Judge refuses to toss lawsuit over fatal beating by police

AP News
Posted: May 03, 2016 1:06 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge is refusing to dismiss a decade-old lawsuit's claims against the city of New Orleans over a 48-year-old handyman's fatal beating by police.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's ruling Monday allows Raymond Robair's relatives to proceed with their claims that the city and former police superintendent Eddie Compass are liable for Robair's 2005 death.

Former New Orleans police officer Melvin Williams was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison for kicking and beating Robair with a baton. Another former officer, Matthew Dean Moore, was sentenced to more than five years in prison for submitting a false report and lying to the FBI about the encounter.

In their lawsuit, Robair's two adult daughters claim his death fits a pattern of police brutality in New Orleans. They also claim Williams, a 16-year department veteran, had a history of abusing residents and should have been fired long before what they said was Robair's unprovoked beating.

At this stage in the case, Barbier said the plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence "from which one could make a reasonable inference of a persistent, widespread practice by NOPD officers of conducting unlawful seizures and using excessive force rising to the level of a custom having the force of official City policy."

A trial for the lawsuit is scheduled to start on March 27, 2017. The criminal case kept the family's lawsuit on hold until last April.

The charges against Williams and Moore were part of a broader Justice Department investigation of alleged misconduct by New Orleans police officers. Most cases focused on incidents that occurred in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Robair died less than a month before the storm hit in August 2005.