by Piper Hutchinson/LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE–Third District Attorney John Belton recently told a House committee that he will convene a grand jury to consider charges against the state troopers involved in the death of Ronald Greene.
Greene, a Black motorist, died after a violent encounter with State Police in which he was beaten, tased and dragged while shackled after a high-speed chase that ended in a crash outside Monroe.
“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” Belton told the special committee investigating the Greene case. “I believe state and federal crimes were committed, including federal civil rights violations.”
Belton said he is moving forward with charges because he has been giving approval to do so by federal authorities, who had previously asked him to wait until their investigation was complete.
“I can’t promise an indictment or conviction, but I did promise to Ms. Hardin that I will continue to seek justice for Mr. Greene and his family,” Belton said, referring to Greene’s mother Mona Hardin.
Belton said he was told by Alexander Van Hook, then the acting U.S. attorney for the region, that indictments would come by fall 2021. That never happened. Belton said that Brandon Brown, who was recently named to the position, gave him the go-ahead to move forward with charges.
Belton told the committee that federal officials have promised to share information with him.
“I did not recuse my office,” Belton said. “In fact, I have maintained prosecutorial power to prosecute state crimes that occurred in my district.”
“I believe some of the officers’ actions were above the law,” he added. “They committed criminal acts, including violating Mr. Greene’s civil rights.”
The Greene case came back to public attention earlier this year, three years after his death, after the Associated Press released a report alleging that Gov. John Bel Edwards knew about the circumstances of Greene’s death earlier than he publicly admitted.
The committee is tasked with investigating Greene’s death and whether a police coverup occurred.
Leaked videos depicting the troopers’ violent actions led to widespread public condemnation of their actions, but only one trooper, Kory York, ever faced punishment. York was suspended for 50 hours.
Belton did not specify which troopers might face charges. But he did tell legislators that former State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves and current Superintendent Lamar Davis are not under investigation.
Belton also did not specify what charges he will seek, only telling lawmakers he will “look at everything.”
“I will never, and I repeat, I will never make prosecutorial decisions due to political pressure or public opinion…No one is above the law—no one,” Belton said.