Neither rain nor cold (nor politics) stopped Judge Berrigan – Paul Rioux reports on “The Tour”

Berrigan arrived shortly before 10 a.m., wearing a bright red coat to guard against the chill and drizzle.

Paul Rioux’s story on NOLA.com – Judge tours River Birch offices to help determine if federal raid went too far – reports, “She spoke with attorneys from both sides under an awning for several minutes before entering the former bank building”.

Interesting.  Although it’s never “safe” to make assumptions, in this case, it’s safe to assume the physical space was well-suited for a blended operation.  Compliance with federally established exit requirements would be particularly important to a bank – and further weaken the Heebe-River Birch argument.

Exit routes must be permanent parts of the workplace. (think the white metal door in the “executive office”)

Exit stairs that continue beyond the level on which the exit discharge is located must be interrupted at that level by doors (another door beyond the white metal door in the “executive office)

Side-hinged exit doors must be used to connect rooms to exit routes…[and]…swing out in the direction of exit travel (the open dark finished door leading into the “executive office with a modular workspace clearly evident on the other side) OHSA Fact Sheet: Exits

According to Rioux’s story, Berrigan responded to a reporter’s question saying only that she “saw a lot of interesting things” – but, what she didn’t see should have been of even greater interest:

River Birch attorneys asked Berrigan to take note of the building directory at the main entrance listing the seven firms with offices on the third floor. The federal agent in charge of the raid has said he didn’t see the directory, but the firm contends it is clearly visible to anyone who uses the entrance.

Meanwhile, the government asked Berrigan to focus on the lack of “separate, independent, identifying labels or placards” for the various businesses sharing common office space.

Rouix also mentions the one of the government’s 140 photographs showed “a half-dozen empty pizza boxes on a counter, presumably from a lunch break during the 11-hour raid”. IMO, Judge Berrigan was far more likely to have noticed the disparity between the table where the module-inhabiting staff ate and the one for used for executive dining (and counting) than a photograph of pizza boxes clearly headed for the trash (sorry, no picture saved).

Employee Dining (common space for common employees)

Executive Dinning (common space for the executives of a common employer)

21 thoughts on “Neither rain nor cold (nor politics) stopped Judge Berrigan – Paul Rioux reports on “The Tour””

  1. Well, I had predicted that, after the briefing, and production of the photographs of the interior of the building, that Berrigan was going to CANCEL her physical inspection of the premesis. But what the hell do I know. Maybe she didn’t want to cancel her “lunch date” in the vicinity. What I DO find surprising is her conversing with the attorneys for “both” (translate “ALL”) sides about the inspection “off-the-record”. Ashton O’Dwyer a/k/a “The WHITE Henry Glover”.

  2. Good point but it could be that she just said “good morning” and reminded them they could only observe and make no comment about the case – maybe someone “in the know” will comment.

  3. Article said she stated she found some ‘interesting’ things…paraphrasing of course.

    I was shocked with her commenting at all on an active case…

  4. I’m thinking that’s just “her way” of saying “no comment” – as I imagine she did see some really interesting things (just hope she saw them with her “good eye” as opposed to the one she used to look at Katrina litigation)

  5. I’m not sure if you guys have Photo No. 135? (yes, I could not resist while in the neighborhood taking a look at the clerk’s office one day)

    Looks like a good 1′-3′ space there between the woody (waste) room and the next office?

    Are there four doors?

    If the photos are all in order, it looks like one door is a terlit (?); one comes from the general cubicle / filing area, but another just leads to one other large office?

    In any event it looks like the room was constructed with guaranteed quiet (and prevention of eavesdropping) in mind. Possible?

    By the way the bank that was there was Delta Bank and Trust Company, and then Regions Bank.

    Also located on the 3rd Floor, 2000 Belle Chasse Hwy., at one time (or still): Danny & Clydes Po-Boys & More, LLC. Disappointing that, looks like I will have to take them off my poboy list.

    I don’t know if this is of interest or not, but the property itself (acquired from something called Willswood Plantation LLC out of Labadieville for $36,000+ in 2003) is owned by something called “HWY-90 LLC”, which is owned by Albert J. Ward, Jr. (Butch?) (agent is Richard Richter).

    Ward has 20 companies that pop up under Albert Ward. There are another 17 that appear under A. J. Ward.

    Some of these 37 companies appear to be conduits for campaign payments, such as $5,000 to Mitch Landrieu in 2006 and $2500 to Tim Coulon when he ran for parish president.

