NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former New Orleans police officer is set for a change-of-plea hearing next week on charges related to deadly shootings by police amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to a notice posted Friday in federal court.
Attorneys had said in earlier court records that plea negotiations were underway with Gerard Dugue, who had pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice and other charges. His change-of-plea hearing is set for next Friday — three days before his scheduled trial.
The records give no specifics about the negotiations or any deal that might have been reached. Dugue's attorney, public defender Claude Kelly, did not return a call for comment.
Dugue is the last remaining defendant in connection with the shootings that happened on Sept. 4, 2005, days after levee failures from Katrina caused catastrophic flooding in and around New Orleans.
In April, four former officers pleaded guilty in connection with the shootings that killed two unarmed civilians at New Orleans' Danziger Bridge. A fifth pleaded guilty in the cover-up. They were given sentences ranging from three to 12 years, with credit for time already served pending resolution of the case.
The Danziger shootings, in which two unarmed people died, was one of two Katrina-related fatal police shooting incidents that contributed to increased scrutiny of New Orleans' scandal-plagued police department. The city and the U.S. Justice Department agreed on extensive reforms in 2012.
In addition to stirring painful memories of the 2005 catastrophe, the case came to spotlight misconduct by federal prosecutors. The five officers who pleaded guilty in April had been convicted by a jury in 2011. Some were facing decades in prison. However, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt set aside the verdicts two years later, granting the men new trials because federal prosecutors leaked information to the media and made anonymous online comments about the case.