We now know what he knew and when he knew it. And that makes appropriate the impeachment, conviction, and removal from office of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Several times this space (most recently), as well as its author over the airwaves, has asked what did Edwards know about the events leading to the death of black motorist Ronald Greene. Courtesy of an Associated Press investigation, the answer is almost immediately and enough.
Greene died after a high-speed chase by Louisiana State Police ended with a low-impact crash, whereupon troopers apprehended him from the vehicle, constricted him by restraint, and, as an impartial autopsy (in lieu of one influenced by misinformation provided by the LSP) revealed, beat him to death. That was in the early morning hours of May 10, 2019, when Edwards was a half-year out from trying to win reelection.
Later that morning, the then-head of the LSP Col Kevin Reeves, texted to Edwards that Greene had died after “a violent, lengthy struggle” where “The suspect remained combative but became unresponsive shortly before EMS arrived.” Reeves retired in Oct., 2020 shortly after Greene family members finally were able, after months of state stonewalling, to view a short video clip depicting the beating after the AP had obtained and released an audio clip of that – which Edwards also viewed for the first time.
Of course, Reeves didn’t convey an accurate portrayal; Greene offered little resistance and no mention of the beating which caused his death appeared. Still, it was enough for Edwards to know that Greene didn’t die in the crash.
Yet when the LSP for over a year kept insisting publicly that Greene died in the crash, and even after it meted discipline to troopers involved that led to the apparent suicide of one of the officers involved, Edwards publicly never offered a corrective remark. He initially seemed to change his mind only after the AP obtained and released extensive video footage of the incident two years after it happened, when he condemned the troopers, calling their actions “deeply unprofessional and incredibly disturbing,” and added they were “criminal” as well.
Only after this did the state comply with public records requests to release the footage, lamely explaining it didn’t want to do so because of a federal civil rights investigation prompted by the Greene family’s suit for wrongful death. Edwards nor any other official from the Governor’s Office or agencies he oversees has clarified why withholding these public records would interfere with an investigation; it still has refused to release other public records relevant to the incident – Edwards’ communications with top LSP brass – and in fact the LSP deleted some others after Reeves left his post.
Yet despite all this, when GOP House Speaker Clay Schexnayder expressed a willingness a month after Edwards’ tardy outrage to have the Legislature investigate the matter, Edwards discouraged him by saying “Greene died in a wreck.” And three months later, on a radio program – a couple of months prior to the new autopsy report – Edwards cast doubt that the wreck didn’t kill Greene, admitting that troopers had been “engaging” with him but that he was unsure that, even as he had viewed on video several minutes worth of blows to Greene’s head followed by several more of him restrained lying face down, those actions weren’t fatal.
Schexnayder has reprised the idea of a legislative investigation. He needs to go further. The Constitution empowers the House to impeach any elected state official for commission of “gross misconduct” while in office. A legal review shortly after the latest impeachment of a Louisiana governor (two others were impeached during the 19th century), Huey P. Long in 1929, reiterates the broad scope of Legislative impeachment powers.
If misleading the public and government officials in a way that has impeded oversight of potentially criminal actions and investigation of a civil matter doesn’t qualify as committing an act of gross misconduct, just to dodge negative publicity in the middle of a political campaign, there’s something wrong with Louisiana’s political system. This pattern of deception reeks of Republican former Pres. Richard Nixon’s obstructing investigation of the Watergate break-in and Democrat Pres. Bill Clinton costing taxpayers $12.5 million because he wouldn’t admit he used his position to facilitate extramarital sexual relations and employed the power of his office to hide that.
Impeach Edwards and let the Senate judge his fitness to remain in office.