Panel cuts ex-officer ’s sentence

A former New Orleans police captain who was convicted of plotting to arrange a contract to provide security for Entergy at inflated rates and then skim off the top has had his prison sentence reduced by more than three years.

A federal appeals court panel in January upheld Michael Roussel’s conviction, but threw out the sentence of 11 years and four months that U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier handed him in September 2011.

Barbier re-sentenced the former traffic division commander Wednesday to eight years.

Roussel, 49, a 19-year NOPD veteran before his conviction, was arrested in June 2010, accused of helping to arrange an overpriced security contract between Gladius Inc., a firm owned by his friend, Joseph Branch, and Entergy.

The idea was to inflate the contract so Roussel and Louis Dabdoub, an Entergy security manager and former NOPD captain, could divvy up kickbacks.

But Dabdoub tipped of the NOPD to the scheme and then went undercover for the feds. With Roussel there in uniform, Branch gave Dabdoub an envelope with $1,000 in “good faith” money, leading to the arrests of Roussel and Branch in June 2010.

Roussel was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud.

In its ruling, overturning the original sentence, the appeals court found that Barbier “clearly erred” when he found that more than one bribe took place. That mistake raised the sentencing guidelines for Roussel.

“Simply put, the government proved the payment of only one bribe — the $1,000 ‘good faith’ money to Dabdoub. The rest was all speculative,” the appeals court found.

At trial, Roussel testified that he merely served as a consultant and liaison to Branch.

But Branch and Dabdoub testified that Roussel was well aware of the deal.

Branch pleaded guilty to conspiracy shortly before Roussel’s trial in March 2011. He received a five-year prison sentence.