In a damning 129-page order, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt granted a new trial for the five New Orleans Police Department officers convicted of shooting at unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge and covering up the events in the days following Hurricane Katrina. James Brissette and Ronald Madison were killed. Four others were wounded.
Engelhardt granted the motion filed by former NOPD Sgt. Archie Kaufman, as well as Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius and Anthony Villavaso.
Engelhardt largely based his ruling on what he calls a campaign to influence the media of NOPD's culture of corruption, and the "carnival atmosphere" of online comments from former prosecutors who used several aliases to discuss the case. The commenters — Sal Perricone and Jan Mann — were not directly involved with the case, but Engelhardt noted in his order that the case was intended to be about the gross misconduct of NOPD officers and ended with other acts of misconduct on the prosecuting side.
In 2011, a federal jury found the officers guilty on 25 counts, including falsification of witness statements, fabrication of evidence, making false statements to the FBI, deprivation of civil rights, and obstruction of justice. The jury did not find the shootings constituted murder, though Bowen, Falucon, Gisevius and Villavaso were convicted of firing their weapons. They were sentenced in April 2012 to up to 65 years in prison. Kaufman was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the cover up.