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New trial for ex-cop in Katrina burned-body cover-up

"Newly discovered evidence casts grave doubt on the criminal conviction that the government secured against him"

By Michael Kunzelman
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a new trial for a former New Orleans police officer convicted of writing a false report on a deadly police shooting after Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk ruled that Travis McCabe deserves a second trial because new evidence _ a different copy of the report that McCabe is accused of doctoring _ surfaced after his December 2010 conviction.

Africk threw out those convictions, saying the "newly discovered evidence casts grave doubt on the criminal conviction that the government secured against him."

The judge said he believes the jury probably would have acquitted McCabe if it had been presented with the newly discovered narrative report.

"As this court instructed the jury prior to its deliberations, there are no winners or losers here. Only justice prevails," Africk wrote.

The judge didn't immediately set a new trial date.

Prosecutors claim McCabe added fabricated material to a report submitted by Sgt. Purnella Simmons to make it appear that another officer, David Warren, was justified in shooting 31-year-old Henry Glover in the aftermath of the 2005 storm. Simmons, who couldn't produce her original draft, claimed the report was changed without her knowledge.

But Warren testified last month that Simmons gave him a copy in December 2005 that is nearly identical to the version McCabe allegedly falsified. Warren's attorneys found that copy in their files after the trial.

McCabe's lawyers argued that the discovery undermines prosecutors' claim that police produced different versions of the report on Glover's shooting.

Simmons, who was a government witness during the trial, denied during last month's hearing that she gave the report to Warren. She claimed she didn't see the version McCabe was convicted of falsifying until several years after the shooting, when a police investigator showed it to her.

A jury convicted Warren of manslaughter for shooting Glover without justification and convicted a former officer, Gregory McRae, of burning his body in a car. Africk sentenced Warren to 25-plus years in prison and sentenced McRae to more than 17 years in prison. The jury cleared two other officers of charges stemming from the alleged cover-up.

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