civilians dead and four others seriously wounded in the area of the Danziger Bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
Michael Lohman, 41, of Terrytown, La., was sentenced in federal court to serve four years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. During the first year of supervised release, Mr. Lohman is to perform 300 hours of community service. Additionally, he has been ordered to meet with NOPD recruit classes to serve as a warning to officers tempted to disobey the law. The court also imposed a $2500 fine. On Feb. 24, 2010, Lohman pleaded guilty in federal court in New Orleans before U. S. District Court Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle.
Mr. Lohman admitted to helping with the Sept. 4, 2005, cover up and also admitted – first during his guilty plea and later when he testified at the trial of five fellow officers -- that he knew that the shootings on the bridge were unjustified, and that he helped other officers cover up what had happened on the bridge.
When Lohman arrived on the scene shortly after the shootings, he noticed that there were no guns on or near the dead and wounded civilians. After determining that the involved officers could not come up with any evidence to justify the shooting, he concluded that they had been involved in a “bad shoot.” Rather than reporting the shooting as a bad shoot, Lohman, a well-respected lieutenant with NOPD, participated in a conspiracy that involved, among other things, writing false reports about the incident, planting a gun and making up false witness statements.
Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein, a prosecutor on the case, said in court that Lohman’s crimes were reprehensible, and that he needed to be punished with prison time. However, she also asked the judge to sentence Mr. Lohman to less than the five years called for by sentencing guidelines, in recognition of the fact that he provided cooperation that was critical to the prosecution of others. Ms. Bernstein noted that the victims of the Danziger Bridge shooting have been “an inspiration” for the prosecution, and that every recommendation the government has made for sentencing – including any requests the government has made for leniency for cooperating police officers – has been with the blessing of those victims.
“I’m pleased with today’s sentence,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Mr. Lohman owes a serious debt to society for betraying the badge he had been trusted to wear. But he also deserves some leniency for the critical role he played in allowing other offenders to be brought to justice. The government is outraged by Mr. Lohman’s crimes, but grateful for his cooperation in this case.”
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten stated: “The sentencing of former New Orleans Police Officer Michael Lohman today was the product of his important admission of guilt, his essential and truthful testimony at trial, and the government’s request to the court for leniency by appropriately recognizing his substantial and even critical assistance. Such tremendously important cases and the just results they produce can often only be brought with such cooperation. Moreover, our request that Mr. Lohman’s sentence require his conducting outreach to future NOPD officers was not only appropriate but essential in ensuring that such violations of public trust are not repeated. As United States Attorney and as a citizen, I—along with the prosecution team—believe that our resolution of this case and our request for consideration in sentencing Mr. Lohman is the right course to take.”
David Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New Orleans field office stated, “The law must be respected by those that are entrusted to enforce it. If the law is to be honored, it must first be respected by those who enforce it. Unfortunately, Lt. Lohman failed to remain faithful to the oath he took as a police officer and as a result tarnished the badge that many wear so proudly.”
This case was investigated by the New Orleans Field Office of the FBI, and was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein and Trial Attorney Cindy Chung of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Carter of the Eastern District of Louisiana.