Feds won’t object to Danziger defendant’s bond request

Arthur Kaufman
Arthur Kaufman

Federal prosecutors will not fight a bid by former New Orleans Police Sgt. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman to be set free on bond while he awaits a retrial along with four other ex-cops accused in the Danziger Bridge shootings and alleged cover-up, according to a new legal filing.

Kaufman had been free on $100,000 bond from July 27, 2010, until May 2012, when he reported to federal prison to serve a six-year sentence for his role in the NOPD’s handling of the notorious post-Katrina shooting spree.

A jury found that Kaufman, who was lead investigator in the case, wrote several reports and drafts that contained falsehoods.

But U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt this month tossed out the convictions of the five officers, and Kaufman’s attorneys quickly filed a motion to have him released on his earlier bond, arguing that he showed up for all court hearings before his trial and reported on time to serve his sentence.

In a filing late Thursday, federal prosecutors said they won’t object because Kaufman “did not fire a gun on the Danziger Bridge,” showed up at court and didn’t flee before his sentencing.

Kaufman, 56, was the only one of the five defendants who was not present on the bridge during the Sept. 4, 2005, fracas, in which police sprayed rifle fire at several civilians, killing two and wounding four others.

Under federal law, criminal defendants whose convictions are overturned have a right to return to the status they were in before their trial — in this case, free on bond.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office claimed Kaufman’s status has changed, given that he now knows that a jury convicted him, which could affect his willingness to return to court. Even so, the office declined to fight his request.

For now, Kaufman, who retired from the NOPD in 2011, remains in a federal prison in Virginia.

His sentence was by far the lowest in the case. The other officers involved — Robert Faulcon, Kenneth Bowen, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Gisevius — each received at least 38 years.

Whether prosecutors will appeal Engelhardt’s ruling overturning the convictions remains in question. A U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman said no decision has been made. The government has 30 days from the judge’s Sept. 17 order to appeal it.

Engelhardt decided to reverse the convictions because of anonymous online commenting by prosecutors.