SADOW: Noose Tightens Around Edwards Over Greene Death

The noose continues to tighten around Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ governorship, over his conduct concerning the death of black motorist Ronald Greene.

Greene died in the early morning hours of May 10, 2019, after a low-speed crash following a high-speed chase by the Louisiana State Police. After several minutes of brutalized treatment at the hands of a few LSP troopers, Greene, who didn’t resist, died on the way to medical treatment.

Only that a motorist died in custody was communicated to Edwards just hours later, although hours after that LSP released a now-deleted statement naming Greene and a vague description of the incident, as reported by Monroe media. That media days later also began reporting on earwitness statements that contradicted that Greene died in the crash and indicated he begged for his life during his beating.

This also contradicted what the LSP told Greene’s family, but Edwards remained curiously incurious about the incident, which surely he knew about as his staff in its monitoring of state media would have picked up on the discrepancy and the doubts of the Greene family. At the time, Edwards was locked in a tight reelection battle and the LSP under his purview had over the preceding few years been accused of several similar incidents involving black suspects; an important part of his electoral coalition was black Democrats.

Inconveniently, Union Parish no party District Atty. John Belton began an investigation. This was handed off to the U.S. Department of Justice a couple of months before the election and is still ongoing. While Edwards has claimed this transfer as a defense that he wasn’t trying to bury the incident out of concern it could harm his electoral standing among black voters, making that claim shows Edwards did know something of the event and is a sham excuse: anybody knows such a detailed review would last, and has, well beyond election day. By having the investigation turned over, he bought time to keep any damaging revelations from coming out that could damage his reelection chances.

His official story reads that he knew nothing was amiss until nearly a year after the election – even though Greene’s family had filed suit against the state six months after it – when after all that time and apparent suppressing of evidence within the LSP occurred, he reviewed audio and visual recordings of the entire incident, to which Greene’s family also gained some access but not to everything. This happened only after audio files were leaked to the Associated Press.

Even then, he made no public comment until over six months later after more of those electronic records leaked to the Associated Press, when he condemned trooper actions two years after the event. His excuse for not saying anything earlier he said was out of deference to the investigation, although how discussing a public record could have impeded that review is anybody’s guess.

However, recent revelations indicate more insidious behavior on Edwards’ part. The Oct., 2020 viewing of the entire incident showed footage of Greene dying at the hands of LSP troopers, even drawing his last breath. The delayed discovery of that video evidence was part of a continued pattern of obfuscation and deliberate avoidance in gathering if not destruction of evidence in the LSP’s own internal review.

That data should have left no doubt about how he died and who had responsibility for it. Yet Edwards and his staff, who continued to check in regularly with federal investigators over the probe, even knowing of the reticence of and within the LSP in revealing self-incriminating evidence, never inquired whether those officials had this piece of evidence, who in fact didn’t. Any governor interested in the truth would have made certain everything he knew of concerning the incident also was known to federal investigators. Nor did it immediately become available to the lawyers working on behalf of the Greene family suit.

Worst of all, despite his viewing, for almost a year after Edwards privately and publicly continued to assert that Greene died in the crash. He repeated that a month after his condemnatory remarks, nine months after viewing the record which clearly contradicted such an assertion, according to Louisiana Legislature leader testimony to federal investigators, and on a radio program three months after that.

Edwards’ passivity in his disinterred approach to finding the truth about the incident one could fob off as simply self-absorption displacing leadership. But it’s impossible to interpret his active efforts to mislead regarding Greene’s death as anything but an attempt cover up something, whatever that something may be and for whatever reason he has for doing so.

And it will get worse. Former LSP boss Kevin Reeves, he of the private journal that appears to offer some details about the incident and Edwards’ involvement in its aftermath, last week turned over such records to a legislative panel looking into the matter. The noose tightens still more.

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