A federal appeals court has blasted misconduct by Justice Department lawyers in a civil rights prosecution against New Orleans police officers. The case arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s grant of a new trial because Justice Department lawyers — including those responsible for protecting the civil rights of the defendant police officers — engaged in an anonymous blogging campaign to taint the defendants during the trial. The court noted that Justice Department lawyers stoked a “mob mentality” against police officers.
The federal appeals court took note that one of the Civil Rights Division lawyers responsible appears to have gone unpunished. For sure, one lawyer is still employed and earning in excess of $157,000 per year with her government salary and benefits.
As the court described:
In the anarchy following Hurricane Katrina, a group of heavily armed New Orleans police officers were dispatched to the Danziger Bridge in response to an emergency call reporting shots being fired at police. There, amid chaos, they shot and killed two unarmed men, one of them developmentally disabled, and wounded four other unarmed civilians.
The notorious Civil Rights Division then brought a criminal prosecution against the police officers (just as many are now clamoring for the same DOJ unit to launch such prosecution against other police departments). The federal appeals court described what happened next:
No less than three high-ranking federal prosecutors are known to have been posting online,anonymous comments to newspaper articles about the case throughout its duration. The government makes no attempt to justify the prosecutors’ ethical lapses, which the court described as having created an “online 21st century carnival atmosphere.” Not only that, but the governmentinadequately investigated and substantially delayed the ferreting out of information about its in-house contributors to the anonymous postings. The district court also found that cooperating defendants called to testify by the government lied, an FBI agent over stepped, defense witnesses were intimidated from testifying , and inexplicably gross sentencing disparities resulted from the government’ s plea bargains and charging practices.
Read the full outrageous opinion here.
The exact same Justice Department unit which engaged in this misconduct is also investigating police departments across the nation — including in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.