One of two white New Orleans police officers accused of attacking a Hispanic veteran outside a Mid-City bar last year, sparking a public outcry and denunciations from the City Council, pleaded guilty as charged to simple battery Wednesday.

Former rookie cop John Galman was fingerprinted after he entered the plea during a brief hearing in front of Municipal and Traffic Court Judge Robert Jones III.

Galman was fired shortly after the confrontation with Jorge Alberto "George” Gomez outside the Mid-City Yacht Club.

Jones set Galman's sentencing for Feb. 27. He faces up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Gomez, a U.S. native who was raised in Honduras and speaks English with an accent, said Galman and fellow New Orleans Police Department Officer Spencer Sutton asked him if he was an “American” before they unleashed a series of blows on him outside the bar on South St. Patrick Street on July 24.

The officers also quizzed Gomez, a veteran of the Army National Guard, on why he was wearing military-style camouflage clothes.

Gomez, a fixture at the popular Mid-City watering hole, was left with a badly bruised and swollen face.

Galman and Sutton were booked on simple battery counts and fired the next day. The cops claimed that Gomez was the aggressor, but investigators concluded otherwise after talking to bar patrons and reviewing surveillance footage.

The alleged comments from the recently hired officers, who are both white, led to questions about Police Department recruiting practices and a formal apology from City Council President Jason Williams.

"After a few drinks, a couple of new officers engaged in despicable, repulsive racist acts of violence against one of our fellow citizens," Williams said.

Shortly after the incident, then-Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said detectives were investigating the beating as a possible hate crime. But neither the NOPD nor Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office sought to file hate crime charges.

Under Louisiana law, such charges can be brought when someone targets a victim because of their race, color, national origin or various other factors.

"This case was screened like any other, and the two were charged with the only crimes supported by the evidence," said Ken Daley, a spokesman for the district attorney.

Sutton's case remains open.


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msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432