The team that prosecuted a bloody post-Hurricane Katrina shooting case that was rife with police corruption was honored with the Justice Department’s highest award on Wednesday in Washington D.C.
Ten New Orleans police officers were convicted for their roles in the deadly shooting and attempted cover-up in what has come to be known as the Danziger Bridge Case. Federal authorities found that police officers shot six people on the bridge in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane, killing two. Others then carried out a complex scheme to cover up the shootings. The prosecution spurred sweeping reforms to the police department.
Those given the Attorney General Award for Exceptional Service for their work on the case are: Bobbi Bernstein, the department’s Civil Rights Division’s Deputy Chief; Forrest Christian, special litigation counsel; Cindy K. Chung, Civil Rights Division trial attorney; Steven D. Harrell, paralegal specialist in the criminal section of the Civil Rights Division, and William M. Bezak, special agent in the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office.
The 60th Annual Attorney General Awards honored 282 Justice Department employees from across the country, with Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole offering their gratitude.
“Their efforts have helped to improve — and to save — countless lives,” Holder said. “And within the Department, this work is strengthening our ability not only to share information with key authorities at every level — but to boost efficiency and transparency, to develop new ways to safeguard precious taxpayer resources, to respond to the threats we face — and, above all, to work together, across every office and component, to take our comprehensive investigative and prosecutorial efforts to the next level.”
The Mary C. Lawton Lifetime Service Award was given to John J. Dion, the department’s Counterespionage Section Chief in the National Security Division. He has been a part of the investigation of nearly every spy that has been prosecuted in the country over the last 30 years. He helped nab Aldrich Ames, the CIA double agent who was convicted in 1994 of spying for Russia.
The prosecution teams who worked on the successful cases against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam also received the Award for Distinguished Service.
Blagojevich was convicted of sweeping public corruption charges in 2011 and is now serving a 14-year prison sentence. The Justice officials honored for their work on the prosecution team are: Debra R. Bonamici, Christopher S. Niewoehner, and Reid J. Schar, all assistant U.S. attorneys in the Northern Illinois U.S. Attorney’s office; Carrie E. Hamilton, senior litigation counsel; Chrissy M. Stein, paralegal specialist in the Northern District of Illinois Patrick J. Murphy, supervisory special agent; David D. Bray II, Daniel W. Cain and Jay G. Hagstrom, all special agents in the FBI’s Chicago Field Office; Vikas K. Arora, supervisory special agent at the Internal Revenue Service; Irene W. Lindow, special agent at the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, and Silvia M. Carrier, postal inspector at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Rajaratnam is the former head and billionare founder of the Galleon Group, a hedge fund company. He was convicted of insider trading in 2011 and is serving an 11-year prison sentence, the longest sentence for such a crime. The prosecution team honored for their work are: Reed Broksy, Andrew L. Fish, Andrew Z. Michaelson, Rahul Mukhi, Avi Weitzman and Jonathan R. Streeter, all assistant U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s office; B.J. Kang, special agent in the Security Division; James C. Barnacle Jr., supervisory special agent in the Criminal Investigative Division; Diane M. Wehner, FBI agent in the Charlotte Field Office; Michael D. Brown, Kathleen M. Queally, andThomas J. Zukauskas, all FBI special agents; Wai-Mon Chan, forensic accountant in the FBI’s New York City Field Office; and Joan Mazzella, forensic accountant at the FBI’s New York City Field Office.