Hurricane season began June 1, and already they are watching something that has a 60 percent chance of becoming a storm in the next 2 days. This doesn't worry me so much in and of itself, because historically there is little chance of a big one hitting us in New Orleans this early in the season. The gulf isn't warm enough and the conditions would never be appropriate.
It does cause me pause, however, because early storms could mean a bad season, which has already been predicted. It also causes me concern because we're not sure of what effect even a small storm could have on the oil situation. How much destruction will result from oil being pushed into other waterways or entering the tidal surge, and what effect will that have on our coast, our farming, our houses?
Also on my mind- five New Orleans Police officers, three current and two former, have just been indicted in a Katrina case where the police are accused of gunning down a man, then putting his body in a car and setting it on fire.
The story is bad; what is worse is that I know two of the current officers, and consider one a friend. In fact, he is married to a former co-worker of mine. They met at the D.A.'s Office, while she and I were both assistant district attorneys and he was an officer. He is now a lieutenant, and I find it extremely difficult to believe he would violate the law.
Not just because he's my friend and I support him, but because he is a square, a rule follower, a by the book player. He arrested my brother in law years ago for being in possession of marijuana, and I knew better than to even ask him for any kind of a break on my B-I-L's behalf, because this guy is an i-dotter and t-crosser.
I feel just as bad for his wife, my co-worker and friend. She actually went to middle school with my husband, years before I knew either one of them, just to show you how small a city of a half a million people can actually be.
So I'm torn between wanting to see justice served if somehow this friend was involved in the murder of a an innocent person, and not believing he did it, or that if he did have some part in it, there had to be a good reason. The public doesn't often get to see the extenuating circumstances in federal cases, because they don't play out in a trial, but usually in a plea.
It's generally a no-brainer- this guy is looking at thirty years for falsifying a police report in connection with this case, and of lying to a federal grand jury about it. He will likely be offered a sentencing deal if he turns in more people who were involved, and may get his time down to ten years. With the programs available in prison, he could be out in four or five, or less, depending on the situation. If he goes to trial and loses, he would get the maximum. Most people, cops or civilians, won't roll those dice. Federal juries, unlike New Orleans juries, actually like to convict.
I am keeping my fingers crossed for my friend and his wife, but the whole thing really bothers me. Nobody knows what this city was like during Katrina, when the streets were flooded, and the citizens not only greatly outnumbered the police, but out-gunned them as well. The cop accused of the actual shooting was a rookie, and fired a warning shot in the air from the second story of a bulding they were using as a makeshift police headquarters. He has admitted to the shooting, but says he was unaware at the time that the bullet struck someone. He is looking at a possible death sentence, or at least life in prison.
The big question for me is why he felt it necessary to fire the warning shot in the first place. A neighbor who lives around the corner from me and is a city cop on the westbank of New Orleans said that when he and a few other officers tried to prevent a group of people from going into areas they were not supposed to be in-- a mandatory evacuation had been called, and people were wandering into neighborhoods to loot-- he heard one of the individuals egging the others on, saying, "There's only five cops. We can take them."
Fortunately for him, the situation was resolved peacefully, but what if he had shot one of these people fearing for his own life? Would he now be looking at a life sentence or death penalty? Again, I don't know if my friend did what they accuse him of, although as I mentioned, I don't picture him doing something like that. But things were not normal for those few weeks, and especially those few days when the flood waters first started rising. I just hope it all works out.
Of course, the writer in me keeps thinking this needs to be made into a book or a movie, or at least included in one of my Crescent City Mystery Series novels. I am working on the second one, Jambalaya Justice, and it is almost finished, so this particular scenario wouldn't fit in, but the third novel takes place during Katrina, and something of this nature was going to be included, so I could just add this in.
Then again, the entire story would make a compelling movie. I can picture it starting with the trial, and hearing each individual person's testimony, and then flashing back to what actually happened until you get the true story. Except right now I don't know the whole story. I may at some point in the future, when the legal issues have been resolved, visit my friend and see if he is interested in opening up and telling me his version of events.
Regardless of how things pan out in my city, I am looking forward to being gone for a few days at the PSWA writer's conference in Vegas this month, seeing familiar faces and making new friends. At least that may help me get my mind off of hurricanes and federal indictments.
Causes Holli Castillo Supports
American Diabetes Association, American Breast Cancer Association, Lazarus House New Orleans