Judge Tosses Some Charges Against Officers Indicted in Ronald Greene Death

“Louisiana State Police – Ford Crown Victoria” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Louisiana judge has thrown out obstruction of justice charges against two of the five Louisiana State Police officers indicted in the fatal 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene.

On Tuesday, Judge Thomas Rogers ruled that the prosecution failed to support obstruction charges against Capt. John Peters, who was a regional troop commander at the time of Greene’s arrest accused of telling detectives to conceal evidence in Greene’s case, as well as Dakota DeMoss, a responding trooper who turned off the audio on his body camera during most of Greene’s arrest. Judge Rogers said neither officer’s actions amounted to “tampering” under Louisiana law.

“[Peters] is alleged to have said ‘Bury it in the report,’ and ‘Don’t send the videos unless [the DA] asks for it,” Roger’s ruling states, “‘Bury it in the report’ presumably is an admonition not to destroy, alter or remove inculpating evidence from a report, but to place it in the middle or towards the end of the report where a reader might overlook it.”

“Likewise, the second statement about not sending videos unless asked for is not an admonition to destroy, alter, or remove the videos,” Rogers added, noting that while the statements were not “in the true spirit of cooperation you would expect from a law enforcement officer,” they do not constitute an obstruction of justice charge.

He also threatened to toss several felony malfeasance counts against Master Trooper Kory York and two other officers unless the prosecutors correct what he called “defects in the language of their indictment – which would ultimately destroy the case. Eight of 10 of York’s malfeasance in office charges could be thrown own unless prosecutors “adequately identify each specific criminal transaction” in the videos of Greene’s arrest, and a ninth could be quashed for “disjunctive charges” unless prosecutors can fix issues raised by the court.

Judge Rogers allowed an obstruction of justice charge against Lt. John Clary to stand. Clary was the ranking officer on the seen during Greene’s arrest, and is accused of withholding his bodycam footage from investigators. Clary’s camera footage shows the moment of Greene’s death as he was held down under the weight of two troopers. However, Clary could have his malfeasance charge quashed unless prosecutors provide exact moments in the video evidence supporting their accusations. Rogers have given them three days to do so.

“It was clear they didn’t do their homework,” said Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother of prosecutors led by Union Parish District Attorney John Belton. “What we’re seeing is a whittling away of Ronnie’s case. It’s a debacle.”

Following Greene’s death, LSP initially blamed a car crash following a high-speed chase. However, nearly two years later, the Associated Press obtained and published body camera footage showing white LSP officers tasing Greene three times, as well as punching and dragging him. Officers left Greene laying face down for nine minutes – at one point, when he attempted to roll onto his side, an officer put his foot on Green, rolling him back face down into the dirt.

Greene’s initial autopsy report noted that lacerations on his head were “inconsistent with motor vehicle collision injury” and were “most consistent with multiple impact sites from a blunt object.”

Following the AP’s initial report on the video ACLU Executive Director Alanah Odom said that “Ronald Greene was tortured to death by officers who denied him life-saving aid for more than nine minutes,” adding that “Louisiana State Police, despite having a long history of excessive force and civil rights violations, are often charged with investigating allegations of excessive force and misconduct by local departments.”

Last year, the U.S. Justice Department opened a “pattern-or-practice” civil rights investigation into the LSP’s use of excessive force against Black men.

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