Archive for the ‘Stress’ Category

Judge Delays Trial for Murderer of CMPD Officers in 2007

April 29, 2010

NC Racial Justice Act Signed By Governor Perdue to Blame for Latest Delay

By GLENN COUNTS / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Glenn: GCounts@WCNC.com

 NewsChannel 36

 Posted on April 29, 2010 at 5:45 PM

 Related:

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The family of two murdered police officers will have to wait a few months longer for a trial.

For the second time, lawyers for the alleged cop killer tried to have their client declared mentally incompetent. The judge didn’t buy the claim, but the trial will still be delayed.

Now, the families of officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton will have to wait until October to go to trial.

The suspected killer, Demeatrius Montgomery, walked into court Thursday without a hint of emotion and has continued to remain silent, even refusing to speak with his attorneys.

“His behavior has become increasingly bizarre, odd,” said defense attorney Duane Bryant.

Montgomery’s attorneys say he is not competent to stand trial, but the judge disagreed with their assessment.

Still, the newly enacted Racial Justice Act proved to be a winning hand in delaying the trial.

“It is an act that looks at the reasons or reported reasons behind the exposure to death or life in prison,” Bryant said.

The act is designed to determine if there is racial bias in the system when it comes to the death penalty. Prosecutors say they have looked at 10 years worth of death penalty cases and found no bias.

But the judge agreed to wait for the completion of a statewide study, which includes Mecklenburg County. Prosecutors argued there is no reason to make the families of Clark and Shelton wait any longer.

“I think the Legislature did not make a provision for this hearing on purpose, and therefore it’s the state’s position that there is no need to hear this,” said assistant district attorney Marsha Goodenow.

Officers Shelton and Clark were killed three years ago in March. They were both shot in the head as they stood outside the Timber Ridge apartments while responding to a domestic dispute.

Monroe, NC Officer Shoots Man in Convenience Store Robbery

April 25, 2010

CMPD Sergeants Sue City for Overtime Pay

March 30, 2010

by GLENN COUNTS / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Glenn: GCounts@WCNC.com

Posted on March 29, 2010 at 7:00 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thirty-two current and former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police sergeants are suing the city for overtime pay.

The sergeants have been negotiating with the city for more than a year now.

“Finally realized we weren’t getting anywhere in talking with the city. We felt like we didn’t have a choice,” said attorney Lou Lessene, who is representing the sergeants.

The city contends that the sergeants are supervisors and are paid a salary, which is not subject to overtime pay. But the Department of Labor says the sergeants are also eligible for hourly pay, including overtime.

Lessene filed the lawsuit Monday “to recover overtime pay and compensatory time off owed, but never paid to plaintiffs as employees of the city of Charlotte.”

Now, the city must decide whether to settle or go to court.

“The Department of Labor investigated and found that the city was violating the law. The city agreed to pay some amounts and this lawsuit is about what’s left,” Lessene said.

The city agreed to pay $500,000, but Lessene says he doesn’t know how big the bill will be for the sergeants who are named in the lawsuit.

“The city has all the documents and all the paperwork, so we can’t know that until we see what they got,” Lessene said.

City attorney DeWitt F. McCarley released this statement late Monday: “We have been negotiating with the attorney for the officers for over a year, and thought we were close to reaching a resolution. We’re disappointed the officers chose to file suit instead of continuing discussions. I hope negotiations can be re-opened soon.”

Police Shoot, Kill Ax-Toting Man at Southern California Market

March 28, 2010

By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 8:37 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 8:37 a.m.

INGLEWOOD— Police in Southern California fatally shot a man Saturday night they say threatened an officer with an ax during a confrontation with police at a grocery store.

 

Witnesses told police the man had been stabbing himself with a knife at City Farm Market in Inglewood. A store employee says the man confronted him and told him he “killed people,” then tried to stab the employee and walked away.

Police followed a trail of blood inside the store to a walk-in refrigerator in the market’s warehouse. Two officers shot the suspect multiple times and killed him after he allegedly came out of the refrigerator wielding an ax and lunged toward one of them.

