One cannot reason with a prosecutor whose fixation on his quarry has blinded him to all else. That is, unless you are a federal judge who can see past the target, put it in proper perspective, and exercise the authority necessary to deny the hunter his prize.
The dogged pursuit of New Orleans attorney Ashton R. O’Dwyer Jr. by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten over a now-famous e-mail currently rests with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will decide whether to confirm the lower court’s decision to dismiss the case or accede to the government’s demand to try the case in front of a jury.
This case centers around an e-mail sent by O’Dwyer on Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 to Sean McGinn, Case Manager for Judge Jerry Brown of the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. O’Dwyer had filed for bankruptcy and was under court order to request permission to spend money from his Social Security check. Of the five e-mails he exchanged with McGinn that day, one asked McGinn to remind Judge Brown that he had been out of his antidepressant medication for some time and was unable to pay for a refill. That email read in part:
“I could not sleep last night, which I attribute to the effects of abruptly stopping my medication on Sunday, the 24th (my pills ‘ran out’, and I have no money to purchase more). Maybe my creditors would benefit from my suicide, but suppose I become “homicidal”? Given the recent ‘security breach‘ at 500 Poydras Street, a number of scoundrels might be at risk if I DO become homicidal. Please ask His Honor to consider allowing me to refill my prescription at Walgreen’s, and allowing me to pay them, which is a condition for my obtaining a refill.”
A federal appeals court ruling last week leads inescapably to the conclusion that New Orleans’ most famous disbarred attorney, Ashton O’Dwyer, may not be entirely crazy after all.
He still comes close, but the court handed him a small measure of vindication in throwing out a Katrina class-action settlement that he has always denounced as a lawyers’ scam to stiff the plaintiffs…[and]…he certainly was wronged by the cops who arrested him a few weeks after the storm, when he was attracting nationwide media attention for what he termed his “Robinson Crusoe” existence on St. Charles Avenue and his furious attacks on inept government.
He spent 16 hours at a makeshift jail at the Union Passenger Terminal, where he was locked in a portable metal cage, repeatedly pepper-sprayed and shot several times with beanbag pellets. He was never prosecuted, but nobody has been held to account for the maltreatment, for which he has produced ample photographic evidence.
Understandably, someone subjected to such might get a little crazy when no one is held accountable; but, let’s not go there today.
Professor Carl Bernofsky over at Tulane Link has an excellent piece on Ashton’s arrest without warrant, detention and beating which gets the hat tip for this post. Following is an embed of a 12 minute companion video Carl and his people put together. It is well worth the watch.
Folks, turns out that while the nation watched in horror as reports of rampant lawlessness in New Orleans after Katrina filled the media it was the NOPD that was at the heart of the problems. We’ve covered the coverage on this topic and in certain instances supplemented it. Slabbed’s own Ashton O’Dwyer unfortunately lived it in what for him would become a life changing event. Like Robert Davis, Ashton will probably never receive justice.
With that background in place it was natural that I would mention the impending indictments coming in on what is being called the Religious Street beatings. In the days after Katrina on Religious Street the NOPD would kick the teeth down one guy’s throat while beating another to the point where he lost control of his bowels. Unfortunately such stories are far too common in the aftermath of Katrina.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.
While the old children’s saying is not completely true, it takes a wise person to understand why people lash out, especially in circumstances such as those in the case of our own Ashton O’Dwyer, whom I finally had the pleasure of meeting in person last week.
Ashton, in many so ways, is a tragic figure woven into the fabric of our post Katrina world. Like Robert Davis, Ashton will probably never see justice done in his post Katrina abduction at the hands of the NOPD where he was incarcerated and repeatedly shot point-blank with beanbag rounds from a 12 gauge shotgun.
I just got in from Jackson and received the news. Either Nowdy or I will be back to update this post with more specifics. Magistrate Hays exhibited a quality of mercy that was not anticipated here at Slabbed and in doing so well served the cause of justice IMHO.