Posted: Aug 12, 2010 8:38 PM by Alison Haynes
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A Mississippi man who federal prosecutors say
fired a shotgun at three black men in a racially motivated attack
following Hurricane Katrina pleaded not guilty Thursday to all five
counts he faces.
Roland Bourgeois Jr., 47, who is white, from Columbia, Miss., is
charged with firing a shotgun at the men in the city's historic
Algiers Point neighborhood on the West Bank of the Mississippi
River while they tried to leave the city after the August 2005
As he listened to prosecutors detail the penalties he would face
if convicted on the counts in the indictment, Bourgeois sat slumped
in a wheelchair, his left arm in a sling. The penalties range from
five years to life in prison.
His voice was soft, and slightly slurred as he answered federal
Magistrate Lance Moore's questions. But when asked how he pleaded,
Bourgeois said, "Not guilty, sir," in a firm voice.
Prosecutors asked that Bourgeois be detained, saying the
seriousness of the charges should require him to remain in jail.
But after hearing about Borgeois' medical problems, Moore agreed to
grant his release on $100,000 bond.
Dr. Michael Friley, an expert on surgery and liver disease,
listed a number of serious health problems Bourgeois has, including
Hepatitis C, liver disease and problems that could cause him to
suddenly bleed to death. He said Bourgeois was not a candidate for
a liver transplant, and that he would not recover.
"He's got six to 12 (months) to live in my opinion," Friley
said, adding that Bourgeois should probably be in hospice care.
Bourgeois is also on a highly restricted diet, with limited
protein, salt and liquid, Friley said. He's also required to take a
long list of medications.
The doctor said he doubted either the diet or medication regimen
could be accommodated in jail.
Dr. Ralph J. Gesser, an orthopedic surgeon who has treated
Bourgeois, said the man needs surgery on his broken left arm and
back, but said he would not be able to survive such operations.
"He's going to die in jail," Gesser said.
Moore said he was prepared to agree to detention for Bourgeois
until he heard the medical testimony because of the "very, very
Moore also instructed the lawyers to get a mental evaluation to
see if Bourgeois, who was said to at times have hallucinations and
mental problems, could help with his defense.
The indictment only refers to Bourgeois' alleged victims by
their initials, but a January 2009 article by ProPublica and The
Nation magazine identifies them as Donnell Herrington, then 32; his
cousin, Marcel Alexander, then 17; and a friend, Chris Collins,
Herrington, who was shot in the throat but survived, told The
Nation that he didn't know the three heavily armed white men who
shot at him.
Trial is set for Oct. 12.