The New Orleans Police Department reinstated a former homicide detective Thursday who was fired for violating department procedures when she testified for a fellow officer accused of covering up the NOPD’s involvement in the killing of Henry Glover after Hurricane Katrina.
In a two-sentence news release sent to local media Thursday afternoon, the department said it has withdrawn the charges that Catherine Beckett violated NOPD rules, policies and procedures and she is again an officer in good standing.
Beckett was with the department for 13 years before Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas fired her on Nov. 17, 2011.
Serpas wrote in her termination letter that she violated policies regarding moral conduct, neglect of duty and restricted activities.
Serpas found Beckett should have informed her superiors and federal prosecutors she planned to testify on behalf of Robert Italiano, a retired NOPD lieutenant who was accused of helping cover up how Glover died but who was acquitted during the 2010 trial.
During her testimony, Beckett accused another former officer of perjury before a grand jury, and Serpas said she also should have reported that to federal authorities.
Beckett filed a federal lawsuit against Serpas and the city on April 9, 2012, claiming the police chief and department violated her right to free speech when she was fired for testifying in the federal trial.
She also accused Serpas of retaliating against her, saying the police chief “wished to punish those not aligned with the federal prosecution of the Glover matter.”
Beckett testified that former Sgt. Erin Reilly, a government witness, told her she had lied to a grand jury when she testified about Italiano.
Reilly lied about Italiano because of ongoing animosity stemming from their time on the force together, Beckett said. Reilly has denied lying or telling Beckett she lied.
Details about what led to Beckett’s reinstatement were scarce Thursday, but the court record shows the federal case has not been going the city’s way.
U.S. District Court Judge Kurt Engelhardt earlier this year denied a request by the city to essentially dismiss Beckett’s lawsuit; he seemed to agree there is evidence to support Beckett’s contention she was treated differently by the NOPD compared with other officers who testified for prosecutors, but who admitted their own questionable behavior in the Glover case.
The city had planned to appeal that decision.
Engelhardt recently threw out the convictions of five NOPD officers accused of shooting at innocent civilians on the Danziger Bridge after Katrina, then covering up their actions.
The Danziger shootings and the Glover case are the highest-profile of five officer-involved shootings after the storm that each were the focus of federal investigations.
In granting a new trial to the Danziger defendants, Engelhardt largely focused on anonymous online commenting about that case by federal prosecutors.
He also accused prosecutors of using strong-arm tactics to dissuade current NOPD officers from testifying on behalf of defendants.
NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden declined to comment on the decision to reinstate Beckett, citing orders from the federal judge. Beckett’s attorney, Brett Prendergast, also declined to comment.
An appeal Beckett had filed with the city’s Civil Service Commission resulted in a “confidential amicable settlement,” according to a recent commission docket.
In the federal lawsuit, meanwhile, 13 documents were filed under seal between Sept. 20 and Oct. 17.
Glover was shot and killed by an NOPD officer outside an Algiers strip mall days after Katrina. Another officer burned his body inside a car behind the levee near the NOPD’s 4th District police station. Italiano and another officer, Travis McCabe, were accused of writing a report to hide what happened to Glover.
Although three defendants were convicted after the 2010 trial, two of the former NOPD officers have since been awarded new trials.
David Warren, who is accused of a civil rights violation for shooting Glover, was granted a new trial by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found his trial was unfair because he was prosecuted alongside others accused of burning the Algiers man’s body.
Warren has acknowledged shooting Glover, but said he did so in self-defense.
McCabe was granted a new trial after his trial judge found the discovery of a draft report cast some doubt on whether he was the primary author of a false police report about the Glover shooting.
McCabe has said another officer, who testified for prosecutors, wrote that report.
The conviction of Gregory McRae,who admitted burning the car containing Glover’s body, was upheld by the federal appellate court.