Attorneys in Danziger case anticipate status conference - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Attorneys in Danziger case anticipate status conference


New Orleans, La. - Attorneys for the former NOPD officers granted a new trial this week in the Danziger Bridge shooting case are expected to eventually seek to have their clients released on bond.

But first, the lawyers will likely find themselves at a status conference in the judge's chambers.  As part of his ruling, Judge Kurt Engelhardt ordered attorneys in the case to confer with each other within 30 days to work out scheduling issues and then request that the court set a date for a status conference with the judge.

The decision to grant a new trial resulted in collective elation from the attorneys representing the former officers.

"We weren't really surprised," said Tim Meche, attorney for Anthony Villavaso. "We expected it based on what we learned throughout this process. The prosecution was so corrupted that we didn't think it was any way it should stand."

Villavaso received a 38-year prison term for using an AK-47 to open fire on unarmed citizens on the bridge in the chaotic days after Katrina swamped the city.

"I have not spoken with my client," said Meche.

He said contacting individuals incarcerated in federal prisons is not an immediate process. However, he expected to communicate with Villavaso before the week is over.

Meche said he did speak with Villavaso's family after the judge ordered a new trial.

"They were obviously very pleased," he said. "They've been through a lot. My client is an only child, and during this process his father died and his mother has been alone the last few years, so it's been very tough for them."

Meche hopes federal prosecutors will forgo an appeal and not retry the defendants.

"There's precedent for that," he said. "A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted a United States Senator, Ted Stevens from Alaska. He was found guilty, but later it was learned that the government engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. Attorney General Holder reviewed that case personally, and he decided to dismiss it even before the appeals ran through, and we're hopeful that he will do that in this case, as well."

The judge pointed to serious prosecutorial misconduct during the case.

We asked FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti if some of the former prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office could face criminal charges.

"Sure, it's possible, and the judge has even intimated certain issues that he has big problems with that smell of criminality," Raspanti said. "But this Justice Department, through Mr. [John] Horn and through these other investigations, has gone kicking and screaming. They look like they have no stomach to investigate this."

John Horn is a special prosecutor brought in to investigate online posting by federal prosecutors.

While the Justice Department said it is weighing its options, Raspanti believes the feds will appeal the judge's decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and move to retry the officers.

"I don't see them not retrying this case," Raspanti said. "I think they have to just because of the nature of the accusations."

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