East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III says he has wrapped up an internal investigation into a veteran prosecutor accused of making racially insensitive comments at work last month about the Trayvon Martin shooting case.
But Moore isn’t saying what action he has taken against Assistant District Attorney Jesse Bankston Jr., the staffer who allegedly made the comments, or even acknowledging that Bankston was the prosecutor involved.
He said it is his policy to not talk about personnel matters.
“The matter has been thoroughly investigated and appropriate internal actions taken,” Moore wrote in an email response to questions about Bankston’s status.
He continued, “As far as I am concerned the matter is concluded and there is no need to make any further comment other than to express my regret that any employee would make inappropriate comments in a courtroom.”
Several sources — all of whom declined to be identified — said last month that a Facebook posting purportedly made by East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant Public Defender Afi Patterson accused Bankston of making a racial comment.
The Facebook posting accuses Bankston of saying: “These people make up their names! What kind of name is Trayvon? It’s no wonder he got shot.”
Court was not in session when the comments were allegedly made.
Patterson, who has declined comment on the matter in the past, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday; Bankston did not respond to two phone calls requesting comment.
Moore never mentioned Bankston’s name after the accusation surfaced publicly other than to confirm that he had put an assistant district attorney on leave July 19.
Bankston is the brother of lawyer and former state Sen. Larry Bankston and son of the late Jesse Bankston Sr., who passed away in 2010 at 103. The elder Bankston was the longest-serving member of the Louisiana Democratic Party State Central Committee.
Jesse Bankston Jr. is the District Attorney’s Office’s section chief for Section 5 of the 19th Judicial District Court.
The alleged remarks prompted the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP to set up a meeting with Moore on July 26 to discuss about what happened. Following the meeting, Mike McClanahan, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, held a news conference calling for Bankston’s immediate dismissal.
McClanahan said last month that if Bankston said what he is accused of saying, he needed to be terminated. But McClanahan said Thursday he still does not know exactly what was said or if Bankston was guilty of making the remarks.
“I haven’t heard what has happened with Mr. Moore’s investigation and how that turned out,” McClanahan said.
“Again, if what he (Bankston) said is true, he needs to be fired but I don’t know if it’s true.”
Mike Mitchell, who heads the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defenders Office, has not named the prosecutor accused of making the comments or the public defender who reportedly heard him make them.
Mitchell said Thursday he is not commenting further on the matter.
Moore concluded his email response to questions about the incident saying, “I simply ask that anyone interested in this matter continue to measure my actions, and those of my office, against my words.
“I am fully committed to being everyone’s District Attorney and am honored to speak for and represent all of the victims of crime in our community. All of my employees know that each of them is required every day to meet these standards.”