Bill would finance $300,000 in Painter legal costs

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG -- Former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter leaves Baton Rouge state court in this February 2011 photo. Show caption
Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG -- Former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter leaves Baton Rouge state court in this February 2011 photo.

The Louisiana Legislature will be asked to appropriate nearly $300,000 to reimburse ousted State Alcohol and Tobacco Control chief Murphy Painter for legal fees involved in fighting federal charges against him.

A federal court jury in December unanimously acquitted Painter of 29 counts of computer fraud and false statements to the FBI.

Painter had been accused of using confidential law enforcement databases to look up information on people who were not tied to any criminal investigations. He also was alleged in his indictment to have falsely told the FBI that all of the searches were for criminal justice purposes.

On Friday, state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, filed House Bill 632 which would reimburse Painter for $294,054 for legal fees and expenses associated with “his successful defense of criminal charges brought against him for actions in his official capacity” as ATC commissioner.

Attorneys Michael S. Fawer and Al J. Roberts Jr. served as Painter’s defense counsel.

The appropriation is contingent on certification by the Attorney Fee Review Board “as to the reasonableness of the legal fees and expenses” pursuant to state law.

Painter, of Gonzales, served as ATC commissioner for 14 years. His ATC career ended in August 2010 after he denied an alcohol license for Champions Square adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The Governor’s Office announced the same day that Painter has resigned his post, and investigators with the state Office of Inspector General seized his office computer. The OIG later released a report that alleged Painter had improperly accessed both the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database and two Louisiana law enforcement databases to gather information about U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s wife, a television newswoman, Painter’s administrative assistant and her attorney, as well as more than a dozen others.

In 2012, Painter, who insisted he was fired by the Governor’s Office, was indicted by a federal grand jury that received some of the allegations contained in the OIG report.