Olander Holloway paused to wipe away tears as she sat facing the disgraced ex-cop whose botched response to a domestic-violence incident may have contributed to the death of her son, New Orleans Police Officer Daryle Holloway.
“I have wondered about your conscience and if you have one,” Olander Holloway said.
“I don’t remember you ever saying that you were sorry or that you regretted your role in my son’s death,” Holloway continued. “Had you done your job … Daryle might still be here.”
Shortly after she spoke, Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman sentenced former officer Wardell Johnson to five years in prison for tampering with and discarding evidence in the investigation of Travis Boys.
Boys was convicted of first-degree murder last month for killing Holloway.
Johnson's sentencing came nearly three years after he played a role in one of the saddest chapters in the Police Department's recent history.
Investigators said that Johnson failed to conduct a proper search of Boys while arresting him for shooting a gun at his wife on Peace Court on the morning of June 20, 2015. Boys managed to hide a small, .40-caliber pistol on his person and used it to kill Holloway as he was being transported to jail later that morning.
Weeks later, Public Integrity Bureau investigators noticed that a box of .40-caliber ammunition from the Peace Court scene had never been logged into evidence. Under questioning, Johnson denied knowing what happened to the bullets. He then left the office and threw the box into a New Orleans East canal.
Police never suspected Johnson of acting in concert with Boys. Rather, they said, he wanted to cover up his sloppy police work before Holloway was shot.
In October 2015, Johnson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, obstruction of justice in a case punishable by death or life without parole, and malfeasance in office, charges which could have netted him a maximum of 40 years behind bars.
Following his arrest, he served seven months in jail; he has been free on bail since then. His sentencing was delayed so that he could testify at Boys’ trial, where he told jurors that he was devastated by his friend and fellow officer’s death.
Herman, who also presided over Boys’ trial, delivered her sentence following a passionate condemnation of Johnson’s actions as “both atrocious and inexcusable.”
“I would not have been able to believe that an officer with 13 years of service could do such a shabby job,” Herman said, referencing both Johnson’s honorable discharge from the Marines as well as his tenure as an NOPD officer.
Herman said she reached her decision following an extensive review of both pre-sentencing reports and body camera footage of Johnson's actions, but that reaching a number was “extremely difficult.”
She noted that Johnson’s Public Integrity Bureau record showed that 11 complaints had been logged against the officer. At least two involved poor handling of evidence in domestic violence-related incidents, at least one of which involved a weapon.
“Your arrogance in regards to what you choose to do … is inexcusable,” Herman said. “There was no rehabilitation … you refuse to accept responsibility. That’s unacceptable.”
When he testified at Boys’ trial, Johnson seemed to downplay the seriousness of the scene he found at Peace Court. He acknowledged under questioning that he thought it was a mere “domestic quarrel.” He also admitted that he was skeptical of Avis Boys’ story that her husband had shot at her.
“When people get mad, women get mad, and all of a sudden they make up stories saying this happened,” he said.
A New Orleans jury on Tuesday watched disturbing video of the last moments of New Orleans Police Officer Daryle Holloway’s life as investigato…
Prosecutors played video from Johnson’s body-worn camera that showed the cursory search he did of Boys. He seemed to run his hands only over Boys’ front rather than search every part of his body for a weapon. Meanwhile, he also handcuffed Boys, against department policy, in a way that may have allowed him to move his hands more freely.
Johnson claimed that he “totally forgot” about the ammunition. He acted in the heat of the moment when he tossed the box of bullets into the canal, he said.
While on the stand Friday, Holloway’s mother tearfully recounted the final hours of her son’s life.
“Every Saturday I relive that horrible Saturday about 10 a.m., when I was called and told that Daryle had been in an accident, and to come to University Hospital," she said. "I prayed the whole ride from Prairieville to New Orleans that he would be OK and for him not to be paralyzed. Little did I know that he had been shot and he was already dead."
“I will have to live the rest of my life regretting that the last time I saw Daryle, I didn’t tell him that I loved him or how much he meant to me," Holloway said. "You will have to live with your conscience, knowing that but for you, Daryle might still be here.”
Johnson, dressed in tan slacks and a blue button-down shirt, made a short statement. He turned slowly and faced the courtroom gallery.
“I just want to tell Daryle’s family that I am sorry for what happened that day,” Johnson said. “I really wanted to talk to y’all, express what I feel and what happened that day, but I knew 'cause my case going on and I knew it wasn’t appropriate to talk to y’all. Like I said, I’m sorry. That’s all I can say.”
Johnson, who was given credit for the time he has already served, was remanded into custody immediately following the hearing. State corrections officials may find him eligible for good time, based on his behavior while incarcerated, which could shorten his sentence.
Boys faces mandatory life in prison when he is sentenced May 3.