News Release
July 23, 2009
Contact: Roberto E. Bryan, Jr.
Special Agent/PIO
Number: 504-840-1360

New Orleans Man Pleads Guilty to Murder of DEA Agent
Special Agent Thomas J. Byrne was killed in 2008;
Plea Deals calls for 30-year sentence

Ameal Parker
Ameal Parker

JUL 23 -- (NEW ORLEANS ) - AMEAL PARKER, a/k/a Ameal Varnado, age 47, of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty to the Indictment that charged him with unlawfully killing DEA Supervisory Special Agent Thomas J. Byrne while Supervisory Special Agent Byrne was engaged in and on account of the performance of his official duties, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten along with Jimmy S. Fox III, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Orleans Office, David Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New Orleans Field Office, and Steve Hartman, Acting United States Marshal of the Eastern District.

The guilty plea followed an investigation that revealed that on August 28, 2008, Supervisory Special Agent Byrne was visiting New Orleans in his official capacity while attending the U. S. Department of Justice-sponsored Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Southeast Regional Conference. The conference, which took place at local downtown hotel, began on August 26, 2008. Supervisory Special Agent Byrne died on August 30, 2008 at Tulane University Hospital from injuries he received from a beating during an assault and robbery in early morning hours of Thursday, August 28, 2008.

PARKER could face a statutory sentence of any number of years up to life imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and five (5) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, fines and supervisory release. However, as a result of the plea agreement resulting in today’s guilty plea (if approved by United States District Court Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt), PARKER will be sentenced to thirty (30) years in federal prison. The plea agreement and stipulated sentence have taken into account the recommended federal sentencing guidelines range, as well as the fact that PARKER, in assaulting and robbing Agent Byrne (which ultimately resulted in his death), did not specifically intend to kill him.

Originally, PARKER was arrested and held on state criminal charges arising out of his attempted use of credit cards stolen from Agent Byrne. As a result of full cooperation between the District Attorney and U.S. Attorney’s Office, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr., recognizing the appropriate resolution of this case through the federal plea agreement, has agreed to not prosecute PARKER for any state crimes arising out of this offense.

This prosecution was the result of an intensive joint investigation conducted by Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U. S. Marshals Service, New Orleans Police Department and Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office. Crimestoppers was also actively involved in efforts to gather pertinent information about the circumstances surrounding the crime.

"This plea reiterates justice and the various tools used to ensure that justice is served. Mr. Parker will never be able to harm another son, another father, another husband or another citizen again; on this day justice is served mightily," said Special Agent Fox III.  

“First, let me extend my sincerest gratitude to our DEA, FBI, and U.S. Marshals Service partners in federal law enforcement, as well as the New Orleans Police Department and Crimestoppers for the seamless investigative effort which resulted in today’s very important conviction,” said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. “This effort, coupled with the federal murder conviction which we have achieved today, has brought to justice the individual responsible for this senseless murder of Supervisory Special Agent Tom Byrne, who spent his adult life in service to and protection of our citizens.”

“The results of the investigation are a clear indication of what can be accomplished when the multiple resources of law enforcement come together to investigate a crime such as this. This investigation demonstrates the commitment of all law enforcement agencies in New Orleans to work together in preventing and investigating violent crime,” said Special Agent Welker.

"It is our hope that today's plea provides Tom's family a sense of justice and closure befitting such a dedicated public servant. The law enforcement response- while noteworthy- takes a backseat to Tom's legacy," said Acting United States Marshal Hartman.

The prosecution has been handled by Supervisory Assistant U. S. Attorney Maurice Landrieu, Chief of the U. S. Attorney’s Drug Unit, and Assistant U. S. Attorney Jay Quinlan, lead OCDETF Prosecutor.