NEW ORLEANS - Federal prosecutors are not contesting the request of Danziger Bridge defendant Archie Kaufman to be released from prison pending a new trial, a request Kaufman made when the guilty verdicts in the case were overturned last week due to prosecutorial misconduct.
In its motion, the government cites the fact that Kaufman was not one of the officers who fired a gun on the bridge in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Kaufman arrived at the bridge after a shooting outburst by several of his fellow officers left two unarmed civilians killed and four others seriously wounded. Kaufman had been serving six years in prison after being convicted of leading a cover-up of the shooting.
Kaufman and four co-defendants now face a retrial after U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued a 129-page ruling citing “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct” in his reversal of the jury verdicts. Engelhardt’s order points to dozens of inflammatory online comments posted on a media website by at least three high-ranking federal prosecutors.
In the motion signed Thursday by newly appointed U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and Bobbi Bernstein, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the government also notes that Kaufman never missed a court appearance and did not flee in the months after he was sentenced but before he was ordered to report to prison.
It is not clear when Kaufman could be released, but the government’s motion clears the way for him to post his original $100,000 surety bond.
Kaufman’s attorney Steve London argued for his client’s release based on the fact that he is now “innocent until proven guilty.” In his motion, London wrote, "Mr. Kaufman is now in the same position as he was when he was arraigned."
The other Danziger defendants have not followed Kaufman’s lead to request release, but those four officers are in different legal posture. All four were denied bond as they awaited trial.
The other defendants, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso all accused of firing shots on the bridge were serving sentences ranging from 40 to 65 years prior to Engelhardt’s reversal.