State lawmakers who are members of a special committee investigating allegations of a cover-up in the 2019 death of a black motorist in state police custody want to know more about soldiers’ cellphones that were ‘sanitized or erased more recent data and text messages sent to Governor John Bel Edwards.
Members of what is officially called the Special Committee to Investigate the Circumstances and Inquire into the Death of Ronald Greene held their first meeting Tuesday at the Capitol and listed the names of people they would like to testify. The committee does not have subpoena power to compel witnesses to appear, but there has been talk of adding that power by way of a legislative resolution.
The committee was formed shortly after a January 28 Associated press The article revealed that Edwards had been made aware of the circumstances surrounding Greene’s death long before the official details and body camera video of the soldiers were made public. Greene died in May 2019 following a police pursuit after what was initially described to the governor in a text message as a “long and violent struggle” between soldiers and an unnamed individual. State police initially claimed Greene succumbed to injuries in a car accident that ended the chase outside Monroe.
For more than a year after Greene’s death, Edwards has remained largely silent about the incident despite revelations that soldiers kicked, dragged, beat and used their stun guns on Greene while he was handcuffed to the side of a highway in Union Parish.
Edwards, a Democrat, called the PA inaccurate report and offered a rebuttal that has so far satisfied the Black Legislative Caucus. Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder continued forming the bipartisan committee, which is chaired by House Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee, R-Houma.
“I’m not interested in some sort of witch hunt for any one individual,” Magee said at Tuesday’s committee meeting. “My sole motivation on this committee is to uncover the truth, whatever it is and wherever it may lead us, and also to put an end to the general public and the Greene family.”
Magee said he was particularly interested in the cover-up allegations, including the state police’s decision to “sanitize” the cellphones of their top brass. The data was deleted from Lt. Col. Doug Cain’s phone in February 2020, the same month that whistleblower Albert Paxton, an internal LSP investigator at the time, passed the Greene dossier to the FBI, according to a WBRZ Report.
Former LSP Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves and his second in command, Lt. Col. Mike Noel, also had their phones cleaned.
Also on the special committee’s witness list is Triet Le, the state technology specialist who was allegedly ordered to wipe the phones, Magee said.
Rep. Debbie Villio, a committee member, R-Kenner, a former prosecutor, came to the meeting prepared with a list of documents she wants the committee to request or subpoena. They include, among other things, all records of communication regarding the Greene incident between the governor, his staff or representatives and 10 senior state police administrators.
Magee also wants to see all text messages between Edwards and current LSP Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis in reference to meetings with Union Parish District Attorney John Belton. The governor’s office was communicating with Belton when details about the case became public, according to WBRZ.
“I’ve done surveys like this,” said Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, a committee member. “It could take three years with all this information.”
The committee’s list of potential witnesses currently includes:
- Lieutenant Colonel Layne Barnum
- Union Parish District Attorney John Belton
- Lieutenant Scott Brown
- Lieutenant Colonel Doug Cain
- Cavalier Carl Cavalier
- Lieutenant John Cleary
- Colonel Lamar Davis, LSP Superintendent
- sergeant. Scott Davis
- Colonel Mike Edmonson, former LSP Superintendent
- Randy Hidalgo, Technical Support Supervisor
- Jimmy Leblanc, Secretary of the Department of Public Security
- Triet Lee, Information Technology Specialist
- Captain Nick Manale
- Faye Morrison, LSP Legal Advisor
- Lieutenant Colonel Mike Noel
- sergeant. Albert Paxton
- Collar. Kevin Reeves, former LSP superintendent