Police are withholding the suspect’s identity pending notification of his family.

Police Chief under Investigation After Excessive Force Claim

March 27, 2010

by MARK BOONE / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Mark: MBoone@WCNC.COM

Posted on March 26, 2010 at 11:44 PM

Updated yesterday at 11:44 PM

GREAT FALLS, S.C. — State investigators are examining a claim that a police chief used excessive force during an arrest earlier this year.

Relatives of Patricia Brown told NewsChannel 36 they complained to town leaders and the Chester County Sheriff’s Office about her treatment in the January 15 arrest.

Tiffany Patterson, who claimed she witnessed the arrest, said Brown was handcuffed by Chief Steven Rice and thrown to the ground with her face hitting a sand and gravel parking lot next to Chester Avenue.

Brown’s relatives said her face was badly bruised during the encounter.

“It wasn’t right,” Patterson said.

Brown, 57, was charged with simple possession of marijuana and loitering for the purpose of engaging in drug activity, according to the News & Reporter of Chester. She could not be reached Friday evening.

Rice remains on the job, pending the investigation by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division.

He did not return messages Friday.

Rice reportedly told the News & Reporter “I emphatically deny any misconduct or excessive force allegations.”

California Police Department on Alert for Deadly Traps

March 19, 2010
By THOMAS WATKINS, Associated Press Writer Fri Mar 19, 7:19 am ET

HEMET, Calif. – Police in this picturesque city in rural Riverside County have been on edge in recent weeks. Someone is trying to kill them.

A tract home that had been repurposed into the headquarters of the Riverside County Gang Task Force in Hemet, Calif., is seen Thursday, March 18, 2010 AP – A tract home that had been repurposed into the headquarters of the Riverside County Gang Task Force in …

First, a natural gas pipe was shoved through a hole drilled into the roof of the gang enforcement unit’s headquarters. The building filled with flammable vapor but an officer smelled the danger before anyone was hurt.

“It would have taken out half a city block,” Capt. Tony Marghis said.

Then, a ballistic contraption was attached to a sliding security fence around the building. An officer opening the black steel gate triggered the mechanism, which sent a bullet within eight inches of his face.

In another attempted booby trap attack, some kind of explosive device was attached to a police officer’s unmarked car while he went into a convenience store.

“There’s a person or people out there, a bunch of idiots, trying to do damage to us,” Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana said. “We can’t expect our luck to hold up, we need help.”

Since New Year’s Eve, there have been several other booby trap attempts to kill officers, Dana said.

“The only reason they haven’t killed an officer yet is because we’ve been observant enough to see devices planted around the station and in cars and different places,” he said.

Gang enforcement officers appear to be the target of the assassination attempts, though Dana noted the devices were indiscriminate by nature and could have killed any police or law enforcement officer.

The incidents have shaken a close-knit police department already demoralized by steep budget cuts that last year saw its officer numbers slashed by a quarter to 68. Officers are checking under cars for bombs and scouting for other potential hazards.

“I would call the mood tense,” Capt. Marghis said. “Everyone is being very vigilant about their surroundings and the environment.”

Dana said officers have seen gang members carrying out counter-surveillance, studying police behavior. He often looks in his rear view mirror when he drives home at night to make sure he is not being followed.

In the attack with a ballistic contraption, the officer only avoided being shot in the head because the wheels on the sliding gate were wonky so he had to angle his body to open it.

“He had to push it to the right, the bullet went by to the left,” Dana said.

Hemet, surrounded by the snow-topped San Jacinto Mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, was traditionally known as a quiet retirement community. The population has grown in recent years to about 75,000 but the once-booming housing market has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

Investigators are still trying to determine why officers are being targeted. A prevalent theory is that members of an outlaw motorcycle gang — the Vagos — were angered when members of Hemet’s anti-gang task force monitored them at a funeral in a church opposite the task force’s former headquarters.

A memorial service was held Dec. 29 in the Hemet Christian Assembly church and upward of 100 members of the gang attended, said Riverside County sheriff’s Capt. Walter Meyer, who oversees the regional gang task force.

