The final loose thread in the Danziger Bridge case — the criminal charges still pending against former NOPD Sgt. Gerard Dugue — may finally get tied up this summer.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt has set a trial date of Aug. 22 in the case.
That means if the trial proceeds as scheduled, it could be underway as New Orleans marks the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the shootings on the bridge, in which police shot six unarmed civilians, killing two.
Dugue, a homicide detective who worked for the NOPD for 33 years before retiring in 2010, was among 11 officers charged in connection with the incident, though he was not present for the shooting. Prosecutors have alleged that he and other detectives and supervisors helped to orchestrate a coverup that involved the planting of a gun and the invention of fictional witnesses to support a false police narrative of what happened on the bridge.
Five cops pleaded guilty to charges in advance of a 2011 trial of the remaining officers. Dugue had been scheduled to stand trial with five of his colleagues, but Engelhardt granted a motion to sever Dugue’s case because he had given the FBI statements that were critical of some of co-defendants.
Dugue was tried the next year, in 2012, but Engelhardt declared a mistrial after prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein uttered the name of a case Dugue had investigated that the judge had deemed off-limits in the Danziger matter.
Shortly after that mistrial, Engelhardt tossed the convictions of the five officers convicted at the 2011 trial, citing prosecutorial misconduct, and the Dugue case went into a holding pattern.
The path for a new trial was finally cleared in April, when the five officers accepted plea deals that gave them dramatically shorter prison sentences than those they received after their 2011 convictions.
A court minutes entry shows that Engelhardt held a status conference with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Carter and Dugue’s lawyer, Claude Kelly, on Thursday. On Tuesday, the judge announced the new trial date.
Kelly did not return a call from The Advocate seeking comment Tuesday.
Follow Gordon Russell on Twitter, @gordonrussell1.