At least that’s the impression you get from reading the Times-Picayune’s article covering the question whether Landry will step into the Alton Sterling mess and prosecute the police officers reports say the Justice Department has chosen not to.
Landry hasn’t said what he would do. Nobody really believes that he’s going to pick up the standard if the Justice Department doesn’t think BRPD officers Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake II did anything illegal in connection with Sterling’s death. That widespread assumption might change in the event the DOJ report, when released, contains lots of damaging information about the cops’ behavior, but come on – if there was any real evidence supporting a prosecution of Salamoni and Lake, certainly the Obama Justice Department would have handed down an indictment in the six months they had the case.
That Loretta Lynch, who tried to indict the Center for Medical Progress for exposing Planned Parenthood’s profiteering off body parts of aborted fetuses, would pass on prosecuting the police officers in the Sterling shooting after the national media made a cause celebre out of it, is something of a fanciful contention to say the least. This case was dumped on the Trump DOJ after he upset Hillary Clinton in November, because it was a loser to prosecute and everyone knew it.
So no, Landry is not going to indict Salamoni or Lake. And yet the Times-Pic’s Julia O’Donoghue spun up a story this afternoon about the possibility Landry will. O’Donoghue didn’t contact Landry or his people today for the story, though – we did, and that’s how we know she didn’t – but she had enough stuff in the can from him to dummy up a piece on it.
But she did talk to three politicians who seem to have lots of advice and perspective about Landry’s options, and those were certainly on offer.
For example, Cedric Richmond, who our readers might remember couldn’t hustle fast enough to the microphones to demand Landry’s office be bypassed in favor of the Obama DOJ to investigate the case…
“I think the state should immediately start their own investigation because they have a different standard of proof,” said U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, whose district includes the part of Baton Rouge where Sterling was killed. “The state standard is lower than the federal standard.”
Meaning it’s easier to convict somebody of murder or manslaughter than of violating the victim’s civil rights. Which might be true, but let’s be real – outside of perhaps in Orleans Parish, there is no jurisdiction in Louisiana where a jury can be found that will convict two cops for shooting a career criminal if there’s enough reasonable doubt that the victim had a gun and was going for it. It isn’t hard to see where Richmond is going here – he’s making an unreasonable demand with the knowledge that Landry won’t act on it, and when that happens Richmond now has “cause” to attack Landry as a racist who refuses to prosecute a “winnable” case. Because the state standard is lower, you see.
There’s another member of Jeff Landry’s new advisory committee who also has some interesting perspective…
Yet Landry’s background as a police officer has some questioning whether he can be objective in reviewing the Sterling case. “I think I would outsource it, just to avoid the appearance of conflict,” said state Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, whose district includes the community where Sterling was killed. “Law enforcement is a tight-knit community in this state.”
Denise Marcelle, who wants to avoid the appearance of conflict. You remember her, right?
Nope. No conflict there at all. And again, a demand – Landry must not drop the case; instead he has to “outsource” it to another party, like a district attorney somewhere who’d be aggressive in prosecuting it because that DA wouldn’t have a “conflict.”
O’Donoghue actually called Marcelle to get her opinion on whether Jeff Landry ought to prosecute Salamoni and Lake. She actually did that.
Wait, we’re not done.
There’s also a question of his courtroom experience: Landry never worked as a prosecutor before becoming attorney general at the beginning of 2016. “We wanted someone whose office had more experience handling these things,” said state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, who teaches at Southern University Law Center, where Landry got his law degree. “He’s focused on a lot of other stuff.”
And here’s more about Ted James’ involvement in this…
James and a few other members of the Legislature’s Black Caucus sent a letter in July, amid protests about Sterling’s killing, asking Landry to hand off the Sterling case to a special prosecutor. Six months later, James said, he had talked to Landry’s office about the Sterling case, but didn’t receive an answer about whether a special prosecutor would be selected. James plans to send Landry another letter shortly.
He said he had serious doubts that Landry would do anything to punish the police officers. “I don’t seem him going outside of what the [U.S. Justice Department] would do,” he said.
Oh, and just a little more, because it turns out Ted James is right there with Marcelle about how Landry’s got to “outsource” the case…
“If he is intending to run for governor, this is probably something that his office would not want to touch,” James said. “I think that a special prosecutor would take a lot of the politics out of it.”
This is an actual article in Louisiana’s largest newspaper. We’re not making this up. We couldn’t if we tried.
When we talked to Jeff Landry’s people this afternoon about O’Donoghue’s piece, they were laughing uproariously. They didn’t know what else to do but laugh at the idea that he should be taking direction from Cedric Richmond, Ted James and Denise Marcelle about whether to prosecute Salamoni and Lake and how he should do it.