Louisiana judge tosses some charges against officers in deadly arrest of Black driver Ronald Greene
Jul 11, 2023, 10:49 AM
(Louisiana State Police via AP, File)
A state judge has thrown out obstruction of justice charges against two of the five Louisiana lawmen indicted in the fatal 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, a death authorities initially blamed on a car crash before long suppressed body-camera video showed the white officers beating, stunning and dragging the Black motorist as he wailed, “I’m scared!”
While the rulings this week marked a setback for the prosecution, the judge let stand several other felony charges and did not address the most serious charge of negligent homicide against Master Trooper Kory York, who was seen in the graphic footage dragging Greene by his ankle shackles and leaving the heavyset man face down in the dirt for more than nine minutes.
Still, Judge Thomas Rogers threatened to toss several felony malfeasance counts against York and two other officers unless prosecutors this week correct certain “defects” in the language of the indictment — dismissals that would effectively gut the case.
“It was clear they didn’t do their homework,” Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said of prosecutors led by District Attorney John Belton. “What we’re seeing is a whittling away of Ronnie’s case. It’s a debacle.”
Belton declined to comment. It was not clear whether prosecutors would appeal the rulings.
Greene’s May 10, 2019, death on a roadside in rural northeastern Louisiana was initially blamed by the Louisiana State Police on a car crash at the end a high-speed chase. After officials refused for more than two years to release the body-camera video, the AP obtained and published the footage showing white troopers converging on Greene before he could get out of his car.
The officers have vigorously fought the charges since their December indictment, arguing in part that prosecutors failed to specify exactly how they broke the law.
Rogers ruled that the allegations failed to support obstruction charges against Dakota DeMoss, a responding trooper who turned off the audio on his body camera for much of Greene’s arrest, as well as Capt. John Peters, a regional troop commander at the time accused of telling detectives to conceal evidence in Greene’s case. The judge found neither officer’s actions amounted to “tampering” under Louisiana law.
DeMoss’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Peters told the AP he was looking forward to “the entire truth finally being placed on the table.”
But Rogers let stand an obstruction of justice charge against Lt. John Clary, the ranking officer on the scene of Greene’s arrest who is accused of withholding his bodycam footage from investigators. Clary’s long-suppressed, 30-minute footage is the only clip showing the moment a handcuffed, bloody Greene moans under the weight of two troopers, twitches and then goes still.
Greene’s death remains the focus of a yearslong federal criminal probe, and the U.S. Justice Department last year opened a sweeping civil rights investigation into the Louisiana State Police amid evidence that the agency has displayed a pattern of looking the other way in the face of beatings of mostly Black men.
For more AP coverage of the death of Ronald Greene: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-ronald-greene