Glover defendant claims commenters affected trial
A federal judge agreed Friday to allow the former New Orleans police officer who admitted igniting a car with Henry Glover’s body inside to review testimony from a pair of former federal prosecutors about the online posting scandal that brought down former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and two of his top deputies.
But Gregory McRae cannot look at secret reports from a special prosecutor who investigated the alleged misdeeds of federal prosecutors as part of the Danziger Bridge police shooting case, the judge ruled.
The decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles III could give McRae’s attorney, Michael Fawer, more fodder for his claim that the former cop should get a new trial because of an allegedly concerted federal effort to besmirch him publicly and influence the jury.
McRae, who was convicted in 2010 for burning Glover’s body days after Hurricane Katrina and then trying to hide it, remains in prison. He is the last remaining convict from a case that started with five defendants and brought three convictions over the shooting and burning of Glover’s body and an alleged cover-up of the shooting investigation.
Former Officer David Warren, who shot Glover from the second-floor breezeway of an Algiers strip mall, was acquitted of civil rights charges in a December retrial, after an appeals court overturned his original conviction.
Lt. Travis McCabe is now back on the force. Federal prosecutors this year declined to retry him, more than three years after U.S. District Judge Lance Africk tossed out McCabe’s conviction when a draft police report turned up that appeared to contradict the allegation that he tilted the final report to conclude the shooting was justified.
Fawer had wanted to review the results of an investigation, led by Georgia federal prosecutor John Horn, that U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ordered up in late 2012 to dig deeper into the online posting scandal.
It was Horn’s review that spurred Engelhardt’s blockbluster order last year granting new trials for the five officers convicted in the Danziger case.
Knowles said he reviewed the so-called “Horn reports” and found nothing in them to support a new trial for McRae. “Indeed, the conclusion in the report does not discuss the Glover case in any detail,” the judge said.
Knowles did, however, agree to let McRae’s attorneys view the transcripts of several passages of testimony by former federal prosecutor Sal Perricone, who posted hundreds of online comments lashing out at various federal targets and wound up resigning in early 2012 as the scandal erupted.
Knowles said he was allowing McRae to review portions of the testimony from Perricone and former prosecutor Mike Magner that “are reasonably calculated to lead to evidence admissable” for McRae’s arguments.
Among other online posts beneath stories during the Glover trial, Perricone opined about the officers’ guilt.
“Let me see if I understand this: The cops ... admitted that they shot Glover and then burned the body in a car that belonged to another man, who was not arrested for anything ... RIGHT???” Perricone wrote under the pseudonym “legacyusa.”
“Guilty!! Now let’s get on to Danzinger(sic),” he added.
Magner, who helped prosecute the Glover case, is believed to have become aware of some of the online diatribes while he worked for the office.
The Glover case generated national outrage with its conspiratorial narrative of a cop shooting an innocent man, then another cop burning the body and still other NOPD officers subsequently whitewashing what had happened. But much of that narrative fell apart under further scrutiny from judges.
Although the latest ruling fell short of giving McRae everything he wanted — Knowles also refused a request for a hearing on McRae’s bid for a new trial — Fawer said he was pleased with the decision, which the government can appeal.
“I’m not going to fight over the Horn thing. He’s giving me the relevant Magner and Perricone material. I can’t quarrel with it,” Fawer said. “The door is open, and that’s more than anybody else has gotten. Nobody has gotten anything like this.”
McRae is among several defendants, convicted or still awaiting trial, who have taken aim — with varying success — over the online posting scandal or alleged leaks by federal officials, claiming the feds compromised justice through smear campaigns.
A federal judge in the case of former New Orleans Affordable Homeownership Director Stacey Jackson has ordered The Times-Picayune to turn over information about two anonymous online commenters, but the judge Monday allowed time for the newspaper to appeal.
Africk sentenced McRae to 17 years in prison. An appeals court later overruled one of his four convictions but left intact the remaining counts, and thus the bulk of his sentence.
McRae also points to a psychologist’s report, produced after his conviction, that found “symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences during and after Hurricane Katrina.”
The government argues that McRae already tried to use his condition as a defense during his trial and that the anonymous online commentary couldn’t be “newly discovered information” because it came online before or during the first Glover trial.