Sheriff Gusman returns to witness stand over consent decree - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Sheriff Gusman returns to witness stand over consent decree funding

Updated:
Gusman leaves federal court in April 2013. Gusman leaves federal court in April 2013.

New Orleans, La. — Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman spent nearly two hours on the witness stand Wednesday. He testified in the ongoing hearings in federal court relating to the consent decree for his jail, and lingering questions of who will pay for the millions of dollars in additional staffing and other reforms.

Last month Judge Lance Africk ruled that a consent decree is needed to make major reforms at the prison. In previous testimony the judge heard about rapes and other abuse inside the jail.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit against the prison over alleged unconstitutional conditions leading to the consent decree.

Now that Judge Africk has ruled that a federal consent decree spelling out reforms is warranted, he must decide who will be responsible for paying for the reforms. It has been said that they could cost $22 million a year.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has repeatedly said the city cannot afford to pay for the reforms at the same time it foots the costs for the NOPD consent decree. Further, Landrieu maintains Gusman has mismanaged the jail. Gusman denies that and said inmate care is the city's responsibility.

During his testimony, Gusman said he has less operating funds for the prison because the number of inmates has declined significantly since Hurricane Katrina.

Attorney Harry Rosenberg, who represents the city in the proceedings, peppered Gusman with specific questions about his budget and expenditures, but Gusman at times gave answers of, "I don't know," or "I told you, I don't remember."

The hearing could resume Thursday for the purpose of receiving additional documents from the sheriff's office.

Gusman is not expected to take the witness stand again until another hearing set for August 5.

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