Prosecutors: Verdicts send a strong message

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 5, 2011 at 5:27 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 5 at 5:42 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS --  The team of prosecutors and federal law enforcement agents who spent years investigating and planning the Danziger case said the verdicts sent a strong message.

"Public officials, and especially law enforcement officers, will be held accountable for their acts, and that any abuse of power, especially that power that violates the rights and the civil liberties of our citizens, will have serious consequences," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

For the prosecutors, there were sighs of relief and hugs to mark the climax of three years of effort in the Danziger case.

"This started shortly after I got here about three years ago, and the FBI dumped considerable resources into this case," said FBI Special Agent In Charge David Welker. "We brought in a little more than 25 additional agents to run down leads."

There were lots of thank yous, but the most heartfelt went to the victims and their families.

"They have operated and moved with such grace and dignity, and restraint, and I think all they ever sought was justice," said Letten.

And there was sympathy expressed for the families of those who were convicted.

"We understand that today's verdict brings a lot of sadness to other families out there," said Letten. "When things like this happen, families of individuals that are convicted I think suffer as well."

But for the law enforcement leaders, their focus was on how this case, and the Justice Department review of the New Orleans Police Department, can bring about positive change that makes the city safer.

"We're determined to make them the best police department in the country," said Letten. "That said, I think every time a verdict like this comes down, and every time we wrap up a case like this, I think we make advances in terms of healing."

"I think the key though is, anybody can function while someone else is watching them," said Welker. "NOPD can operate, can function while the Department of Justice of watching them. The key is getting the department to the point where they do the right thing even when nobody is watching."

Letten and Welker said most officers deserve praise for honoring the badge, and being willing to put their lives on the line to protect citizens.

But when asked about other investigations, Welker said his agents would continue to follow the evidence in whatever other investigations are underway.

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