Officers monitored the memorial but did not attend the service. Some of the Vagos members were questioned or followed as they left town.

Two days later, the gang enforcement unit’s black shingle roof was drilled through and the single-level house, converted for police use, filled up with gas.

“Which would obviously leave a reasonable person to ask: Are they involved?” Meyer said.

One of the church’s pastors, James McKiney, said a group of motorcycling friends mourning the death of a prominent Hemet man asked if he would conduct a memorial service.

“When a family is crying and asking for a service, you don’t say no to them,” McKiney said. “I said that’s no problem, I’ll do that.”

McKiney declined to discuss the service or if he recalled any gang officers monitoring its attendants.

Authorities said about 30 members of the Vagos, California’s largest motorcycle gang, were arrested in Riverside County on Wednesday, as part of a crackdown across the state and in Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Prosecutors don’t have a total number of arrests yet.

Meyer said there are about 200 Vagos members in Riverside County. The gang specializes in methamphetamine sales, identity theft and violence, he said.

Law enforcement officials from around the state on Thursday appealed for the public’s help in solving the case. Several state, local and national agencies have banded together to put forward a $200,000 reward.

“It is incredible and I think unprecedented that police officers in the line of duty could be subjected to these kind of terrorist attempts on their lives,” Attorney General Jerry Brown said.

Former police officer pleads guilty to Danziger Bridge shooting cover-up of stunning breadth

February 25, 2010

By Times-Picayune Staff

February 24, 2010, 8:53PM

Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy wrote this story

danziger-letten.JPGJohn McCusker / The Times-PicayunePolice must be held to the law, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said on the steps of the federal courthouse Wednesday.

Admitting a cover-up of shocking breadth, a former New Orleans police supervisor pleaded guilty to a federal obstruction charge on Wednesday, confessing that he participated in a conspiracy to justify the shooting of six unarmed people after Hurricane Katrina that was hatched not long after police stopped firing their weapons.

The guilty plea of Lt. Michael Lohman, who retired from the department earlier this month, contains explosive details of the alleged cover-up and ramps up the legal pressure on police officers involved in the shooting and subsequent investigation. It’s unclear when Lohman’s cooperation with federal authorities began, but he presumably is prepared to testify against the officers he says helped him lie about the circumstances of a shooting he immediately deemed a “bad shoot.” 

Read the original documents
 

Bill of information charging Lt. Michael Lohman

Facts that Michael Lohman admitted to

Lohman, who pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to obstruct justice, admits he failed to order the collection of evidence or canvassing of witnesses, helped craft police reports riddled with false information, participated in a plan to plant a gun under the bridge and lied to investigators who questioned police actions.

A spokesman for NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley said the chief did not have a comment about the guilty plea. Bob Young said Riley stands by the quote he made Tuesday, as news of the guilty plea broke. “We hope that justice is served,” he said then.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin did not respond to a request for comment.

In a news conference after Lohman’s plea, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said police must be held to the law.

“Police officers are there to protect us, and to protect the most vulnerable among us,” he said. “Their jobs are to help individuals and protect us, not to hurt us. Sadly, sadly, we come across in the course of our work here…officers who violate their oaths of office, who occasionally violate their duties, violate their commitment to serve the public. And we take actions against those individuals wherever they violate federal law. We will continue to do that.”

In the wake of the startling developments, defense attorneys for some of the six police officers and one former officer involved in the shooting maintained their clients’ innocence.
 

The Times-Picayune first questioned NOPD investigation into Danziger Bridge shootings in 2007. Read that story here.
 

All seven men were indicted by a state grand jury in December 2006 on murder and attempted-murder charges, but that case collapsed in court in the summer of 2008. Six weeks later, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division agreed to take over the case.

Frank DeSalvo, an attorney for Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, one of two sergeants to fire his gun at the scene, said Lohman’s guilty plea does not change his client’s position.

