Observe the chronology of statements from Frank DeSalvo related to the incident at the Beach Corner and ensuing cover up discussed below.
DeSalvo has been the go-to lawyer for the Police Association of New Orleans and for pretty much any officer accused of a crime.
DeSalvo represented every officer investigated in this case.
1. From February 2008, after news of the Beach Corner dispute became public:
Frank DeSalvo, an attorney for the officers involved in the fight, disputed the assertion that racism played a role in the fight. "They want to call this racism?" he said. "Well, racism works both ways. What the (NOPD) is doing is wrong. They are taking the best of the best officers off the streets because of this. It hurts the city."I don't really understand what he means by 'racism works both ways.' Is he saying the RTA employees are racist for filing a complaint against the officers that beat them and planted evidence? Or is he calling Riley a racist for putting the accused white officers on desk duty?
2. From April of 2009, after disciplinary action was taken against two of the officers:
Frank DeSalvo, an attorney representing Lapene, said the officer did not strike anybody during the brawl. Witnesses have wrongly identified Lapene as being involved, he said.
"It is a clear case of mistaken identity," said DeSalvo, who added that the officer plans to appeal to the Civil Service Commission. "We are very, very disappointed in the decision."
In claiming mistaken identity, isn't DeSalvo essentially saying that it must have been one of his other clients?
3. On Jennifer Samuels' suspension (she was the one who apparently took a gun from another RTA worker's car):
DeSalvo said she will eventually be cleared, and that the only mistake Samuel made was drinking off-duty and getting involved in police work.
"She stopped a violent act from happening," he said.
Again, it's not clear what DeSalvo is arguing here. Is he working off the original report that lead to Lamont Williams' arrest even though charges were immediately dropped because of contradictory statements? Or is he saying something else? The mistaken identity comment seems to be based on the premise that Williams was attacked but the Samuel defense would seem to rely on the original report, on which civilian witness David McMyne admits to lying after being coached by the police.
4. Upon release of the Public Integrity Bureau report on the incident:
Here, he seems to be arguing that because three of the other officers present - and probably responsible to some degree for the fight, improper arrest of Williams, and attempts to game the police report cover up their actions - were not charged, the entire internal investigation should be thrown out.
The NOPD said there was insufficient evidence to sustain allegations against Ganthier, Boudreau and Jason Samuel, and they were not disciplined.
DeSalvo, the police attorney, noted Thursday that this lends credence to his assertion that the internal investigation was botched.
"When you put everything together, you'll find that the (PIB) report is a lie, " he said.DeSalvo promised the facts of the case would come out in the officers' appeal hearings.
5. Upon filing suit against the PIB:
"There were some lies involved, and they all came from the Public Integrity Bureau," DeSalvo said. "None of these officers involved in this incident were found to be untruthful."
The attorney for the accused officers said the police department's investigation is flawed and that Sgt. Darryl Watson, who conducted the investigation, may have broken the law.
"He filed a false police report," the attorney said. "They have been disseminating it. There have been repercussions to police officers because of it and now it's time for him to eat his words and we are going to feed it to him."
Setting the menacing threat aside, it's quite a stretch to say that "none of the officers involved in this incident were found to be untruthful" given how obvious it is that Mr. Lamont Williams was arrested on weapons charges without possessing a gun, a witness admitted to being coached by police to lie, and that Williams was brutalized.
I mean if it's clear that one or more of the officers took part in some serious criminal conduct - be it assault, planting evidence, or coaching a witness to lie - how can DeSalvo credibly represent all of those involved? Invariably, at least one of them did something seriously wrong.
That's not to say his representation hasn't been effective, because as we can see, it would appear as though the NOPD officers are getting off pretty much scot-free. Even Lapene landed soft with the DA and although he resigned from that job, his firing from the NOPD is still under appeal with the civil service commission.
I will give DeSalvo this:
That PIB report is pretty poorly written. Lots of grammar errors and clarity problems.
I can relate.
Mr. DeSalvo is quite close to our District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro.
A dispatch from the DA's swearing-in:
Cannizzaro, who enjoyed a 22-year career as a judge until retiring from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal last year to run for district attorney, was treated to a lengthy, thoughtful ceremony Sunday, attended by a few hundred people, including a host of elected city and state officials.
"It looks like a coronation," campaign strategist Billy Schultz joked as he opened the ceremony, which featured a full-length program of speakers including defense attorney Frank DeSalvo; Clerk of Civil District Court Dale Atkins; state Rep. Austin Badon Jr., D-New Orleans; Magistrate Commissioner Anthony Russo; and City Council President Jackie Clarkson.
In fact, DeSalvo was a formal part of Cannizzaro's transition team.
Guess what he was in charge of?
Thus, it wouldn't seem to be too much of a stretch to imagine that Lapene was hired partially on the recommendation of Mr. DeSalvo. Lapene and his former unit continue to count on DeSalvo as their attorney. At the time of Lapene's hiring, a criminal investigation into the incident should have been ongoing except for the fact that Cannizzaro's office had deemed the entire matter to be a matter for civil courts a few months earlier.
Without going over the top about this, I don't think we should feel too comfortable about the close personal relationship between Mr. DeSalvo and Mr. Cannizzaro given how commonplace allegations of criminality against the police have been and given that public mistrust of the criminal justice system is a main factor contributing to the deterioration of the rule of law in this city.
Certainly a fuller explanation of why the NOPD and DA handled the Beach Corner fight the way they did is warranted, particularly as it relates to the decision to hire Mr. Lapene.