    Among the properties he owns are Live Oak Builders, Willow Inc. (owned with BK Sneed (father of NO vice-mayor Emily Sneed) and giving $5,000 to Mitch Landrieu, again), and of course River Birch (owned with Heebe).

    It’s not just River Birch & Heebe entwined in there, it’s River Birch & Ward too.

  6. Just saw that, Tele. You see what looked like a crawl space just loaded with old files? I’ve been going back through the exhibits. Great way to start the weekend but I found a better shot of the big room of modular workspaces and a couple of other interesting shots.

    You don’t happen to know if there were two sets of stairs do you? Anyone riding by the building should be able to tell.

    I hope the SLABBED nation can take one more set of pictures.

  7. Telemachus – You left out BK Sneed’s other most notable progeny….Jennifer Sneed Heebe!
    Former complicit councilperson, and macho freddie the wifebeater’s “old lady”!

    Jeff Parish politics not only has nepotism…it has INBREEDING too!

  8. Kidd, of course, you’re right. I thought about that afterwards. I mentioned Emily Sneed (Arata) because I found those two $5,000 donations to Mitch Landrieu by two of those sub-entities. Who knows there may be more. A lot of the focus is on Jefferson but the Wards likely have their own New Orleans woodpile yet to be poked by the Orleans media.

    JP may get tepid interest from some media quarters, but the fact that Ward (the father of NO’s vice-mayor and mayoral campaign manager, and a major campaign contributor to the mayor), has been raided by the feds, and that Gentilly Landfill is mentioned by name on the warrant, you would think would garner a modicum of interest.

    As with Georges this could cross parish lines.

    I mean what would you think if Jennifer Sneed had been appointed co-CAO? In JP, outrage; in Orleans it’s another Sneed but not so much.

  9. A little more fyi – besides the Gentilly Landfill in Orleans there is also the Chef Menteur Landfill:

    – 9/24/08 TP:

    “””””Despite opposition from former New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy and others, a New Jersey company won ****unanimous City Planning Commission approval Tuesday for its plan to build a plant next to the Industrial Canal to sort and recycle construction and demolition debris.

    The result was in sharp contrast to the commission’s ****4-4 vote on an almost identical proposal from the same company in January.”

    “The plant, operating around the clock, would not accept household waste, tires, asbestos-containing materials or infectious or hazardous wastes.

    The 70 percent of the waste materials it receives that can’t be recycled would be sent in railroad cars to a landfill in Killona. No materials would be buried at the site.

    Stoller denied claims by opponents that the plant would take materials from other parishes and states, and that debris and trash would be transported to the site by barges. He said it would be “a state-of-the-art recycling facility,” not “a dump.”

    But Ron Nabonne, a local political consultant who helped organize opposition to the project, said Stoller was trying to “put lipstick on a pig,” and he and the Barthelemys warned that once the facility is open, TransLoad could try to expand the types and sources of debris it would accept.

    Thomas Thibodeaux said New Orleans does not produce enough construction waste to make such a plant profitable, but Stoller said 12,000 cubic yards of debris go into the Gentilly Landfill every day.

    Lemona Chandler, a leader of the Lower Gentilly Neighborhood Association, said recycling “is the way of the future” and the plant would reduce, not increase, health and safety hazards in Gentilly.

    Nabonne said the commission should not approve any such projects until the city’s new master plan and revised zoning ordinance are ready next year, but Commissioners ****George Amedee and Lou Volz said the commission cannot put its regular work on hold that long.

    Amedee, who voted against the project in January, said he thought its supporters had done “an excellent job of addressing the concerns” he and others raised then.

    The commission’s 9-0 vote to endorse the plan prompted one opponent, the Rev. Mel Jones, to shout, “Shame on you all.” “”””

    From the 10/18/08 TP:

    “””For the second time this year, a New Jersey company has dropped its request to New Orleans officials for permission to build a plant next to the Industrial Canal to sort and recycle construction and demolition debris.

    The company’s chief executive officer, David Stoller, who withdrew his latest application shortly before the City Council was due to vote on it Thursday, said he will submit his plan a third time after he shores up community support. “We intend to see it through,” he said.

    But opponents, including former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, vow they will keep fighting the plant, which they warn could threaten the health of nearby residents and further retard Gentilly’s slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

    The company, TransLoad America Inc., originally proposed building waste transfer and recycling plants both next to the Industrial Canal and at a site next to the Michoud Canal in eastern New Orleans. Anticipating defeat, it withdrew both applications in March before the council voted on them.

