NEW ORLEANS -- Attorneys for the five former New Orleans police officers convicted of civil rights violations in the Danziger case expected Judge Kurt Engelhardt to order a new trial.
The judge ruled that "grotesque prosecutorial misconduct" tainted the case and August 2011 guilty verdicts.
Attorneys Tim Meche and Roger Kitchens represented one of the alleged shooters, former NOPD Officer Anthony Villavaso.
"It's an embarrassment to the citizens and the taxpayers that our Department of Justice has conducted itself in this manner," said Meche.
The officers were convicted of the post-Katrina shootings of unarmed citizens on the Danziger Bridge on September 4, 2005 and subsequent cover-up.
Family members of one of victims released a statement expressing disappointment by the judge's ruling.
Dr. Rommell Madison said, "We are extremely disappointed in Judge Engelhardt's decision granting a new trial in the Danziger criminal civil rights case. It has been over eight years since our brother Ronald was shot and killed on the Danziger bridge and our brother Lance was falsely arrested and framed on eight counts of attempted murder. This decision re-opens this terrible wound not only for our family but our entire community. From the beginning of this ordeal our family has sought justice, not just for ourselves, but for all the victims and families. We urge the Department of Justice to appeal Judge Engelhardt's decision. Our fight for justice continues."
New Orleans civil rights attorney Tracie Washington said she supports the judge's ruling.
"He did the right thing," said Washington. "At the end of the day, it's about a criminal justice system that has to work. I have to tell this community however, that those rogue prosecutors' bad actions are going to continue to effect us. How do we prosecute (former New Orleans Mayor Ray) Nagin now?"
Washington said reliving Danziger during a new trial won't be easy.
"It's a wound that had not only scabbed over, it had begun to heal. Now, we've got to surgically go back and open this wound."
The U.S. Department of Justice now has the opportunity to appeal the judge's order to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Defense attorney Meche said prosecutors should just walk way from this case.
"This is not a case that merits prosecution because of all of the previous prosecutorial misconduct. The concept of being presumed innocent and innocent until you're convicted beyond a reasonable doubt was not followed in this case. That concerns me as an attorney. That concerns me as a citizen and member of this community."
Meche says attorneys were shocked by the new revelation that Karla Dobinski, a high placed attorney in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division was posting online comments, along with top prosecutors in New Orleans, Sal Perricone and Jan Mann.
They want to know what justice officials in Washington knew about the postings.
"It's unclear as to whether her superiors, specifically Mr. Thomas Perez, who is now secretary of labor under President Obama, it's unclear as to whether he was made aware of her activities, whether or nor if he was made aware he disciplined her," said Meche. "It's unclear whether Attorney General Eric Holder was made aware that people in his Washington D.C. office were engaging in this type of activity. Those are questions that I think the public needs to have answers too."
Meche said he will now ask that Villavaso be released from prison to await a new trial or other action.
The Fraternal Order of Police says all of the defendants should be released.
"Nobody is going anywhere," said FOP Attorney Raymond Burkart III. "There's been absolutely no showing to our members and to these officers that they are any type of flight risk or any risk to the public in general."
Attorneys and prosecutors in the Danziger Case are now expected to meet with Judge Kurt Engelhardt within the next 30 days.
They will discuss where the case goes from here.