Alcohol permit approval hit by lawyer in Murphy Painter trial

Defendant didn’t OK it, attorney says

An attorney for former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy J. Painter expressed disbelief Monday when Painter’s immediate successor testified he does not know who issued an alcohol permit for Champions Square adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Painter is in the second week of his trial in Baton Rouge on 32 federal charges of computer fraud, false statement and aggravated identity theft.

Painter has maintained for years he was fired from his state office in August 2010 because he refused to grant an alcohol permit for the entertainment square.

Brant Thompson, who was Painter’s deputy commissioner at ATC for several years, was appointed interim commissioner after the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal announced that Painter had resigned.

In 2011, Thompson testified, he left ATC and became deputy chief of the Office of State Fire Marshal.

Three days after Painter’s ATC career ended, defense attorney Michael S. Fawer stated, Thompson issued an alcohol permit to Champions Square that gave Budweiser a monopoly on beer sales at the site.

“No, sir,” replied Thompson.

“Well, who issued it?” Fawer asked.

“I do not know,” Thompson said.

When Fawer remained incredulous, Thompson said: “If the permit was issued during my tenure as commissioner, it was done without my knowledge.”

Champions Square began operations in 2010 and continues to operate today, Fawer said before again asking about the alcohol permit.

“It was my understanding that Commissioner Painter may have issued a temporary permit,” Thompson said.

Thompson repeated: “I never personally had any involvement.”

Painter’s indictment alleges he searched confidential federal and state law enforcement databases for background information on people not related to any criminal investigation by ATC.

Baton Rouge lawyer Jill L. Craft testified she had no idea why law enforcement printouts of her personal information were discovered in Painter’s state office in 2010.

Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones showed Craft printouts of ATC records listing her home address in 2008, her driver’s license photo, her date of birth and her Social Security number.

Craft testified she had represented several liquor permit holders or applicants in proceedings at ATC.

She said she also represented a couple of ATC employees in litigation against the agency, but repeated she did not know why her personal information had been researched at ATC.

When Jones asked Craft how she and Painter had gotten along during those proceedings, Craft said, “I would say he’s pretty hostile towards me.”

Jones showed Craft a 2008 printout found in Painter’s office of MapQuest directions to Craft’s home. Those directions were discovered in his office in August 2010.

Fawer, Painter’s attorney, suggested there was something wrong in Craft’s decision to host a 2010 Halloween party in which she dressed as a house painter, adding it appeared Craft was ridiculing the longtime ATC commissioner.

Craft said she did not consider her actions “as ridicule.”

Added Craft: “I think it was a good way to deal with what was a very bad situation.”

She said she had learned shortly before that party of ATC’s possession of her personal information and the directions to her house.

“What happened terrified me,” Craft told Fawer.

Joyce McIntire, a former neighbor of Craft’s, told Assistant U.S. Attorney Shubhra Shivpuri she was surprised when government investigators revealed to her that Painter’s office contained a database printout of her identifying information.

That information included the license plate number of the vehicle McIntire owned at the time, Shivpuri showed her.

McIntire said she does not know why ATC would have her information. She testified that she has never had business with ATC. She said neither she nor her family have ever held an alcohol license.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge James J. Brady.