Metaphorically, through some gamesmanship, former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves asked Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to join him at the Last Chance Saloon to salvage Edwards’ reputation, if not his job.
Both face scrutiny in the coverup at the LSP over the death of black motorist Ronald Greene. He lost his life in May, 2019 after leading LSP troopers on a high speed chase that resulted in a low speed crash. Outside his vehicle, troopers restrained him roughly and beat him for minutes, recordings show, and he died on the way to medical care.
How involved were Edwards and Reeves in the coverup has become the focus of a special legislative panel. Reeves has been coy, although insistent that he didn’t participate in a coverup, in describing his knowledge of the incident and what followed up to his sudden resignation 16 months later, after evidence of LSP behavior was presented to the Edwards Administration. For his part, Edwards has insisted he didn’t even know questions surrounded the event and its aftermath until that time.
His story strains credulity. Reeves alerted him of the incident, not using Greene’s name, hours after it happened. But within days media reports surfaced from Greene’s family and earwitnesses casting doubt on the story told Greene’s family, that he died in a wreck. Edwards’ staff routinely monitors state media, so it was impossible that they didn’t put this together and inform Edwards.
Edwards said he went all Sgt. Schultz – he knew notzing, notzing – about the incident until presented with investigatory evidence by no party Union Parish District Atty. John Belton that was passed on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That probe continues, but brought Edwards unflattering publicity when it revealed he had parroted the LSP line about death by crash in conversations with legislative leaders, months after he said he had learned otherwise, and then suggested the same in a radio interview last September, months after his conversations.
Reeves then complicated matters for Edwards by revealing, in the course of the legislative hearings, that he had kept a diary of sorts that included information about the incident and its aftermath. Earlier this week, Republican state Rep. Tanner Magee, helming the special panel, met with Reeves’ lawyer Lewis Unglesby to look at relevant passages from the journal.
What happened next the parties dispute, although one account seems a lot more plausible than the other. Magee, whose committee subpoenaed the volumes, said he sat down with Unglesby to discuss which parts of the journal he could review, not wishing to intrude on Reeves’ privacy by seeing material unrelated to the events in question.
Magee wanted access to a Jun. 17, 2020 entry mentioning Edwards and procedures to address police brutality – a time three months prior to Edwards’s claim of first knowledge about the Greene matter – but Unglesby refused to let him. Magee said the told Unglesby the panel would file contempt charges to force its release, and left.
For his part, Unglesby said Magee became excitable and left without any of copies of the entries Unglesby was willing to release, but that Reeves was willing to cooperate although not through providing that entry. Right.
Recognize this contretemps for what it is: part of the dance Reeves has forced Edwards into joining that will determine both of their futures. Clearly, Reeves has information not complimentary to Edwards, or at least to his story of ignorance until Sept., 2020, and by letting the story dangle with occasional revelations – first volunteering existence of the journal, then that it had at least one potentially damaging entry – this signals that he expects Edwards and his circle of political friends to take care of him when the truth surfaces, and together they will try to mitigate the damage instead of being set against each other, if Edwards plays along.
The panel has the means by which to force the truth to come out, and it may well not look good for either man, whether in Edwards’ case it merely traps him in a lie about when he knew what was going on or points to deeper involvement. The question now is whether parties will work together to delay the inevitable, whatever revelation that might be, as long as they can.