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After lawmaker fuels coverup claim on Ronald Greene case, La. governor’s office swings back

Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old man from Monroe, died in 2019 after a car crash and being beaten...
Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old man from Monroe, died in 2019 after a car crash and being beaten by State Police troopers.(MGN / Louisiana State Police)
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 1:49 PM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A Louisiana state lawmaker’s testimony about Gov. John Bel Edwards’ knowledge of the Ronald Greene death investigation is drawing a strong denial from the governor’s top staffers.

At a meeting of the state’s House and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday, May 26, Debbie Villio, R - Kenner, told lawmakers the governor’s top legal experts viewed a video showing Greene’s confrontation with state troopers.

Greene’s death occurred in May of 2019 after he refused to pull over for a traffic stop and led troopers on a chase across northern Louisiana, officials said.

Body camera footage revealed that after stopping Greene, members of law enforcement beat, kicked, and used a stun gun on Greene while he was handcuffed and face down on the ground.

Villo’s testimony revealed that the governor’s attorneys viewed Lt. John Clary’s body camera footage. His body camera video is considered to be among the most extensive and damning evidence that troopers brutalized Greene. However, the video was never submitted in 2019 with other evidence for a criminal review by the state prosecutors. Its existence was not widely known until more than a year later.

In a scathing letter sent to Villio, the governor’s top attorney, Matthew Block, referred to the lawmaker’s claims as, “misleading and incorrect.”

The governor’s office also sent a statement to WAFB Friday, May 27 saying, “the Governor had absolutely no way of knowing that one video he was shown in fall of 2020 had not been provided to the criminal investigators in 2019.”

Villio also provided a statement to WAFB.

“There is nothing for me to correct but rather the Governor to explain. The letter from Governor John Bel Edwards’s Executive Counsel Matthew Block is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to confuse timelines in hopes of distracting others from the primary focus of the investigation,” said Villio. “As a committee member, I have been tasked with following the evidence wherever it leads. There can be no tolerance for bias or brutality. Nor can we allow anyone to act outside the rule of law. If we find any actions by anyone are out of line - regardless of their position - we will shine the light on the injustice and make recommendations accordingly, in doing so, it is my hope to bring some closure to the family and the general public and restore confidence in the LSP. \”

The spat between Villio and the governor’s office is the latest to bubble up as state lawmakers, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and media organizations probe the mishandlings of Greene’s death investigation at the hands of LSP.

The governor himself has faced questions about how much he knew about the case, when he knew it, and whether he had the power to launch his own investigation into the case. Edwards and his top staffers have claimed they learned crucial details about the incident while the public did and did not have any influence over the investigation.

The governor and other members of his staff may soon be called to answer those questions again if they are called to testify before the legislature’s Special Committee to Inquire into the Circumstances and Investigation of the Death of Ronald Greene.

Union Parish District Attorney John Belton is responsible for reviewing the case to determine if charges can be brought against the members of law enforcement involved in the beating. He did not provide a timeline on when findings from his review will be presented to a federal grand jury.

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