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Legal experts: State Police violated the law allowing agency leaders' cell phones to be erased

2 years 5 months 3 days ago Wednesday, February 16 2022 Feb 16, 2022 February 16, 2022 4:27 PM February 16, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Seasoned legal experts and auditors told WBRZ Wednesday that Louisiana State Police violated laws when the agency allowed top officials to get their cell phones wiped in the wake of Ronald Greene's death.

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"The period for maintaining public records is three years so when you destroy or sanitize a phone those are public records and that's a violation of state law," said Rafael Goyeneche, a corruption watchdog and former prosecutor. "It's even more troubling when it's the chief law enforcement agency of Louisiana."

Retired Legislative Auditor Darryl Purpera also echoed those sentiments.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed last week that State Police's No. 2 man, Doug Cain, got his phone wiped one year after Ronald Greene died. Initially, State Police did not want to provide a date of when that happened, claiming the agency kept no records. However, WBRZ asked State Police to check with Cain, who estimated it happened in February 2020. That month is significant because it's the same month that the FBI received the case notes from the Ronald Greene investigation.

Greene, a Black man, led State Police on a high-speed chase in the Monroe area. Body camera footage from state troopers showed Greene was brutally beaten. Greene died in their custody. When his family was told about his death, troopers claimed he died in a crash, but video shows Greene was alive and apologizing when troopers pulled him out of his car.

Amid the investigation it appeared body camera videos were hidden, and now we're told State Police had cell phones "sanitized" for their top officials during that time.

"It's very problematic that Doug Cain had his phone wiped," State Representative Edmond Jordan told WBRZ last week. "I will tell you, in light of the revelations of the text messages that were exposed by you guys last week, that is a real possibility that at minimum he should be placed on leave."

Jordan said he also asked about the sanitization of cell phones at State Police around the same time the WBRZ Investigative Unit began asking questions. Jordan said the order came from the top.

"Kevin Reeves and Faye Morrison," Jordan responded when asked who gave the order.

"Nothing what State Police have done in recent past has been prudent," Goyeneche said. "I think their ability and credibility to conduct internal investigations and hold troopers accountable is problematic at best."

Goyeneche said the legislative inquiry scheduled to begin soon, coupled with a federal investigation into Ronald Greene's death, will air out the truth.

"Louisiana State Police have done a poor job fulfilling their oath of office which is to uphold the laws of Louisiana, which they clearly violated," Goyeneche said.

We reached out to State Police for a response on this story. WBRZ did not hear back.

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