You might have missed it earlier this week, but the Edwards administration offered a very sloppy effort at covering its tracks in the Ronald Greene case.
Our readers by now know the basics of that incident. Ronald Greene was a black citizen living in northeast Louisiana, a non-criminal who worked as a barber. For some reason – it makes the most sense to assume he’d had too much to drink, but this isn’t established as a fact – he ran a red light on the night of May 10, 2019 and then failed to stop when hailed by police. Greene then led law enforcement on a high-speed chase down country roads before hitting a tree, and then a handful of Louisiana State Police troopers proceeded to tase him multiple times and beat him to death on a Union Parish roadside.
The Greene case is literally the one Black Lives Matter has been looking for in order to prove their narrative about violent racist cops preying on innocent black men. BLM’s usual martyrs are career criminals who (1) had the police called on them because they were seen committing a crime, (2) likely faced long stretches in prison as a result of the latest incident the cops were called to arrest them for, owing to their long criminal records, (3) were high on drugs at the time and (4) resisted arrest if not actually fought the police.
Greene was none of those things, so his name ought to be at least as well-known as George Floyd, Alton Sterling or Breonna Taylor (whose case was slightly different than the usual, but her boyfriend fit most if not all of the categories above, plus he fired at the police first). But until last month few people in Louisiana, much less anywhere else, had ever heard of him.
The Greene case was covered up for two years. That’s pretty obvious. And the race-hustle crowd, which has sparked riots over far less egregious examples of aggressive policing, sat on its hands rather than raise a stink over it.
It’s obvious why. In May 2019, Louisiana’s Democrat governor John Bel Edwards was up for re-election and most people figured that either Eddie Rispone or Ralph Abraham would beat him in the runoff. At best, the race would be razor-close. And John Bel Edwards was going to need an overwhelming turnout of the black vote if he was going to survive.
Which he wouldn’t get if Louisiana’s black electorate was aware that Edwards’ state police was treating its members in a manner consistent with the worst of the Jim Crow South. Let’s remember that Edwards’ LSP had been quite established as a pretty loyal Praetorian Guard around him – state laws had been contorted, if not outright broken, so Edwards’ campaign could take contributions from troopers, Edwards had cultivated the state police’s leadership and lots of perks and bennies had been doled out by the Fourth Floor to LSP’s brass. The black vote would have deserted the governor if this picture had been clear, and he would have been dead in the water no matter what kind of campaign Rispone or Abraham ran against him.
So nobody heard a word about Ronald Greene. It was said he died from hitting that tree, despite the fact that the coroner who examined him claimed his wounds were inconsistent with that. And the body-camera footage of the incident, which makes very clear Greene was beaten to death, was held back from anyone to see for months.
It wasn’t until after the 2019 election was over and Edwards was safely re-elected with more black votes than Barack Obama had managed in Louisiana in either 2008 or 2012 that anything began trickling out about the Greene case.
Last year Greene’s family was shown the body-cam video of the case, apparently in a meeting with Edwards. They quickly filed a wrongful death suit. Not long after, State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves was allowed to gracefully retire. His chief of staff, Mike Noel, was appointed to the cushy job of chairman of the state gaming board.
All the while, a federal civil rights investigation of the Greene case was slowly meandering along. It was used as the justification for keeping the body-cam footage from the public.
But that video got out to the Associated Press anyway last month, and there was finally a bit of a furor over the Greene case.
This week, though, Noel was finally scheduled for a confirmation hearing in the Louisiana Senate. The word was he was going to be grilled over his involvement in the Greene case.
But that never happened.
LouisianaVoice has learned that Col. Mike Noel has stepped down as chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board barely a year after his appointment by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Noel officially retired from his job rather than face hostile questioning during a confirmation session that was scheduled for today, sources told LouisianaVoice.
He was appointed by Edwards after State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson blocked the reappointment of longtime chairman Ronnie Jones last year. Jones, now retired, is in the process of moving to Virginia.
An obscure provision allows a legislator who resides in the same district of a nominee to block the appointment and Peterson, in a power play did just that last year when Edwards nominated Jones for another term as chairman.
Edwards then NAMED NOEL, who had been serving as chief of staff to then-Col. KEVIN REEVES who in turn, had succeeded the controversial Mike Edmonson who previously was head of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) since 2008 but who was forced into retirement in 2016.
Noel was chief of staff at the time of the death of Monroe motorist RONALD GREENE in May 2019 at the hands of state police.
Noel, as chief of staff, would necessarily have been neck-deep in the controversy, including efforts by LSP to smooth over the incident…
LouisianaVoice learned that Noel knew he was going to be grilled by hostile legislators at today’s Senate confirmation hearings so, rather than subject himself to such intense questioning, he chose to step down.
This can’t be the end of the matter.
The investigation of the Greene case is being conducted by Union Parish District Attorney John Belton, according to Louisiana law. There have been consequences to the officers involved, one of whom committed suicide by driving his car into a bridge support the day he heard he’d be fired, but none have faced criminal charges in the killing of Greene yet.
But no formal investigation into the cover-up of the case, which could very well involve crimes, has been launched to our knowledge.
It’s reasonable to believe such an investigation might begin under Belton’s watch, as the incident in question happened in his jurisdiction. But Belton isn’t going to have the resources to handle something which is very likely to spread to State Police headquarters and even to the office of the governor. For that, Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry would have to be brought in.
Accordingly, Belton should recuse himself from the investigation of the potential Greene cover-up, while maintaining his investigation of Greene’s death. Belton has no reason to turn the main investigation, which he’s had for two years, over to anyone. Under Louisiana law, that would enable Landry’s office to take up a probe of the aftermath.
And it needs to be done. Because if, as there is a very strong reasonable suspicion and many observers are now speculating, Edwards or those around him threw a blanket over the killing of an innocent black man for traffic violations in order to essentially defraud the public into voting for him in October and November 2019, it needs to be made known.