NEW ORLEANS (CN) — The last remaining police officer defendant in the post-Hurricane Katrina killings of two unarmed citizens pleaded guilty Friday morning in federal court to a misdemeanor accessory charge.
Former New Orleans police officer Gerard Dugue entered his guilty plea one day after prosecutors replaced the six felony charges against him with the single misdemeanor charge.
Clark Kelly, who represented Dugue, said after sentencing: "Today was a day Gerald did the right thing for his family."
Dugue, a retired police officer with 33 years behind him as a sergeant and homicide detective, was accused of helping cover up shootings at New Orleans' Danzinger Bridge in September, 2005, in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina.
"In reality, he is a role model for this city," Kelly said of Dugue. "I'm proud to call him my friend."
The Danzinger Bridge shooting was widely publicized because of the police cover-up — including the planting of a gun. Two unarmed people were killed and four others were wounded as they tried to cross a bridge on foot for groceries in the aftermath of the devastating storm. The police cover-up of the incident lasted years.
Five other former police officers pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges stemming from the shooting four for their roles in the actual shooting; one for his role in the cover-up.
All had previously been tried and convicted over the case, but had their convictions thrown out for "gross prosecutorial misconduct" after it was discovered a prosecutor was making anonymous comments on online news stories on nola.com.
U.S District Judge Kurt Engelhardt sentenced Dugue Friday to a year of probation and ordered him to pay restitution, the amount of which he said he will determine after civil litigation has ended.
James Brissette, 17, and Ronald Madison, 40, were shot to death by police officers on Sept. 4, 2005, as they crossed Danzinger Bridge.
In attempt to cover-up the fact the killings were done by police officers, several individuals, including Dugue, prepared false reports, planted a gun under the bridge, and framed and arrested Lance Madison, brother of one of the dead men, for attempted murder.
Dugue pleaded guilty Friday of helping former police Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman write the false report.
During a news conference outside the courthouse Friday morning, Lance Madison spoke of "the pain and suffering" he endured over losing his brother. He said he hoped the city will never relive the horror it went through in the aftermath of Katrina, when failed levies flooded the historic city.
Madison said he served 25 days on the false charges filed against him.
But when asked whether he feels justice has been served following the hearing, Madison said he does.
All of the police officers have been found guilty," he explained. "I think part of it is over now."
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