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2 New Orleans police officers convicted in 2005 beating death

By Jim Barnett, CNN
Raymond Robair's death occurred in July 2005, about a month before Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans.
Raymond Robair's death occurred in July 2005, about a month before Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Neighbors of the victim said they saw an officer kick and beat him with a baton
  • Witnesses said the two police officers falsely informed the hospital staff Robair was a drug user
  • Robair suffered fractured ribs and a ruptured spleen as a result of the beating and died
  • The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department's Civil Rights division
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See local coverage from CNN affiliate WWL TV in New Orleans.

Washington (CNN) -- Two New Orleans police officers were convicted Wednesday in federal court in a 2005 beating death and cover-up after initially telling investigators the victim was suffering from a drug overdose.

Several neighbors of the man who was killed testified they saw Officer Melvin Williams approach Raymond Robair on the street in Robair's neighborhood and kick him in the side and beat him repeatedly with a baton, according to the Justice Department.

Officials said after the beating, Williams -- along with a second officer, Matthew Dean Moore -- placed an unconscious Robair into their police car and drove him to Charity Hospital.

According to a Justice Department release, witnesses at the trial said the two police officers falsely informed the hospital staff they found Robair under a bridge and all they knew was that Robair was a drug user. Based upon that information, the hospital treated Robair for a drug overdose rather than blunt force trauma. Robair suffered fractured ribs and a ruptured spleen as a result of the beating. He was pronounced dead within a few hours.

The Justice Department said Williams and Moore were convicted of obstructing justice by writing and submitting a false and inaccurate incident report. Moore was also convicted of one additional felony count for making false statements to FBI agents in March 2010. Williams faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. Moore faces a possible maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

"Every community relies upon their police officers to protect and serve, but these officers abused their power, violating the law and the public trust," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "I am hopeful that today's verdict brings a measure of justice to the victim's family and the entire community."

CNN affiliate WWL TV reported Robair's family cried quietly in the courtroom after the verdict.

"No words, to God be the glory," Judonna Mitchell, Robair's daughter, exclaimed in reaction to the verdict.

Williams and Moore will be sentenced on July 14, WWL reported.

In March, the Justice Department announced that a federal investigation found that the New Orleans Police Department had engaged in patterns of misconduct in violation of the Constitution and federal law.

Among the findings: the police department had used excessive force, made unconstitutional stops and searches and illegally profiled people based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The investigation also found a number of practices that contributed to the illegal conduct, including failed systems for recruiting and promoting officers, poor training and lack of supervision, among others.