St. Tammany, Boss Reed and the “Just Us” Center
by: Raquel Okyay
On May 2, disgraced St. Tammany Parish former District Attorney Walter P. Reed was convicted in federal district court of 18 charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, making false statements and money laundering. Reed now faces more than 275 years in prison. He also now faces more than $4.5 million in penalties.
Reed, who was the former D.A. for 30 years in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, established a lucrative enterprise over large swaths of parish government – all to the detriment of the citizens who put him there! The two parishes lie across Lake Pontchartrain North of New Orleans.
Reed is the modern incarnation of William M. Tweed who came to be known as “Boss” Tweed. Tweed’s corrupt empire of Tammany Hall in New York involved every branch of government including the courts. Boss Tweed, a 19th century state politician, was ultimately convicted on political corruption charges and died in prison. Tweed’s progeny, “Boss” Reed likewise has been convicted and faces sentencing by Federal Judge Eldon Fallon on Dec. 15th.
When “reform” candidate Warren L. Montgomery took office in Jan. 2015, he inherited Reed’s unethical conflicts, unsavory cronies and unchallenged criminal schemes. Montgomery campaigned on a platform of “qualifications not connections”. Elected almost two years ago, Montgomery replaced Reed with high hopes from the citizens for integrity, honesty and a semblance of justice. High hopes that never materialized.
In April for example, instead of answering to the citizens who supported his election, D.A. Montgomery sued the St. Tammany Parish Council and Parish President to gain additional control. Did Montgomery do so in order to eliminate troubling questions about funds bizarrely paid to his office by private insurance companies? Check the record and the answer to this question is an astounding – yes.
Wait! Don’t district attorneys prosecute criminals, not defend their antics?
Not under the umbrella of Boss Reed, and not under the umbrella of his replacement, either. It has become a known and further habit in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes that D.A. Montgomery is continuing Reed’s outrageously expedient practice of prosecuting citizens for filing civil rights actions in order to protect the insurance companies from making payments.
In the majority of cases, legal scholars agree that when a D.A. represents the very insurance companies whose clients are sheriff’s deputies who have allegedly violated a citizen’s civil rights, it can make the related criminal convictions by the D.A. constitutionally void.
Coincidentally, when the D.A.’s office represents those insurance companies, the companies do not pay filing fees, since they are waived by law. OneBeacon became the insurance provider for St. Tammany former sheriff Rodney “Jack” Strain in 2014. The same insurance company provides an all-inclusive policy for the entire parish including law enforcement’s liability coverage.
Boss Reed unduly exercised influence over parish agencies and criminal cases while engaged as “of Counsel” through the law firm McCranie, Sistrunk, Anzelmo. Several of the federal crimes he was convicted of on May 2 involved his diversion of these moneys to benefit himself. Adding insult to injury, a majority of the judges who presided over these cases, both criminal and civil, were former assistant district attorneys working for Reed.
Makes one wonder if playing along was not a requirement for seeking judgeships in St. Tammany Parish.
Not only does Montgomery continue to prosecute individuals who have filed civil rights actions in federal and state courts, but he also continues to employ his friend, Asst. D.A. Ronnie Gracianette, who admitted under oath to helping former sheriff Strain create a “victim letter” in order to block a civil rights lawsuit. Naturally this benefits the insurance companies that insure the sheriff and his deputies.
In multiple federal civil rights lawsuits, Shane Gates has been blocked by the judicial circuit, despite the fact that after all evidence was presented and witnesses testified, 12 St. Tammany jurors found Gates “NOT GUILTY”. Ten years later, Montgomery continues to prosecute Gates for the alleged misdemeanor charge of D.W.I. to avoid liability and protect the insurers he represents. Gates was brutally beat unconscious when he was pulled over in his vehicle by St. Tammany sheriff deputies in Nov. 2006
If Montgomery were to drop the remaining bogus D.W.I. charge, Gates’ civil rights cases will move forward in federal court and 10 years of prosecutorial misconduct, fraud, fabrication of evidence and alteration of public records, will expose more of Boss Reed and dozens of other elected and appointed “civil servants”.
Recall that Reed’s law firm, McCranie, Sistrunk, Anzelmo, who have offices in Covington and New Orleans, represented the cops who beat up Mr. Gates, the Sheriff’s office and simultaneously the insurers for the parish police. Going forward with a civil rights action might expose Montgomery, the alleged “reform” candidate, for continuing many of these criminal schemes.
Victims that were interviewed said federal law enforcement agencies were stunned when the public evidence probative of these Hobbs Act crimes related to insurance fraud, was shared with them.
St. Slammany (as it is known locally) is alive and well in Louisiana while separation of government, ethics, American decency and old fashioned integrity twist in the wind. The entire judicial bench of St. Tammany recused themselves after being sued by Gates, leaving only the D.A. to block Gate’s civil rights suit.
Ten Judges, two Sheriffs, two Clerks of Court, two U.S. Attorneys and one convicted D.A. later, the political machine is still blocking federally protected constitutional rights and the freedoms that every citizen deserves and officials are sworn to uphold. Yes, Boss Tweed would be Proud!
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St. Tammany, Boss Reed and the “Just Us” Center