Across the Danziger Bridge

A reader writes:

You might want to check out and comment on a ruling and statements by U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans. It concerns a case involving an incident in New Orleans during the hurricane Katrina flooding and is referred to down here as the Danziger Bridge case. It involved some serious misconduct and coverup by the N.O. police.

What is most interesting, and the reason I am emailing you, is the misconduct of the Justice Department lawyers in the case. The judge excoriates in very strong language the conduct of gov’t prosecutors and their supervisors in Washington. The judge puts the blame on the supervisors of the civil rights division of the Justice Dept. and Thomas Perez, the current Secretary of Labor and head of the Civil Rights Division at the time, is specifically mentioned.

Judge Engelhardt had overturned the original verdicts against the police officers based on prosecutorial misconduct. The case has been going for quite some time. The judge is apparently not through with the Justice Department lawyers yet.

There is an excellent article detailing the case and judge’s statements this morning in The Advocate newspaper, THEADVOCATE.COM, by John Simerman. The Advocate is Louisiana’s major newspaper. I thought that you might be interested.

Simerman’s Advocate article is accessible online as “With Danziger Bridge pleas, federal judge unloads on top government officials.” It represents another chapter in the saga of the degradation of our institutions under President Obama, the Department of Justice prominent among them.

Here is the opening of Simerman’s account:

As he blessed a plea deal Wednesday for the five former New Orleans police officers involved in the Danziger Bridge shootings and the brazen cover-up that followed, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt told the courtroom: “There’s plenty of blame to go around.”

And in a stinging rebuke from the bench, Engelhardt for the first time publicly cast a portion of that blame on two high-ranking Obama administration appointees who once led the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

One of them, current U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, is being mentioned as a potential running mate for likely Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Citing still-sealed affidavits in the case, Engelhardt said Perez and current White House adviser Roy Austin Jr. directed Barbara “Bobbi” Bernstein, the lead prosecutor in the Danziger case, not to disclose her knowledge that a fellow Justice Department lawyer, Karla Dobinski, was among those who had posted anonymous comments beneath online news stories about federal cases.

Those postings, and what Engelhardt described as a concerted government attempt to keep them under wraps, led to his stunning September 2013 order vacating the original convictions and prison sentences for the five ex-cops based on what the judge described as “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct.”

The New York Daily News picks up the scent here, but it’s funny how news slips away when it involves prominent Democrats. Perez is not only a prospective vice presidential candidate, as Simerman points out, he is also the current Secretary of Labor. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.