Former official released to await Danziger Bridge retrial
A federal judge ordered former New Orleans homicide Detective Arthur “Archie” Kaufman released from federal prison Tuesday, allowing him to remain free on bond at least until an expected retrial of the Danziger Bridge police shooting case.
Kaufman was convicted in August 2011 of helping orchestrate a cover-up of the shooting, in which two men were killed and four people were wounded six days after Hurricane Katrina by police officers responding to a call that a fellow officer needed help.
A jury found Kaufman had written multiple fabricated reports about what happened on the bridge, planted a gun, created fictional witnesses and attempted to frame innocent people.
Four other officers were convicted of civil rights violations in the shooting itself, as the jury agreed with prosecutors that the police had opened fire on unarmed civilians.
Engelhardt overturned the convictions last month, saying “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” necessitated ordering a new trial for all of the officers.
The main focus of Engelhardt’s criticism was federal prosecutors who used pseudonyms to post comments about the Danziger case — and many others — on the nola.com website. Although the prosecutors who secretly commented were not part of the Danziger trial team, two were top officials in former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office and one was a longtime attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division.
The decision to release Kaufman on bond did not come as a surprise, since he was allowed to remain free before the first trial.
His four co-defendants were jailed after a federal grand jury issued indictments of them in 2010.
A sixth defendant, former homicide Detective Gerard Dugue, was tried separately from the others in January 2012, although that trial ended in a mistrial and is on appeal.
Although some attorneys for the other defendants have said they plan to file requests for bond for their clients, they have not yet done so.
Federal prosecutors vigorously fought defense attempts to gain pretrial release for the four defendants accused in the shooting itself after the indictments.
After Kaufman’s attorney filed a request for his release, prosecutors did not object, noting he did not fire a gun on the bridge, had appeared for previous court hearings and did not flee after his original conviction.
Engelhardt posted the signed order reinstating Kaufman’s previous $100,000 personal surety bond Tuesday.
Stephen London, one of his attorneys, said he expected Kaufman to be released later in the day.
Federal prosecutors have not indicated whether they plan to appeal Engelhardt’s decision to order a new trial for Kaufman and the other four convicted defendants. They have 30 days from the judge’s Sept. 17 order to appeal.