Friend of Senator Troy Brown asks DA to drop battery charge
NEW ORLEANS - The woman New Orleans Police dubbed the ‘side friend’ of La. Sen. Troy Brown is asking the Orleans Parish District Attorney to drop the battery charge against him.
Brown is accused of punching the woman, Katasha Willis, his girlfriend of 10 years, in the face at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown New Orleans the weekend of the Bayou Classic football game.
Willis signed an affidavit to drop the charges on August 2, 2016, and it was filed into the court record last week. She signed it two weeks after Brown was arrested again for an incident involving his wife at their home in Geismar.
A spokeswoman for the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office said Brown’s wife called 911 August 17 after Brown bit her on the arm.
The Ascension Parish District Attorney has not yet decided whether to formally charge Brown in that case.
The affidavit Willis filed last week reads, “…After careful consideration, she believes that the dismissal of this charge is in the best interest of all parties involved.” It goes on to say, “She has not been threatened, coerced, forced, intimidated or promised anything to drop this charge.”
The Orleans Parish District Attorney makes the ultimate decision about whether to move forward with the prosecution. DA Leon Cannizzaro has not yet dropped the case.
“When a victim calls a law enforcement agency and makes a complaint the decision whether to proceed from that point forward rests with the prosecutor and not the victim. While we appreciate the victim’s desires, our concern at this point is public safety and not the sole desires of the victim,” said Chris Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro.
“Just because she says I don't want to move forward doesn't mean that she can't be subpoenaed or she can't be forced to come to court or she can't be forced to testify,” said WWL-TV Legal Analyst Donald “Chick” Foret.
Prosecutors could arrest the victim on a material witness bond and hold her in jail until the court date. It’s a move that legal experts say is rarely used.
Tulane Law Professor Tania Tetlow often works with victims of domestic violence and says it’s not uncommon to have a victim recant, because they feel the risk is often not worth it.
“It's very typical. It's one thing to call 911 to keep yourself safe from immediate danger, but to actually push forward and testify against somebody, all for what usually results in a misdemeanor conviction, often a slap on the wrist, it puts you in great danger for something for no real purpose,” Tetlow said.
In the initial New Orleans citation, police accused Brown of punching Willis after the football game. The incident happened outside their hotel room on the 14th floor of the Hyatt near the elevators on Nov. 29, 2015.
Other witnesses were present when Brown allegedly punched Willis.
Brown initially said in a statement to WWL-TV that he couldn’t remember exactly what happened that night because he had brain damage from a 1991 car accident and he was consulting a neurosurgeon because he thought alcohol use was making his occasional memory loss worse.
Brown and his attorney, former La. Sen. Ed Murray, didn’t return a call seeking comment.
When Brown was arrested for allegedly punching Willis, he listed the Donaldsonville home that he lives in with his wife as his home address. That’s where he was arrested in July for a separate incident involving his wife.
Willis, his girlfriend, lives in a home in Labadieville that Brown bought, then gave to her several years ago.
Brown’s Geismar house is outside the boundaries of the state Senate district he was elected to represent. Brown has maintained he mostly lives in a duplex he owns in Napoleonville, although neighbors around that Donaldsonville duplex said otherwise.
Despite the questions about his residency, Brown was sworn in to serve a second term in the Louisiana Legislature in January.
Brown owns a home health business that receives most of its money from the state department of Health and Hospitals. That business has been investigated at least 27 times by DHH, something exposed in a WWL-TV investigative report.
After Brown’s latest arrest in July, Governor John Bel Edwards called for Brown to step down from his seat in the state Senate and a number of other lawmakers followed suit, including Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans and Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.
Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy has also called for Brown to step aside, however Brown has not returned calls and emails seeking comment on his plans.