“We are not concerned about it,” DeSalvo said. “The government gave a story here that is not correct….It looks to me that they alleged superficial stuff that is not true. We can prove that some of this stuff is not true.”

A widely respected supervisor within the NOPD, Lohman served on the force from 1988 until his retirement early this month. After the storm, he moved from the 7th District in eastern New Orleans to the Central City-based 6th District, along with Major Robert Bardy, his longtime commander.

As a lieutenant in the 7th District, he was a ranking officer over many of the officers involved in the shooting. He was a direct supervisor to Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, a homicide detective who Lohman ordered to investigate the case.

The incident on the morning of Sept. 4, 2005, spanned nearly the entire length of the Danziger Bridge, which crosses the Industrial Canal in eastern New Orleans. Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, was shot to death outside a motel on the Gentilly side of the bridge.

James Brissette, 19, was killed on the eastern side of the bridge, while four people walking with him with were seriously wounded. Susan Bartholomew lost part of her arm in the shooting and her husband, Leonard Bartholomew III, was shot in the head. Their daughter, Leisha Bartholomew and a nephew, Jose Holmes, suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Leonard Bartholomew IV, a teenage son, was uninjured.

After the shooting, police arrested Lance Madison, a longtime FedEx employee who had been taking care of his brother after the storm. Madison was accused of shooting at officers and booked with attempted murder. That was a “false arrest,” according to the bill of information, the charging document that lays out the laws Lohman allegedly broke.

The cover-up of what Lohman immediately judged an unjustified shooting began just after supervisors arrived, according to the bill. While police attorneys and police reports have asserted that officers were fired upon by the victims before shooting their weapons, the bill maintains that the victims were unarmed.

The factual basis, which outlines the facts Lohman is admitting, said the sergeants involved in the shooting told him that civilians shot at police, justifying the officers’ actions.

michael lohman.JPGFormer Lt. Michael Lohman retired from the New Orleans Police Department earlier this month.”When defendant Lohman asked them where all the civilians’ guns had gone, the sergeants did not have a good explanation,” the document states. At that point, Lohman directed his subordinates to talk to the other officers, hoping they would devise a story to match the physical evidence.

At the scene, Lohman assigned a detective to conduct an investigation. While not named in the document, that detective was Kaufman, who tells him an NOPD probe will not be necessary becauseNOPD Superintendent Eddie Compass had said no reports were necessary in the aftermath of Katrina.
 

“21 NAT, Babe, we don’t have to do anything,” said Kaufman, according to the factual basis, which refers to him as “Investigator.” In NOPD shorthand, “NAT” means “necessary action taken,” while a “21” report is a “miscellaneous incident,” not a crime. 

But Lohman apparently told Kaufman the Danziger case would require a report.

The court documents describe Lohman consulting with various shooting officers to confect a plausible cover-up. But the documents do not identify by name the other officers involved in the alleged conspiracy, though they are described clearly. 

The bill, for example, defines three officers as “co-conspirators”: a sergeant, referred to as “Investigator” and “the sergeants involved in the shooting.” The Investigator is Kaufman, who wrote the initial police report and co-wrote the supplemental investigative report. The two sergeants who participated in the shooting were Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius, both supervisors in the 7th District. They are identified in the documents as “Sergeant A” and “Sergeant B.”

Attorneys for Kaufman and Gisevius have acknowledged they received target letters earlier this year. They have maintained their clients’ innocence.
Kaufman’s attorney said “that bill of information is not specific enough to indicate that my client is involved.”

“If it did, he categorically denies being involved in anything listed in that bill of information,” said Stephen London.

Eric Hessler, who represents Gisevius, said the court documents simply lay out allegations. “I certainly don’t consider them indisputable facts,” he said.
The documents say Kaufman lied when he gave a voluntary statement to FBI agents on Jan. 22, 2009. Shortly afterward, Lohman talked to Kaufman, who said “everything was ‘cool,'” the bill says. It also states that Lohman gave an interview to FBI agents on May 27, in which he “concealed that he and his co-conspirators were involved in a cover-up.”