    The latest proposal involved only a site on the west bank of the Industrial Canal, in Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell’s district.

    Unlike the first proposals, on which the City Planning Commission divided 4-4, the new plan gained unanimous support from the commission. TransLoad also lined up support this time from many neighborhood organizations in Gentilly and nearby areas.

    But opponents led by local political consultant Ron Nabonne continued a drumbeat of criticism, and Hedge-Morrell said she would have voted against the proposal Thursday.

    Although Stoller said community support for the project remains “tremendous,” Hedge-Morrell agreed with Nabonne that some of the leaders who earlier had endorsed the plan have changed their minds.

    She said Stoller needs to persuade leaders of the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association and Upper 9th Ward neighborhood groups to get behind the project, which would attract hundreds of trucks a day and operate around the clock. She suggested he form a community development corporation to make grants to community projects. “”””

    “”””The plant would not accept household waste, tires, asbestos-containing materials or infectious or hazardous wastes. The 70 percent of the waste materials it receives that can’t be recycled would be sent to a landfill in Killona. No materials would be buried at the site.

    Stoller, who said he is one of the few business owners offering to invest millions of dollars in New Orleans, alleged that Nabonne is “doing the bidding of the landfills ,” such as River Birch on the West Bank, which has a contract with the city to receive New Orleans’ residential solid waste. He said the landfill owners see his project as “a direct threat.”

    Nabonne denied that he has received any money from landfill owners “or any other group” to oppose what he said would be “a dump.” “””

    Note:

    – The River Birch warrant includes a reference to a “Jody Amedee” – is he/she related to George Amedee?

    – community development corporation, grants to community projects: Uh-huh. $$$$$ to pols, maybe this is what is meant by being a good “community partner.”

    – Barthelemy is on the River Birch side. So is Cythia Hedge Morrell.

    – That makes TWO landfills in Orleans that River Birch is trying to get closed.

  10. Just to finish this thought:

    – The Chef Menteur landfill “was ordered closed within months of its opening after the city refused to grant it a permit.” 01.20.10 TP

    – The Landrieu administration has made a great effort at reducing three of its four waste disposal contracts – guess which one has not been touched?:

    “Though the administration has failed so far to secure long-term reductions in the cost of its contracts with Richard’s Disposal and Metro Disposal, which pick up garbage in neighborhoods outside the French Quarter and Central Business District, the mayor’s budget proposal reflects the amount Landrieu believes the city should pay: $12.3 million for Richard’s and $10.4 million for Metro. The firms currently earn a combined $27.5 million annually.

    The other top-dollar sanitation contracts include $5.5 million for dumping trash at River Birch landfill and $3.8 million for SDT Waste & Debris Services. The latter sum reflects SDT’s recent agreement to take a 25 percent annual pay cut.”

    – 10.21.10 TP.

    “Last month, as part of several measures aimed at balancing the 2011 budget, the City Council voted to increase the monthly sanitation fee from $12 to $24 for households and from $20 to $48 for businesses.

    Even with the price reductions, Landrieu has said the increase is unlikely to cover the actual cost to the city for trash collection and disposal. In addition to the contracts with Richard’s and Metro, the city has contracts with River Birch Landfill and SDT Waste & Debris Services, which provides daily trash pickup in the French Quarter and Central Business District.

    If Metro and Richard’s agree to the lowest proposed house count and if the city is successful in getting River Birch to decrease its tipping fees, the combined cost of all four contracts would be about $400,000 more than the roughly $32 million listed for sanitation contracts in the 2011 budget. If higher house counts are used and River Birch stands firm, the total bill could reach $35.1 million.”

    – 02.01.11 TP

    ****** Has anyone noticed that out of four contractors the only trash contract to NOT get cut by the Landrieu administration was the River Birch contract?

    There is no record or report of the City of NO trying to get River Birch to decrease or lower their tipping fees. This reads like an assumption from the TP, I’d say it ain’t happening and it hasn’t happened.

