By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday sentenced two former New Orleans police officers to long prison terms prison for their roles in killing a man and burning his body during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk sentenced former officer David Warren to 25 years and nine months for the unprovoked shooting and killing of New Orleans resident Henry Glover, 31, outside a strip mall on September 2, 2005. Warren will also pay $7,600 to Glover's family for funeral expenses.
A federal jury in December found Warren guilty of violating Glover's civil rights and of using a firearm to commit manslaughter.
Former officer Greg McRae received 17 years and three months for setting fire to a car containing Glover's body in an attempt to cover up the crime. McRae must pay restitution of $6,000. The jury had convicted him of two civil rights violations, one count of obstructing justice and one count of using a fire during the commission of a felony.
In sentencing Warren, Africk said that both the officer and his victim were "living through the same miserable aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," according to a written copy of remarks that the judge read. Despite that, most New Orleans police officers "understand that the Constitution was not suspended during Katrina," the judge said.
As for McCrae, Africk called his actions "barbaric" and told him, "Your callous and depraved conduct deprived the Glover family of the ability to bury Henry Glover with the respect to which he was entitled."
Lawyer Edwin Shorty, who represents three of Glover's five children in a civil case against the city, the police department and the officers involved, said the children were pleased with the sentencing.
"While no outcome could be described as good, the family does believe justice has been served. They're looking forward to closing this chapter in their lives as quickly as possible, and this is a step in that direction," he said.
The shooting of Glover occurred as he and his brother, preparing to evacuate from the city, stopped at a strip mall to pick up suitcases that had been taken from a store earlier in the day. Warren, one of several New Orleans police officers stationed at the mall, fired at the unarmed men, striking Glover. Later, Glover's body was burned in a car to cover up the incident.
The Glover case is one in a series of investigations in which the Justice Department has charged 20 current or former New Orleans police officers with civil rights violations. The probe of Glover's death was the first of the cases to be tried.
Two weeks ago, the Justice Department said the New Orleans police department had engaged in a wide-ranging pattern of misconduct, including the excessive use of force and unconstitutional arrests.
(Additional reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Deborah Charles, Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune)