Judge frees one of two men accused of attacking garda in US

One of two brothers released on basis of no probable cause in shooting of Brian Hanrahan

A New Orleans judge has released one of the two brothers accused of shooting and robbing an Irish garda visiting from Ireland in January 2015 after finding that there was no probable cause against him.

Keith Galle (35) was set free on Friday following a ruling by Orleans Criminal District Judge Arthur Hunter after his brother Melvin Galle (42) testified last month that he falsely told police after his arrest that his brother had been at the scene of the attack on Limerick-based garda Brian Hanrahan.

Judge Hunter found last Thursday that there was no probable cause behind claims of Keith Galle’s involvement since the prosecution case against him rested mostly on his brother’s incriminating statements.

The state prosecutor is appealing the judge’s ruling. Orleans Parish Jail issued a public notification on Friday saying that Mr Galle had been released after being imprisoned for almost two years awaiting trial.

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Both brothers still face separate trials in February on charges of attempted second-degree murder and armed robbery over the attack on Mr Hanrahan, who is originally from Tipperary, in the pre-dawn hours of January 27th, 2015, in the 7th Ward area of the Louisiana city.

The older brother had initially told police that his younger brother was solely responsible for the robbery of Mr Hanrahan, an off-duty garda who was visiting New Orleans with his father on a holiday.

Prosecutors believe that the Irish man, who was 32 at the time, was drunkenly lured by Melvin Galle on a 3km walk out of the French Quarter, the popular New Orleans tourist and night spot, in a search for more alcohol when he was robbed at gunpoint after withdrawing $200 (€186) from an ATM.

Emergency surgery

Mr Hanrahan was shot twice, in the chest and leg, after refusing to hand over the money. He underwent emergency surgery in New Orleans and there were major fundraising events held in Ireland and the US to support his recovery. He later returned to Ireland.

The garda of Newcastlewest, Co Limerick, was charged in October over two alleged assaults on two women following a night out in Nenagh, Co Tipperary in February. He denies the charges.

During a court hearing on November 21st in New Orleans, Melvin Galle took the stand against the advice of his attorney and told the court that he lied to police that his brother took part in the robbery. “It was a false statement,” said Melvin Galle under questioning from his brother’s attorney Kenneth Hardin.

According to a report last month in Louisiana newspaper The Times-Picayune, Mr Galle said that a detective told him that police had found Keith Galle’s DNA at the scene and that the elder Galle only then told police that his brother “must be involved.” Asked by Mr Hardin if his brother had been involved in the robbery at all, Melvin Galle answered: “Not to my knowledge.”

Video surveillance captured near the scene of the incident showed two men involved.

During last month’s hearing, he responded only to questions retracting his statement implicating his brother in the crime and refused to answer other questions from assistant district attorney Robert Ferrier who is prosecuting the case, asserting his constitutional right to protect himself from self-incrimination.

The brothers had been due to stand trial separately due to conflicting defences.

Mr Hanrahan said that he was robbed by two individuals and police sought two suspects after the incident but the Irish garda was subsequently unable to pick out Keith Galle in a police line-out.

The trials of the Galle brothers have been pushed back several times. Melvin Galle’s trial is now scheduled to start on February 14th and his younger brother’s trial on February 21st.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent