An ex-New Orleans police officer who confessed to helping orchestrate the cover-up of a deadly post-Katrina police shooting was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison. Jeffrey Lehrmann pleaded guilty in March to concealing his knowledge of a felony, the lowest level felony for a federal crime. He received the maximum prison sentence for his crime.
Lehrmann is one of five other NOPD officers who have pleaded guilty to the cover-up that followed the September 2, 2005 shooting on the Danziger Bridge when New Orleans police officers killed two and wounded four others after responding to a call on the Danziger Bridge. A total of eleven officers have been charged with both the shooting and the subsequent cover-up. Police had reported that they only opened fire after they were shot at, but eyewitnesses maintained that the shooting victims were unarmed. Police initially denied it, but one victim, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man named Ronald Madison, was shot seven times, five of those shots were in his back.
Police planted evidence, invented fake witnesses, and on their falsified police reports. In the following years police lied to multiple investigators; an internal investigation found no wrongdoing at the time, and a state court threw out the case in 2008. This time, the Department of Justice has taken up the case in federal court and has been prosecuting NOPD officers aggressively. The trial for the other accused NOPD officers is set to begin in June 2011. Lehrmann will remain out on bond until he testifies in that trial.
Lehrmann's case is just one of nine ongoing investigations the federal government has open into incidents of NOPD misconduct. A total of 18 NOPD officers have been charged in federal court with wrongdoing so far. The New Orleans police department is in the middle of a massive internal overhaul to clean up its department, and is expected to enter into a federal consent decree to have its reform efforts overseen by the federal government.
Lehrmann left the NOPD in 2006 and now works as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in Arizona.