Ronald Greene tragedy was former atty. Ashton O’Dwyer’s Willie Stark moment in exposing depth of LSP corruption
In Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, Willie Stark’s gubernatorial campaign against state government corruption gets an unexpected – and unwanted – assist by the tragic collapse of an elementary school fire escape that resulted in several children’s deaths.
In the case of former New Orleans attorney Ashton O’Dwyer, his 16-year crusade against corruption in the ranks of Louisiana State Police got an unexpected – and unwanted – assist with the beating death of Ronald Greene in May 2019, and the two-year coverup that followed.
In each case, it took an unnecessary tragedy to bring about some semblance of justice.
To refresh, O’Dwyer was safely ensconced in his home in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina back in August 2005. In fact, he even hosted visiting news reporters in his upscale home on St. Charles Avenue, which was not threatened with the massive flooding that hit much of New Orleans.
But that didn’t matter to STATE POLICE who yanked him up only minutes after midnight on Aug. 30 and threw him into a holding pen where he was brutalized by goons from State Police Troop F in Monroe. He might have had a good case against his captors, but he managed to make the wrong people uncomfortable and the end result was his firing by the prestigious law firm Lemie and Kelleher where he had worked for 35 years, specializing in admiralty and maritime law, and his ultimate disbarment.
All of which just shows what can happen when you cross the wrong people and a lot of people who stood to gain from the tragedy of Katrina found O’Dwyer both an uncomfortable liability and expendable.
But in May 2019, Ronald Greene was killed by overzealous thugs from Troop F and the coverup began in earnest – a coverup that would ultimately vindicate Ashton O’Dwyer who had been telling us about Troop F and State Police high command all along.
Let’s begin with the governor. Gov. John Bel Edwards’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Christina Stephens, released a statement that was reported by WDSU on Feb. 1, 2022, saying: “The Governor first learned of the serious allegations against the Louisiana State Police surrounding the arrest and death of Mr. Ronald Greene in September 2020.”
Yet, we now know that Edwards spoke with then-State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves only nine hours following Greene’s death – on MAY 10. In that conversation, Reeves told Edwards that Greene died as the result of “a violent struggle” at the end of a police chase through two parishes and that they were “investigating” the event.
Reeves abruptly retired when allegations against State Police finally came to light some 16 months later. And body cam video which State Police insisted for more than a year did not exist suddenly surfaced that showed in graphic detail just how aggressive State Police can be with a black motorist. Yes, Greene fled police, taking them on a high-speed chase but once he surrendered, he was subjected to inhumane – and fatal – beatings and tasing.
Following Reeves’s departure, Col. Mike Noel was up for the directorship of the State Gaming Control Board. But realizing he would be subjected to some tough grilling on the Greene matter during his conformation hearing, he chose to follow Reeves into retirement.
Finally, we learn that all the cell phones of the fired and retiring troopers even peripherally connected to the Greene Case had been “sanitized,” or in more familiar vernacular, erased.
This was according to state policy, it was explained, but overlooked was the fact that these phones may have – quite likely, in fact – contained evidence relative to the case. Thus, their “sanitization” was tantamount to obstruction of justice – by State Police, no less.
O’Dwyer made a public records request to State Police for any policy governing the erasure of cell phones and received the following response from State Police:
Prior to July 2021, LSP did not have a policy specific to sanitizing phones when they were returned to the Department from employees. At that time, pursuant to Section II, I, (2) of the DPS Property Control Procedure Manual, LSP followed the State Office of Technology Services policy, which requires the sanitization of all state employee assigned phones upon their return to each respective state department under the Office of Technology Services. Both policies are attached for your review and provide for the sanitization of data from electronic devices.
All DPS/LSP phones turned in prior to July 2021 were sanitized pursuant to this policy. To the extent that the OTS policy provided for the sanitization, these sanitizations were not at the direction of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections- Public Safety Services. However, that being said, LSP concedes that although sanitizations did take place during that time period pursuant to the OTS policy, LSP did not maintain the requisite logs required by the policy. As such, LSP maintains no documents related to sanitizations conducted on employee phones prior to July 2021. (Emphasis mine)
O’Dwyer, in an email, said, “Sometime between [May 10, 2019] and July 2021, when the “new” Superintendent of the LSP, Colonel Davis, established a specific LSP policy for dealing with phones used by LSP personnel, including the BRASS, the phones of the BRASS were “erased,” “sanitized,” or “wiped” CLEAN of evidence pertaining to the Greene investigation. I call THAT “obstruction of justice.”
Obstruction in much the same manner in which the powers that be conspired to make a skilled attorney look like a raving lunatic as a means of shutting him up and taking away his livelihood.
And while they were successful in taking away his livelihood, they have found the task of shutting him up a bit more formidable.
And he’s certainly no lunatic. Ashton O’Dwyer is probably smarter than most of his adversaries. He just doesn’t have friends in the right places and now he doesn’t have the financial resources to fight back.
All this just because he didn’t want to leave his home.