Lohman’s cooperation seems to date to sometime after that May 27 meeting. The span of the conspiracy in the bill dates from the day of the shooting until that date in May, suggesting that Lohman changed his story soon afterward.
In pleading guilty, Lohman admits to encouraging Bowen and Gisevius — the “involved sergeants” — to devise a story justifying the shootings. Lohman talked to more of the officers involved in the shooting and “discussed the statements they should give,” the bill stated.

Lohman also knew that “the Investigator” planned to put a planted gun under the bridge. Kaufman logged into police evidence a gun he described as belonging to Lance Madison. 

While discussing that scheme, Lohman asked Kaufman whether “the gun was ‘clean,’ meaning that it could not be traced back to another crime,” according to the bill.

The federal paperwork describes Bowen, who joined the force in 1997 and rose to sergeant, as a major figure in creating continuously changing stories to provide a legal foundation for the shootings. While working for the NOPD, Bowen earned a law degree from Loyola University.

The statements attributed to by “Sergeant A” match statements made by Bowen in a 54-page supplemental police report written by Kaufman and Sgt. Gerard Dugue. 

DeSalvo, Bowen’s attorney, would not address whether Bowen fits the description of Sergeant A. His client has not received a target letter, he said.
But the documents describe Sergeant A alleging that Lance Madison threw a gun into the Industrial Canal — an allegation made by Bowen in the supplemental report. 

The documents also describe Sergeant A initially saying that he kicked two guns belonging to the shooting victims off the bridge. The same sergeant also described running under the bridge after a suspect. That story was later changed, the documents say, after Lohman and others agreed it was implausible. 

However, Bowen does describe kicking the guns and running under the bridge in the supplemental report. 

In October 2005, Lohman frequently talked to Kaufman about how to make the report he was working on “more plausible,” the bill stated. At one point, he became so impatient with the draft report that he personally wrote a 17-page report that Kaufman was supposed to use instead. 

Although the documents say this report was signed and “submitted,” it did not remain in the official record. It was eventually replaced by a seven-page report, which NOPD has distributed as the initial incident report. 

In Lohman’s 17-page report he made significant changes that would have bolstered the police case. Instead of Bowen alone spotting Madison tossing the gun, Gisevius and three other officers attested that they, too, saw it. Lohman thought “the cover-up story would be stronger and more logical if four officers said they saw Madison throw the gun,” the bill stated.

In a supplemental report, Susan and Leonard Bartholomew are described as saying their nephew, Jose Holmes, had shot at police. The federal documents state that the Bartholomews did not make such a statement. 

In Lohman’s report, he “further falsified” the Bartholomews’ stories, saying Susan Bartholomew told police that the Madisons were walking with their family across the bridge and Ronald and two other people fired a gun at police. The Madisons did not know the Bartholomews and were not walking with them, according to the bill and victim accounts. 

Kaufman showed each of the officers who fired their guns the report and all signed off on the document, the bill states. At that point, the document was filed, with both Kaufman and Lohman’s name on the front cover page.
But, at some point, Kaufman “switched out” the reports, replacing the 17-page one with a seven-page document. He used the cover page from the 17-page report, the bill stated.

Kaufman in 2006 told Lohman that he “had switched out the report because he had written another report to match the shooters’ audiotaped statements,” according to the bill. 

While the federal documents focus largely on Lohman’s dealings with Kaufman and the two sergeants who were part of the shooting group, his allegations will likely have implications for other officers. 

For example, the documents state that Lohman talked with the officer who shot and killed Ronald Madison, asking “leading questions” to ensure answers that would justify the shooting. Former Officer Robert Faulcon, who quit the NOPD after the storm, is identified in police documents as having shot Madison.

“I’m not in a position at this point in time, to concede that (Lohman) ever spoke with my client,” said Franz Zibilich, who represents Faulcon, who he added has not received a target letter.

Faulcon had “nothing to do with authorizing or writing a police report” and partaking in a cover-up, Zibilich said. “It’s been his position all along that the shooting is justified,” he said.

