NOPD officers on trial

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Jury selection begins today in the trial of New Orleans police officers Melvin Williams and Matthew Dean Moore, accused in the beating death of handyman Raymond Robair in Treme in 2005.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon will hear the case, which is expected to last more than a week.

Williams is accused of beating the 48-year-old Robair to death by kicking him and hitting him with his police baton on July 30, 2005. Moore, a rookie who had graduated from the police academy only weeks before becoming Williams’ partner, is charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements. He is accused of helping to cover up the incident by lying in his police report.

Williams faces a possible life sentence if convicted of obstruction of justice and depriving Robair of his civil rights. Moore faces as much as 25 years in prison if convicted.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Williams and Moore claim Robair was stumbling along a sidewalk in the 1500 block of Dumaine Street in July 2005, and appeared to need medical help because he was clutching his chest. The officers told federal investigators they drove Robair to Charity Hospital, informed doctors they had found the man unresponsive on a street, then left the hospital.

The FBI initially closed the case in 2006, based on an NOPD investigation led by then-Sgt. Gerard Dugue. The feds decided to take a closer look, however, after Dugue was charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and lying to federal prosecutors in the Danziger Bridge case and the slaying of Henry Glover. Dugue has pleaded not guilty of those charged.

When the FBI in 2008 reopened its investigation into Robair’s death, investigators said they found witnesses in the neighborhood who said they saw Williams beating Robair.

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