  11. Nowdy and Tele,

    I’m going to tell y’all a bedtime story about something that happened along the way when the FBI visited Fred and Jim at their offices, and it begins like this:

    ‘… Prosecutors also said agents during the raid discovered “de facto contraband evidence” that “goes beyond what can be considered a traditional white collar investigation.”
    http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2011/01/judge_plans_to_visit_river_bir.html

    And what is that evidence?… sorry:
    01/05/2011 29 **SEALED** Motion by USA to seal exhibit (plh, ) (Entered: 01/07/2011)

    It’s no secret that Jim Ward had and has a penchant and a reputation of recording his conversations with people…just think of the Dan Robin litigation case. In fact Jim Ward pled with the government to use his wired conversations as a means of prejudicing Robins from obtaining the commission that River Birch had agreed to pay if River Birch were to have favorable legislation passed to establish the original landfill. The end result, the FBI tells Ward to go fuck himself, and Robbin get’s his cut as per the commission contract.
    http://slabbed.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/2004ca1561june2005-pub-13.pdf

    Let’s suppose the FBI had interviewed Jim and Fred at the Belle Chase offices; a reasonable assumption considering this quoted response by River Birch after the raid:

    “We have been open and cooperative with the authorities from the beginning. We have offered to provide any additional information and any and all records. We are disappointed that the government elected to proceed in this fashion. At the end of the day, we are confident, our good name will be vindicated,

  12. Interesting take ‘Gate. However, if what I identified as an “executive meeting/dining room” was the “counting room” some readers suggested, IMO it’s possible the “discovery” was financial records – unless Heebe has such fine clothes he has to travel to Switzerland to do his “laundry” (per Tele’s comment quoting a conversation he/she found on Heebe’s fb page)

  13. Nowdy just in case you didn’t know, the JP Politico tradition of going to Switzerland with cash began with John Schwegmann, Sr., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_G._Schwegmann .

    The problem with having evidence sealed in the EDLA (as in the Canal Street Brothel Case) is that we may never know the substance of the “de facto contraband evidence” that

  14. Okay Nowdy here I go again. This time I am premising my hypothesis (guess) with value placed on the following definitional boundaries.

    WHITE COLAR CRIME, in context:
    “White-collar crimes are different then street crimes because they are non-violent illegal activities which principally involve traditional notions of deceit, deception, concealment, manipulation, breach of trust, subterfuge or illegal circumvention.”

    “…the term today generally encompasses a variety of nonviolent crimes usually committed in commercial situations for financial gain. Many white-collar crimes are especially difficult to prosecute because the perpetrators are sophisticated criminals who have attempted to conceal their activities through a series of complex transactions and a pyramid of corporate entities. Some of the most common white-collar offenses include: antitrust violations (monopoly)… environmental law violations… bribery… kickbacks… public corruption…money laundering…
    http://www.diogenesllc.com/whitecollarcrime.html

    NON-TRADITIONAL WHITE COLLAR CRIME, in context:
    Organized crime groups seek out corrupt public officials in executive, law enforcement, and judicial roles so that their activities can avoid, or at least receive early warnings about, investigation and prosecution.

    Organized crime groups also do a range of business and labour racketeering activities, such as setting up monopolies in industries such as garbage collecting, construction and cement pouring, bid rigging, getting “no-show” and “no-work” jobs, money laundering, political corruption, bullying and ideological clamping.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organized_crime

    DE FACTO CONTRABAND ?
    de facto is a Latin expression that means “by [the] fact.” In law, it means “in practice but not necessarily ordained by law” or “in practice or actuality, but without being officially established.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_facto

    The word contraband, reported in English since 1529, from Medieval French contrebande “a smuggling,” denotes any item which, relating to its nature, is illegal to be possessed or sold.

    “…i.e. goods that may normally be owned but are liable to be seized because they were used in committing an unlawful act and hence begot illegally, such as…the fruits of fraud, forgery etc”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contraband

    My turn again: Another plausible and educated guess could conclude that the “de facto contraband evidence” of a “non-traditional white collar crime” is supportive of both a Criminal RICO and a Civil RICO prosecution. That the collusion between the principals of River Birch and Jefferson Parish Officials (both elected and appointed) to award River Birch with an illegal landfill monopoly is in fact a criminal conspiracy that the now sealed evidence would establish as a fact.

  15. Well, Whit definitely raised the bar! No time for research so I’ll tag on to “de facto contraband evidence” and add another guess.

    Maybe whoever takes out the “laundry” brings something back, probably not cigars. Garbage trucks could be a great distribution system.

    Any connections between this group and that case Sop covered – the Louisiana lawyer involved with a group trafficking drugs?

  16. Nowdy: Is that Hugh Sibley you ask about? He recently testified before a grand jury in Maryland in some unknown matter.

    His sentencing has been put off a couple of times and it appears he is cooperating on more than one matter.

    His CLOSE friends and running buddies were Wendell Gauthier and Calvin Fayard.

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