The other officers involved in the shooting were Michael Hunter, Ignatius Hills, Robert Barrios and Anthony Villavaso. Their attorneys did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. 

Last summer, FBI agents raided the NOPD’s homicide bureau, where Kaufman worked. They took not only his files and computer hard drive, but also those of Dugue, who worked with him on the supplemental investigation.

An attorney for Dugue declined to comment on Wednesday’s developments.

At the end of Lohman’s court proceeding, after accepting the guilty plea, U.S. Judge Ivan Lemelle decried media reports from Tuesday night that said Lohman was expected to plead guilty the next day.

Lemelle said he “would ask and direct” the federal government to conduct a criminal investigation into the leaks and find a person or persons who “violated the seal order.”

Lemelle said he “would expect” federal investigators to pursue the matter “with vigor,” regardless of the source. 

He noted that a leak could be considered obstruction of justice.

At a news conference after the hearing, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said “we will do whatever we have to do to learn where that came from.” He asserted that nobody from his office, the FBI or Justice Department leaked information.

A TIMELINE OF THE CASE

  • Sept. 4, 2005: New Orleans police, responding to a call of gunfire on the Danziger Bridge, shoot six civilians, two of them fatally. Lt. Michael Lohman assigns the investigation of the incident to Sgt. Arthur Kaufman.
  • October 2005: Kaufman submits a first draft of his investigation for Lohman’s review.
  • August 2006: Families of the Danziger shooting victims file a series of federal civil lawsuits against NOPD.
  • Dec. 28, 2006: A state grand jury indicts seven New Orleans police officers on charges of murder and attempted murder.
  • Feb. 8, 2007: A Times-Picayune story notes profound flaws in the police investigation into the bridge incident.
  • Aug. 13, 2008: Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Raymond Bigelow tosses out the state’s case against the “Dangizer Seven,” saying the case was tainted by a prosecutor.
  • Sept. 30, 2008: U.S. Attorney Jim Letten announces that federal authorities will examine the Danziger case for possible civil-rights violations.
  • Jan. 22, 2009: Kaufman meets with FBI.
  • May 27, 2009: Lohman meets with FBI.
  • Aug. 5, 2009: FBI seizes files from NOPD homicide division, including files belonging to Kaufman and Sgt. Gerard Dugue, who helped with the investigation of the Danziger incident.
  • Sept. 26, 2009: FBI shuts down Danziger Bridge for a day in order to reconstruct the scene from the day of the shootings.
  • Feb. 1, 2010: Lohman retires from NOPD after 21 years on the force.
  • Feb. 3, 2010: Prosecutors file under seal a bill of information charging Lohman with conspiracy.

Former officer’s plea in Danziger Bridge case spells trouble for other cops, analysts say

February 25, 2010

By Gordon Russell, The Times-Picayune

February 24, 2010, 7:47PM

danziger-fbi-probe.JPGTimes-Picayune archiveAn FBI vehicle with a 360-degree camera takes pictures of the Danziger Bridge during a re-creation of the September, 2005, shooting.


Lt. Michael Lohman’s guilty plea
on Wednesday signals a huge break for federal prosecutors and a potentially devastating blow to the other New Orleans police officers involved in the shootings on the Danziger Bridge and the subsequent internal inquiry into those shootings, lawyers following developments in the case say.

In admitting he conspired to obstruct justice, Lohman acknowledged helping concoct a cover story for police shootings that left two New Orleanians dead and four injured in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina. Among other things, the government says Lohman participated in a scheme to plant a gun at the scene, and helped rewrite police reports and witness statements to make a fabricated version of events seem more plausible.

Making civil rights cases against police officers is very difficult, in large part because police in such cases often stick together, presenting a story that is internally consistent even if it is at odds with what the government believes is the truth. Lohman’s plea changes all that.

Read the original documents
 

Bill of information charging Lt. Michael Lohman

Facts that Michael Lohman admitted to

“They’ve broken the blue code, the wall of silence,” said former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg. “It takes a lot to break through that strong allegiance among law enforcement officers. But now they’ve got not just a cooperating witness but one who wore a badge and is admitting he was part and parcel of the effort to cover up what went on.”

