Two men who remain accused in the 2013 hit-and-run killing of a New Orleans police officer and an alleged bid to hide the evidence were sentenced to life prison terms last week in a decade-old murder case that prosecutors revived following Officer Rodney Thomas’ death.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman issued the mandatory life sentences to Kenneth Halley and John Chambers, both 31, on Friday, following their convictions for second-degree murder last month in the pre-Katrina killing of 21-year-old Joseph Lucien in the Lower 9th Ward.
Prosecutors said first Halley and then Chambers fired at Lucien with the same AK-47 in broad daylight on April 5, 2005. Halley and Chambers were leaders of the “Deslonde Boys” and Lucien had just gotten into a fistfight with a fellow member of the group, prosecutors said.
Halley and Chambers were arrested shortly after the 2005 killing, but then-District Attorney Eddie Jordan’s office refused to prosecute them after the two key witnesses “did not wish to testify,” Graymond Martin, first assistant to current DA Leon Cannizzaro, said in testimony last month.
Those witnesses, Eugene Mackey and Ryan Rogers, took the stand to implicate Halley and Chambers in Lucien’s murder when the case finally went to trial last month.
Eight years after that killing, authorities say, Halley and another man, Justin McKey, were driving in Halley’s $80,000 Porsche Panamera when it struck Thomas on the Interstate 10 high-rise bridge after the officer had left his truck to check on a stalled car.
Police found the Porsche at a body shop on Broad Street, close to the criminal courthouse.
McKey and Halley were booked on manslaughter and obstruction counts, while Chambers and three others faced charges related to the alleged attempt to hide the car.
Those three other defendants, including auto shop owner Bill Cager, have since pled guilty. Prosecutors claimed Cager, too, was a member of the Deslonde Boys.
Cannizzaro’s office resurrected the old murder case a month after the arrests in the hit-and-run case.
Halley and Chambers also face charges filed in March accusing them of battery after a fellow Orleans Parish Prison inmate went to the hospital with broken bones, court records show.
No trial date has been set for Halley, Chambers or McKey in the hit-and-run case.
Thomas, 52, an eight-year NOPD veteran with a wife and two children, was killed on the high rise at 1 a.m. on July 7, 2013.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.