A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to turn over any documents that show it tried to determine whether somebody leaked confidential information about its probe of deadly police shootings on a New Orleans bridge after Hurricane Katrina.
Attorneys for five former police officers convicted of charges stemming from the shootings claim prosecutors ignored a different judge's call for an investigation after news reports in 2010 forecast a guilty plea by former Lt. Michael Lohman. The case against Lohman, who cooperated with investigators, was under seal at the time the reports were published.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt set a Tuesday afternoon deadline for prosecutors to give him any records related to a probe of the alleged leaks.
Engelhardt also has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on defense attorneys' claims that a "secret public relations campaign" by federal authorities deprived the convicted officers of a fair trial.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten declined to comment.
In a court filing last month, lawyers for retired Sgt. Arthur Kaufman asked Engelhardt to order a new trial or hold a hearing "to determine the extent of the government's misconduct." Kaufman's attorneys argued leaks to the media inflamed public opinion against the officers charged in the case.
Police shot and killed two unarmed people and wounded four others on the bridge less than a week after the storm's landfall on Aug. 29, 2005.
Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, was convicted of orchestrating a cover-up that included a planted gun, bogus reports and fabricated witnesses. Engelhardt sentenced Kaufman in April to six years in prison. Four other former officers convicted of charges in the shootings were sentenced to prison terms of up to 65 years.