“The code of silence thing is bullshit,” said longtime police attorney Frank DeSalvo, who represents Sgt. Kenneth Bowen in the Danziger case. “It’s for television and movies. I’ve taken tons of them under cross-examination over the last 30 years. There is no such thing as the code of silence.”

Getting witnesses to “flip” is crucial in many federal prosecutions. But it’s never more important than in cases in which police officers are defendants, said Dane Ciolino, a defense lawyer and professor at Loyola Law School.

“Nothing makes a civil rights case stick like another police officer testifying” against fellow officers, Ciolino said. “Typically, the people complaining (of police misbehavior) are criminals or alleged criminals. So the only way to make an effective case is with video or a cooperating police officer.

“In this case, we now know they’ve got a cooperating police officer, and they very well may have some video or audio surveillance. The news couldn’t be much worse for them — it’s bad, and it could get even worse.”

Ciolino and Rosenberg both noted that it’s been several weeks, at minimum, since Lohman agreed to cooperate, and his cooperation could date back as far as May. It’s thus plausible that he agreed to have his conversations with other officers recorded, though both lawyers said it’s impossible to tell from the documents filed thus far.

Ciolino noted that cover-ups often require some tending “because you have to keep them covered up.” That can provide opportunities to record damning conversations after the fact, as the various players involved assure one another that the circle will remain unbroken.

There’s a hint of such a conversation in the court documents filed Wednesday. Twice, the documents quote statements allegedly made by Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, the lead investigator, to Lohman, in January 2009. The bill of information says Kaufman told Lohman that he had spoken with the FBI and that everything was “cool.” The factual basis, a document signed by Lohman, says Kaufman assured Lohman in January 2009 that “It’s all cool, Babe.”

Those direct quotes, Ciolino said, “likely confirm that there was covert surveillance of some sort.”

As big a victory as Wednesday’s news was for federal prosecutors, Rosenberg cautioned that Lohman’s plea does not mean the broader probe is a done deal.

“It’s still not a slam dunk because all this is taking place in the aftermath of Katrina, and I don’t know if everyone has full appreciation of the climate down here” at the time, he said. “But the statements Lohman is subscribing to are going to be pretty damning to the other officers.”

Prosecutors have already sent target letters to at least two other officers involved in the Danziger incident — Sgt. Robert Gisevius, who was among the officers who fired their weapons on Sept. 4, 2005 on the bridge that spans the Industrial Canal, and Sgt. Arthur Kaufman, who led the investigation into the matter.

The bill of information charging Lohman makes clear that charges against other officers will be forthcoming.

Rosenberg said he suspects the government will proceed with other indictments shortly, but will first offer potential defendants a brief window of time in which to absorb the news of Lohman’s guilty plea and consider making deals of their own.

“I think the government is trying to send a message to the other officers that they may want to consider coming into the fold sooner rather than later,” he said. “I think they send out the target letters, announce Lohman is cooperating and then see if other people start knocking on the door.”

Gordon Russell can be reached at grussell@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3347.

Police supervisor pleads guilty in Danziger Bridge Probe; Plea Deal Blows Case Wide Open

February 25, 2010

By Laura Maggi, The Times-Picayune

February 24, 2010, 7:36PM

 

Letten.jpgJohn McCusker / The Times-PicayuneU.S. Attorney Jim Letten talks to reporters Wednesday after retired New Orleans police Lt. Michael Lohman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Danziger Bridge shootings after Hurrican Katrina.

Retired New Orleans police Lt. Michael Lohman has pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Danziger Bridge shootings, which left two people dead and four others injured after police fired on a group of civilians trapped in the submerged city days after Hurricane Katrina.

Read the original documents

Bill of information charging Lt. Michael Lohman

Facts that Michael Lohman admitted to
 Two men — Ronald Madison, 40, who was mentally challenged, and James Brissette, 19 — were killed. The survivors included a husband and wife, their two teenage children and a nephew.

