U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder bristled at a July 13 press conference when asked about allegations made by defense attorneys that federal agents may have fabricated evidence to secure six more indictments of New Orleans Police Department officers in the Danziger Bridge case. Jim Letten, U.S. Attorney for Louisiana's Eastern District, joined Holder in announcing the indictments.
"Nobody manufactures evidence that we end up relying on," Letten said.
"Yeah, let me make this clear," said Holder, stepping in with his index finger raised. "In other words, that's not true. Right? That's simply not true. That is not what happened here. The people who conducted this investigation did so with integrity, they did it with hard work, and the notion that somehow or other evidence was manufactured is simply not true, and I'm really restraining myself from using stronger language than that."
The officers listed in the new indictments were all arrested last Tuesday morning. Officers Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso have been charged for allegedly shooting two people dead and wounding four others on the bridge on September 4, 2005. If those four officers are convicted, Letten refused to rule out the death penalty. Sgts. Arthur Kaufman and Gerard Dugue, who were initially given responsibility for investigating the incident, were indicted for allegedly coordinating an elaborate cover-up. Kaufman faces up to 120 years in prison if convicted, while Dugue faces up to 70 years.
"As our investigation of the Danziger Bridge shooting shows, the Justice Department will hold those who violate the law responsible for their actions," Holder said. "Put simply, we will not tolerate wrongdoing by those who are sworn to protect the public. This will not stand, and we will hold all offenders accountable."
Police Chief Ronal Serpas issued a brief statement after the press conference, saying, "It is now time to look forward." — Matt Davis