Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A federal judge sentenced a 55-year-old New Orleans man to 10 years in prison Thursday, bringing an end to the last high-profile legal action stemming from the violent aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 14 years ago.
Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. was first charged in 2010 but the case was delayed for eight years and he was evaluated six times for competency to stand trial. He was found competent last year to face charges in the shootings of three men in New Orleans in September 2005.
Federal prosecutors originally issued a five-count indictment against Bourgeois. Last October, he pleaded guilty to interference with rights and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
Thursday, Bourgeois was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release.
Prosecutors said Bourgeois shot three men who were walking to Algiers Point to reach a ferry landing, where authorities had set up an evacuation post. All three were injured by the gunfire.
The case involved racial elements as government attorneys said Bourgeois, who is white, later bragged about shooting the men, who are black. The charges said he'd warned a neighbor after the hurricane, "Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot." Prosecutors also argued that the shooting was racially motivated.
"This sentence sends a clear message to those who attempt to divide our community with violence and fear that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly to prosecute perpetrators of hate-motivated violence," Asst. U.S. Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement Thursday.
"Justice is blind, but she is also patient," Eric Rommal, FBI New Orleans special agent in charge, added.
Defense attorney Valerie Welz Jusselin told U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon that Bourgeois was remorseful for the shootings and that it happened during widespread looting in New Orleans after Katrina left, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
Hurricane Katrina arrived on the Gulf Coast near New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, as a Category 3 storm. It caused levee breaches around the city that led to massive flooding that killed hundreds.