Some charges against Painter dismissed, jury selected

Jury chosen, sent home for the day

Ten of the 42 counts against former ATC Commissioner Murphy J. Painter were dismissed by prosecutors Tuesday because the alleged offenses took place prior to July 2008, when Painter personally began conducting database searches on that system, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Painter, 60, of Gonzales, had faced an indictment with 42 counts of computer fraud, aggravated identity theft and false statements to government investigators. Prosecutors dismissed five false-statement charges and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

Also Tuesday, a jury was seated for the trial, but U.S. District Judge James J. Brady then sent jurors home for the day and began hearing arguments from both sides on admission of evidence and related matters.

Brady said jurors would return to the courthouse in Baton Rouge before 9 a.m. Wednesday, when opening statements and testimony could begin in what is scheduled as a two-week trial.

Painter’s remaining computer fraud and false statement charges stem from his alleged use of law enforcement databases for personal purposes. The aggravated identity theft charges do not involve any alleged financial thefts.

Instead, they resulted from Painter’s alleged use of other ATC staff members’ computers or their computer identifications to mask his personal searches.

Painter, former commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, denies all of those charges and maintains that all of his database searches were conducted for law enforcement purposes. He alleges the joint investigation by the FBI and Louisiana Office of Inspector General began after his dismissal by the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal in August 2010.

Painter also alleges Jindal ousted him as ATC commissioner because he refused to grant a liquor license for an entertainment square outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

None of the people on whom Painter allegedly ran computer checks for possible criminal convictions and driver’s license information, without probable cause, is named in the indictment. Instead, their initials are listed next to each related charge in the indictment.

But at least five people named on prosecutors’ prospective witness list also were described in a Louisiana Inspector General’s report as having their private information searched by Painter.

Those possible witnesses include Wendy Vitter, wife of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.; former LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson; former Painter administrative assistant Kelli Suire; Suire’s attorney, Jill Craft; and Shane Evans, a former investigator for the Office of Inspector General.

Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street is among the people on Painter’s list of possible witnesses.