Two days before the lone remaining defendant convicted in the Henry Glover case is due to be resentenced, prosecutors issued a final plea Wednesday for a federal judge to show no mercy to former New Orleans police Officer Gregory McRae for burning Glover’s body in a car on the Algiers levee four days after Hurricane Katrina hit the city.
Federal prosecutors dismissed arguments by McRae’s attorney, Michael Fawer, that the minimum 10-year term is more than enough because, Fawer claims, there’s no evidence McRae knew a fellow New Orleans police officer, David Warren, had shot an unarmed Glover at a nearby strip mall.
However, the jury that convicted McRae in 2010 found that he “acted with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation” into the shooting, federal prosecutors argued in a three-page memo.
“At trial, McRae’s defense was that he did not burn the vehicle and Henry Glover’s body because Glover was shot by a police officer. He alleged that he did not know that Glover had been shot by an officer, and told the jury that his actions were caused by post-Katrina stress,” the memo states. “This defense was categorically rejected by the jury.”
The memo, submitted under U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s name, goes on to say that McRae planned the burning more than an hour before carrying it out and kept quiet about it for five years afterward.
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk is scheduled to decide McRae’s fate at 2 p.m. Friday.
McRae, 53, was one of three NOPD officers initially convicted in the Glover case, along with Warren and Lt. Travis McCabe. But with Warren’s acquittal in a retrial last December and a decision by federal prosecutors in February not to retry McCabe on accusations that he attempted to cover up the shooting, McRae’s resentencing nearly nine years after Glover’s death appears to mark the final chapter in a case that shocked the public with allegations of a wide-ranging conspiracy involving a cabal of 4th District cops.
Prosecutors maintain that McRae should be sentenced based on the jury’s understanding that Warren committed manslaughter, despite Warren’s later acquittal.
McRae, a 26-year veteran of the Police Department, has admitted he believed Glover was a homicide victim, but he has denied burning the body as part of a police cover-up. He testified he had seen other corpses decomposing after the storm and did not want that to happen with Glover, so he drove a vehicle containing his body to the Algiers levee and ignited it with flares, firing at least once into the car to ensure it burned.
McRae was sentenced to 17 years in prison. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated one charge for which he was convicted while upholding his convictions for using fire to commit a felony, obstructing a federal investigation and denying a man’s right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.
The appeals court also vacated Warren’s conviction and 25-year prison sentence, and a jury acquitted Warren in a retrial in which Africk excluded all evidence related to the burning of Glover’s body or the alleged manipulation of the final police report over the shooting.
Africk, meanwhile, set aside McCabe’s conviction after a draft police report was discovered in Warren’s case that contradicted federal prosecutors’ claim that McCabe had doctored a report to make Glover’s death seem justified.
McCabe has since returned to the force. Warren has not.
Fawer contends in court filings that a decade behind bars actually would be “unwarranted,” but he has acknowledged that is the mandatory minimum sentence for McRae. He has described McRae’s torching of Glover’s remains as “an act of desperation” by a man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who “reacted spontaneously to the horror of rotting corpses abandoned in the post-Katrina blistering heat.”
Federal prosecutors argued Wednesday that McRae set the car on fire, shot into it “knowing that a human being’s body was lying on the backseat of the car, and laughed about it when he was done. This was a premeditated violent act.”
While prosecutors claim McRae “still has not taken responsibility for his actions,” McRae recently wrote Africk a letter aiming to open a window on the “living hell” he said he endured in the days after the storm.
“The sight and stench was, and still is, unfathomable,” McRae wrote, adding that the storm “overturned the order of many souls.”
Warren admitted he shot at a man — later identified as Glover — while guarding a police station at the strip mall but said he didn’t know he hit him. He also testified that he feared for his life as Glover ran toward a gate at the mall on Sept. 2, 2005. A passerby, William Tanner, hustled Glover to nearby Habans Elementary School, believing Glover would get medical attention.
Later, McRae drove the car to the levee and burned it.
Glover’s aunt, Rebecca Glover, said the burning left the family, and the jury, with myriad unanswered questions, including where Glover was shot and whether he remained alive afterward.
She said McRae deserves more time, not less.
“I felt like he covered up what really happened with this,” she said. “We still don’t have (Glover’s) head.”
She also doesn’t buy McRae’s explanation for disposing of her nephew’s body or the idea that there was no police cover-up.
“You seen all these decomposing bodies, why didn’t you burn the rest of ’em?” she asked. “Why did you choose Henry?”