The Department of Justice is not done prosecuting New Orleans cops. Today marks the beginning of the third federal trial for NOPD officers accused of misconduct in a string of cases that ended with the violent deaths of black men. Veteran cop Melvin Williams and his rookie partner Matthew Dean Moore have been accused of fatally beating Raymond Robair in 2005.
Like the post-Katrina cop shootings of Henry Glover and on Danziger Bridge, the officers involved are accused of not just an unwarranted use of force but also trying to cover up the incidents. Moore has been charged with filing a false police report in order to cover for Williams, who's known in his precinct for his rough style and high arrest rates. Williams, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, has a file full of civilian complaints of misconduct and physical abuse.
The police report from the July 2005 incident says that Williams and Moore encountered Robair in Treme, in New Orleans, and found him stumbling and in sore need of medical attention. They said that they helped him up and delivered him to a hospital and put him in a wheelchair and left. Moore wrote in his police report that they also found a bag of cocaine nearby.
Federal prosecutors, who reopened the case after an initial FBI 2006 investigation led by the New Orleans police department cleared both officers of any wrongdoing, say that Williams happened upon Robair and beat him to death with kicks and baton blows. A second autopsy done by a pathologist hired by the Robair family's attorney found that he died of blunt trauma to the head. The Department of Justice alleges that Moore, just weeks out of the police academy, dutifully wrote up a false police report.
Moore faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted. He's charged with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of making false statements to federal investigators. Williams faces life in prison if convicted of the crimes he's accused: the obstruction of justice and deprivation of rights. Both pleaded not guilty.
Last week, two police officers who were charged with shooting an unarmed black man named Henry Glover and then burning his body in the days after Hurricane Katrina were sentenced by a federal judge. Former officer David Warren, who was convicted last year of violating Glover's civil rights by shooting him and using a gun in a violent crime was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Former NOPD officer Greg McRae was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for taking Glover's body and setting it on fire inside a car that was abandoned in a levee.
The New Orleans police department is in the middle of a deep cleanup and reform effort. It's expected to sign a federal decree to establish a minimum five-year federal oversight of the department's reform efforts. Last month a federal investigation found that the misconduct was not limited to these extreme cases of astonishing violence. The feds say that for years the New Orleans police department routinely profiled people on the basis of race, ethnicity and sex, harassed civilians with excessive force and engaged in unconstitutional stops and searches.