Lohman, who helped orchestrate an elaborate cover-up of the crime, supervised the investigation and was at the scene on Sept. 4, 2005, according to an 11-page bill of information unsealed today.

According to the document, Lohman was aware that a subordinate planted a gun at the scene. He also wrote a 17-page police report full of lies about the incident and encouraged officers at the scene to remove shell casings.

He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus possible restitution. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 26.

A factual basis presented in court by prosecutors details what the government could have  proved had the case against Lohman went to trial. Lohman admitted to the facts presented as part of his plea deal. 

A press release from Letten’s office summarizes the chronology of events this way:

According to court documents unsealed today, the incident involved at least seven NOPD officers who drove to the Danziger Bridge in a rental truck in response to a call for police assistance.

On the east side of the bridge, the officers encountered six civilians (five members of the B Family, and J. B., a friend of the B Family), who were walking across the bridge to get food and supplies from a supermarket. The officers fired at the group of civilians, killing J. B. and seriously wounding four members of the B Family.

Officers then traveled to the west side of the bridge, where they encountered Lance and Ronald Madison, who were crossing the bridge to visit the dentistry office of one of their other brothers. An officer shot and killed Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old severely disabled man.

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.”

Lohman admitted today that, in the wake of the shooting, he participated in a conspiracy that involved, among other things, writing false reports about the incident, planting a gun and making up false witness statements.

Lohman also admitted that he intended for the officers involved in the shooting to come up with a plausible story that would allow Lohman and other supervisors to conclude that the shooting was justified. According to his testimony, the officers then provided “false stories,” which “evolved” over time.

According to the factual basis produced at the time of the plea, Lohman personally drafted a 17-page report, which he knew to be false, and provided that report to an investigator to submit as the official incident report.

That same investigator had previously informed Lohman that he had a gun that he planned to “put under the bridge,” and that the gun was “clean,” meaning that it could not be linked to any other crime.

Lohman understood that the investigator was going to use the gun as evidence to justify the shooting of the civilians, and he went along with that plan to plant evidence.

Lohman admitted in court today that he knew that the civilians on the bridge had not actually possessed guns, and he knew that the investigator had also falsified statements by the civilians. Lohman also admitted that in May 2009, he provided false information to an FBI agent investigating this case.

Judge Delays Prelim For CAPA Student Beaten During Arrest

February 18, 2010

PITTSBURGH — A judge has delayed the preliminary hearing for an 18-year-old Creative and Performing Arts High School student who was badly beaten after officers confronted him in Homewood last month.

The three plainclothes officers have been placed on paid leave during an internal investigation into the beating of Jordan Miles, who police charged with assault and resisting arrest in the Jan. 11 incident.

 “I asked for a dismissal, because a preliminary hearing is required within three to 10 days from the incident,” said Miles’ attorney, Kerry Lewis.

 But prosecutors asked for a 60-day delay because the FBI is investigating the officers’ actions and whether they used excessive force.

 As a compromise, the judge delayed the prelim for another two weeks.

 Miles’ mother, Terez Miles, said she wants the charges dropped so her son can move on with his life.

 “I don’t appreciate it being postponed. I really don’t,” said Terez Miles.

 Police said Miles fought with the officers who thought a “heavy object” in his coat was a gun. It turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.

 Miles said he resisted because he thought the men were trying to abduct him and didn’t identify themselves as police.

 Miles’ family and attorney said he was hit with a stun gun and hospitalized after the violent struggle, during which a chunk of his hair was yanked out and a tree branch went through his gums.

 “He’s a young kid,” said Lewis. “He’s a good kid. This is stressful for him. He was beaten badly.”

 “I was accused for something I never had anything to do with,” said Miles, an honor student at CAPA. “I was completely innocent. They couldn’t find anything.”

 Police took Miles to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment. The student said he had to go back after he was released from custody.

 “I want my son’s life restored, that’s all,” said Miles’ mother, Terez Miles. “I just want his life to go back to the way that it was before.”

 Sources told Channel 11 News that the officers identified themselves as police.