Lawmakers investigating the deadly arrest of black motorist Ronald Greene are preparing to hold the former Louisiana State Police chief in contempt for refusing to hand over his diaries after talks broke down Monday in a dispute over an entry that mentioned police brutality and Governor John Bel. Edwards.
The bipartisan committee will move “as soon as possible” to hold Kevin Reeves in contempt and begin legal proceedings to force him to turn over three handwritten diaries he kept while running the beleaguered agency, said state Rep. Tanner Magee, who chairs the panel. . The Associated Press.
Holding the former head of the state’s top law enforcement agency in contempt would mark a drastic escalation by the committee, which has already drawn explosive testimony from current police officials that they believe Greene’s 2019 death was covered up and that his beating by soldiers after a high-speed pursuit amounted to “torture and murder.”
Reeves’ attorney, Lewis Unglesby, said he had prepared photocopies of nearly a dozen diary entries to give to Magee during a meeting, but the lawmaker “got excited and left” without the materials.
“Column. Reeves doesn’t hold anything back,” Unglesby told the AP. “He has done nothing but cooperate.”
The committee was formed in February after an AP report that Edwards was told within hours that the soldiers who arrested Greene had engaged in “protracted and violent fighting.” The Democrat, however, remained largely silent on the case for two years as state police told Greene’s family and wrote in reports that he died as a result of a car accident following a high-speed chase outside the suburbs. of Monroe.
The governor has said he refrained from speaking about the officers’ actions, even after privately viewing graphic body-camera footage of the arrest, due to an ongoing federal investigation. Since then, he has called the actions of the soldiers involved criminal and racist.
Last year, the AP obtained and released long-held body camera video showing what really happened: Soldiers shaking Greene with stun guns, punching him in the face and dragging him by ankle shackles as he moaned: “ I am your brother! I am scared! I am scared!”
The eight-member legislative panel has been interviewing state police and other officials for weeks in an attempt to piece together the agency’s handling of the case. Last week, a top state police official told lawmakers he was “baffled” that no police officers had faced criminal charges in Greene’s death. Another high-ranking official offered an extraordinary apology to Greene’s family, describing the 49-year-old’s fatal arrest as “complete disregard for the sanctity of human life.”
Lawmakers have said they intend to investigate what Edwards knew and when he knew it, but no one on his staff has yet been called to testify.
Reeves, who described Greene’s death as “horrible but legal” and resigned in late 2020 amid criticism, has sought to downplay his own involvement in the case. He told lawmakers in March that he had a follow-up conversation with Edwards about Greene’s death, regarding the coroner’s initial findings, but said the two didn’t discuss the case “in depth” until late 2020, when learned of Greene’s mistreatment, and a federal civil rights investigation surfaced in media accounts.
In his testimony, Reeves also revealed that he kept a diary of contemporary notes even after retiring as superintendent, but made no commitment to provide them to the committee.
“My diary is my personal business,” he said, “and I’m not here to discuss it.”
Lawmakers issued a subpoena for the diaries in April, days after Reeves’ attorney refused in a letter to voluntarily turn them over, citing privacy and security concerns.
Magee, a Republican, said he sat down in Unglesby’s office on Monday to discuss which parts of the “three little moleskin diaries” were relevant to the committee’s investigation. During the meeting, the attorney was willing to provide tickets that mentioned Greene by name, but resisted even showing Magee other parts without justification, the lawmaker said.
The talks were interrupted by a June 17, 2020 entry that Magee said mentioned the governor by name along with notes on how to handle body camera footage and police brutality in the future.
Magee said he thought the entry, which was made around the time protests over the killing of George Floyd were breaking out across the country, could be linked to Greene’s death. But she said Unglesby denied it and refused to turn it over, describing it as “just a random discussion about police brutality.”
“So I told him we’re going to proceed with the contempt charges,” Magee said.
Unglesby said he then emailed and faxed the entries he initially prepared to give to Magee, but withheld certain entries involving “names and events” that are unrelated to the scope of the committee. He refused to release the materials to AP.
A spokesman for the governor said Edwards likely saw Reeves on June 17, 2020, but did not discuss Greene. He noted that a legislative committee had a hearing on policing matters on that date and said the governor only learned of the “serious allegations surrounding the death of Mr. Greene in September 2020.”
Magee said the way Reeves’ diary was written, “like a to-do list,” made it difficult to tell what the entries mean and that he only saw a fraction of them.
“I think it’s premature to make any accusations,” he said. “But I think it’s important that we get the documents to put it in its proper context.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.