Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

New Orleans sheriff scrutinized

New Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman speaks to reporters after a news conference outside the construction site of new jail facilities in New Orleans, Thursday, April 4. The Sheriff’s management of the New Orleans prison has been brought to national attention after a video of prisoners was publicized.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – New Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman suggested Thursday that a lurid video depicting intravenous drug use and weapon possession in the jail he oversees may have been doctored.

Gusman first made the assertion during testimony at a federal court hearing on jail conditions and again during a news conference.

He later told reporters he doesn’t remember seeing the explicit images on the recording when he first viewed it four years ago. “I saw it on a very small screen. It wasn’t much,” he said when asked how he could forget such a video.

Gusman’s remarks came on the final day of a hearing on whether a jail improvement agreement between his office and the U.S.

Justice Department should be approved.

The Justice Department and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represents inmates who sued to improve conditions, are urging approval of the agreement, noting that funding issues will be sorted out during a hearing next month. They said testimony about sexual assaults, suicides and beatings by guards and among prisoners is evidence of the need for the pact.

Attorney Harry Rosenberg, representing the city, cast doubts on the idea that the video had been altered, noting that testimony indicates the video had been locked away in a Sheriff’s Office safe for about four years.

Prison consultant Jeffrey Schwartz, who testified after Gusman, was incredulous at the sheriff ‘s answers.

“Most people would have remembered every moment of the video and would have turned heaven and earth to investigate it,” Schwartz said.

The court hearing placed Gusman in the position of having to defend conditions at the troubled jail, as well as his decision to sign an agreement to improve conditions that the Justice Department says are unconstitutional.

Rosenberg walked Gusman through a series of allegations made in documents or by experts supporting the legal actions that led to the consent decree, including statements that the jail is “dysfunctional.”

“Do you agree that either you are dysfunctional or the operations of the Orleans Parish Prison are dysfunctional?” Rosenberg asked.

“No,” Gusman said, but he later added: “I think we’re going to be a lot more functional when we get the new building.”

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