An East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor investigated for allegedly making racially insensitive comments at work in July about the Trayvon Martin case has been assigned to new responsibilities at the District Attorney’s Office.
Effective Sept. 19, prosecutor Jesse Bankston’s new duties will include developing orientation and training programs as well as reviewing financial crimes for District Attorney Hillar Moore.
Several sources — all of whom declined to be identified — said in July 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.
Bankston did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Moore said Aug. 29 that he wrapped up an internal investigation into the prosecutor accused of making the comments.
Moore wouldn’t say what action he took against the prosecutor nor acknowledge that Bankston was the prosecutor involved. Moore never mentioned Bankston’s name after the accusation surfaced publicly other than to confirm he had put an assistant district attorney on leave July 19.
Moore said Tuesday that Bankston’s new duties will not require his presence in court and declined further comment.
Bankston was the District Attorney’s Office’s section chief for section 5 of the 19th JDC.
Bankston is the brother of lawyer and former state Sen. Larry Bankston and son of the late Jesse Bankston Sr., who died in 2010 at 103. The elder Bankston was the longest-serving member of the Louisiana Democratic Party State Central Committee.
The alleged remarks prompted the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP to meet with Moore on July 26 to discuss 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 Tuesday that he still believes Moore should have fired Bankston.
“My gut tells me he said it,” McClanahan said of the accusation. “For him to be suspended for that long, what he said had to be heinous.”
McClanahan said residents will use their votes to decide if Moore dished out justice on the Bankston matter.
Moore responded to a question on Aug. 29 about Bankston’s job status with an email.
“The matter has been thoroughly investigated and appropriate internal actions taken,” Moore wrote in the email.
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.”
Moore’s release says Brandon Fremin will be appointed section chief of section 5 effective Oct. 7. Until that time, Assistant District Attorney Chris Hester will continue to serve as interim section chief of section 5.