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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite Delivers Remarks Following the Guilty Pleas and Sentencings of Five Former New Orleans Police Officers in the Danziger Bridge Shooting

As you know, on July 13, 2010, our Office, together with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, filed criminal charges against 6 former NOPD officers in connection with the September 4, 2005 shooting of several New Orleans citizens on the Danziger Bridge.  The case against one, Sgt. Gerald Dugue, was severed and remains pending.  The case against the remaining 5 proceeded to trial.  Following jury convictions and sentencings, the District Court threw out the convictions and granted a new trial, based on prosecutorial misconduct.  That decision has been affirmed by a closely divided 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the matter has returned to the District Court for further proceedings.

This morning, the five defendants entered guilty pleas to various counts of the indictment.  As part of the agreements, the Court accepted the pleas as well as the negotiated sentencing terms.

Former NOPD Officers Robert Faulcon, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, and Anthony Villavaso each plead guilty to 3 charges:  deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice, substantive obstruction of justice.  Faulcon was sentenced to 12 years, Bowen and Gisevius to 10 years, and Villavaso to 7 years.  Their former supervisor, Arthur Kaufman, plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of falsification of evidence to obstruct justice.  He was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

While an imperfect resolution, today's proceeding ensures that these defendants are held accountable for their criminal actions.  As the son and brother of police officers, I know all too well that serving as an officer is perhaps the most complex and difficult job in our society.  At the same time, when individuals ignore their oath of office, and instead violate the civil rights of the public they are sworn to serve, they will be held accountable.

This is an extremely unique case with a long history.  These events occurred almost 11 years ago, and our indictment, almost 6 years.  While we disagreed with the legal reasoning that vacated the convictions and granted a new trial, we must undoubtedly accept the fact that the misconduct was unacceptable. I was not in the Office at the time, but I certainly deal with these consequences every day.  It undermined the work of this Office and the Department, and called into question the credibility and integrity of the people who do it.  Since I became U.S. Attorney, our entire Office has worked hard to help restore that credibility by emphasizing collegiality, diligence, and professionalism at every turn, all while allowing our good work to speak for itself.  Those of us who continue to serve as prosecutors must embrace the lessons learned from this case.  As prosecutors, we must always be mindful of the unique position that we have in our criminal justice system.  We are not called to seek victories in the courtroom, but to ensure that justice and fairness reign throughout all parts of the process, for all parties involved, at all times.

Lastly, today’s proceeding also ensures some measure of finality for the victims and their families.  Indeed, we would not have entertained the notion of these pleas without their approval.  They have suffered enough, and today allows them to move forward, to continue with additional legal proceedings, all while gaining some peace by knowing that these 5 defendants stood in court today and pled guilty for their criminal actions.  I ask that the public embrace the sentiments of these families.  This case – regardless of its outcome -- would never bring back their deceased loved ones.  This case was never about receiving some specific jail sentences.  It was always about accountability.  Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Updated April 21, 2016