5 New Orleans officers sentenced in post-Katrina shootings

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NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 25: A New Orleans Police motorcycle is seen as revelers walk in a jazz funeral to honor Katrina victims on August 25, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is August 29. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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Chris Graythen

Five former New Orleans police officers were sentenced Wednesday to prison terms ranging from six to 65 years for their roles in deadly shootings of unarmed residents on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina.

Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon were convicted of firearms charges in the shootings. Retired Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, was convicted of helping orchestrate the cover-up, The Associated Press reported.

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Faulcon received the stiffest sentence of 65 years. Bowen and Gisevius each got 40 years while Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. Kaufman received the lightest sentence at six years, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

A federal jury convicted the officers in August 2011 of civil rights violations in the shootings on the Danziger Bridge and the cover-up, according to the AP.

Police shot six people, killing two, less than a week after the storm's landfall on Aug. 29, 2005. To make the shootings appear justified, officers conspired to plant a gun, fabricate witnesses and falsify reports.

A case became the centerpiece of the Justice Department's push to clean up the troubled New Orleans Police Department, New Orleans TV station WDSU reported.

US District Kurt Engelhardt heard hours of testimony earlier in the day from prosecutors, defense attorneys, relatives of shooting victims and the officers, the AP reported.

"He didn't deserve this," Sherrel Johnson, the mother of shooting victim James Brissette, said in an emotional speech, according to the Times-Picayune. "He never even knew what hit him."