U.S.: No death penalty in Danziger case

Sept. 11, 2010 at 1:28 AM

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The Justice Department said it will not seek the death penalty for four New Orleans police officers charged in the death of civilians after Hurricane Katrina.

Prosecutors made their intentions known in a filing Friday in federal court, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.

Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius and Officer Anthony Villavaso of the New Orleans Police Department -- along with a former officer, Robert Faulcon -- face federal charges of violating the civil rights of two men by fatally shooting them on the Danziger Bridge Sept. 4, 2006. Four others were wounded in the shooting.

The filing does not explain the basis for the Justice Department's decision not to seek the death penalty, the newspaper said.

The suspects were charged in July with the civil rights violations. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

Eric Hessler, an attorney for Gisevius, told The Times-Picayune the Justice Department decision is "indicative that they are at least paying attention to the circumstances under which these allegations occurred."

Attorneys for the four suspects went to Washington in August to try to persuade federal prosecutors the case did not warrant the death penalty.

The four suspects, along with supervisors Arthur Kaufman and Gerard Dugue, also are charged with helping to obstruct justice during investigations into the shootings.

Five former officers -- Michael Hunter, Robert Barrios, Ignatius Hills, Michael Lohman and Jeffrey Lehrmann -- have pleaded guilty in the incident.

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