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Five former New Orleans police officers pleaded guilty Wednesday to the 2005 shooting on a bridge involving unarmed civilians in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina.
All five were convicted in 2011 of civil rights violations for shooting the victims on New Orleans' Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, six days after Katrina brought the city to a stand-still. Two people were killed and four others were injured.
The five entered the guilty plea in return for reduced prison time. The judge shaved up to 33 years off each of their sentences.
The ex-officers — Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon, Anthony Villavaso and Arthur Kaufman — were responding to a radio report of an officer getting fired at when they started shooting, and later orchestrated a cover-up to justify it, prosecutors said.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt gave Bowen 10 years, down from his original 40 years in prison; Faulcon got 12 years, down from 65; Gisevius got 10 years, down from 40; Villavaso got seven years, down from 38; and Kaufman got three years, down from six.
All of the officers except for Kaufman had direct involvement with the shootings. But the convictions were tossed out when Engelhardt ordered a new trial in 2013 for the officers, citing "grotesque" misconduct on the part of federal prosecutors who allegedly posted negative comments online about the case using pseudonyms.
Kaufman, a detective, was accused of being the cover-up mastermind, and has been free on bail. The others had started serving their sentences.
"It is unfortunate that New Orleans has had to relive this dark chapter in our city’s history, and I hope that the decision today will allow us to finally turn the page and begin to heal. Police misconduct and abuse will not be tolerated," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement Wednesday, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.