Ex-cop who burned Henry Glover’s body tries again for new trial

A former New Orleans police officer who admitted driving Henry Glover’s body to the Algiers levee, then setting the car aflame with the body inside it has filed another appeal of his 2010 conviction, citing new information that he says was unavailable in an earlier appeal that largely failed.

Gregory McRae now claims he got an unfair trial because of federal hijinks that included the now-infamous blogging scandal involving top prosecutors inside former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office, plus alleged leaks of grand jury and FBI information to news reporters.

McRae also claims he never saw a psychologist’s report, produced prior to his 17-year prison sentence, that said he clearly showed “symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences during and after Hurricane Katrina.”

McRae’s attorney claim he did not get a copy of the report until six weeks ago.

The 31-page appeal, filed Thursday, partly mirrors the argument that an appeals court accepted in the case of David Warren, the former officer who is being retried in Glover’s shooting.

That argument holds that being tried with four other officers accused of different crimes related to Glover — the shooting, the burning and the cover-up — tainted the evidence against McRae with the specter of a conspiracy that federal prosecutors never charged had existed.

McRae, his attorney argued, never knew he was burning the body of someone shot by a fellow officer and was unaware of a cover-up. He should have been tried alone for the burning, they said.

“Against the backdrop of Warren’s shooting of Glover and the subsequent cover-up, it is understandable to view Gregory McRae’s actions, as they have been described, as ‘barbaric,’ ‘ghoulish’ and ‘gruesome,’” attorney Michael Fawer said in the motion. “But whether it was criminal depends on how the situation in which McRae found himself after Katrina affected his state of mind.”

That’s where the report by psychologist Dr. William B. Janzen comes in, Fawer said.

The appeals court upheld the guilty verdicts last year against McRae for use of fire to commit a felony, obstruction of a federal investigation and denying a man his right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. It tossed out McRae’s conviction for denying Glover’s survivors the right to access the courts. The bulk of McRae’s sentence, however, remains intact.

In that previous appeal, McRae now argues, he wasn’t aware of a nefarious campaign by federal authorities to influence public opinion in the Glover case and others.

If defense lawyers had known about the online postings by former senior prosecutors Sal Perricone, Jan Mann and perhaps others, they would have asked potential jurors about their readership of news stories describing allegedly leaked grand jury information about the Glover case, Fawer said.

Fawer pointed to one anonymous post attributed to Perricone, under the alias “legacyusa,” that declared the officers in the Glover case “Guilty!!” It appeared under a news story four days into the trial. Under another story, the day before jury selection, an online post by Perricone described New Orleans police officers as “a group of frustrated, numbed insensitive mutants with guns and badges,” according to the filing.

McRae’s argument tries to piggyback onto a ruling by U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt in September, lambasting the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the online shenanigans while ordering a retrial for five officers convicted in the Danziger Bridge shooting case.

The new motion also cites alleged leaks of grand jury material to suggest a broader campaign. Fawer said questions remain about whether other federal prosecutors posted comments online, and about the source of grand jury information on the Glover case that allegedly was leaked to former Times-Picayune reporter Laura Maggi.

Maggi now works for The New Orleans Advocate.

Fawer’s motion claims that “government actors intentionally misused the media to obtain a conviction.”

“The leaks generated adverse publicity and the posts stoked anti-defendant sentiment,” Fawer wrote.

Fawer is seeking an evidentiary hearing to question Perricone; former federal prosecutor Michael Magner, who tried the Glover case; a pair of FBI agents; Maggi; and another former Times-Picayune reporter, Brendan McCarthy.