Judge could take stand in detective’s case
Adding a mysterious twist to an already-scandalous case, an Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judge this week announced that he could be called as a witness against an NOPD detective accused of assaulting a series of teenage girls.
Judge Arthur Hunter recused himself from hearing the incest, sexual battery and sexual assault charges against former Detective Desmond Pratt Sr.
Hunter would say only that he is a “potential witness for the state.” He declined to elaborate on what information he might have to offer prosecutors building a case against Pratt.
The district attorney also would not hint at what Hunter’s potential testimony might entail.
Pratt, 43, was booked in April after a 15-year-old girl accused of him of sexually assaulting her. He was indicted last week on two new allegations dating back more than a decade. One woman notified police that Pratt abused her in 1997, while she was a student at a New Orleans public school. Investigators looking into her accusations unearthed a 12-year-old complaint, detailing another teen’s claims that he abused her at another public school.
Pratt has been on the police force for 15 years, and worked largely as a homicide detective.
Hunter was also a police officer, but only for four years, between 1981 and 1985. He then worked as a private lawyer before he was elected judge in 1996.
Pratt’s familiarity in the courthouse could complicate his prosecution.
As a detective, he routinely appeared in courtrooms at Tulane and Broad to testify against criminal defendants.
But now as a defendant himself, his history has started to prompt conflicts with defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.
His own attorney is also the attorney for an accused killer that Pratt investigated, and is scheduled to testify against this week.
Hunter recused himself from hearing Pratt’s case Tuesday. It was rerouted to Judge Darryl Derbigny’s court, who promptly recused himself from hearing it too.
He did not provide any hint of the conflict that prevented him from presiding over Pratt’s case.
Charbonnet makes council run official
Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet held a formal kickoff event to mark the start of his campaign for the New Orleans City Council on Wednesday. Supporters spoke of his “integrity” and emphasized that Charbonnet is no “career politician.”
Those aren’t surprising comments, given how things have worked out recently with certain career politicians on the council, several of whom — Oliver Thomas, Jon Johnson — have ended up revealing what you might call an integrity deficit. That’s if prison sentences are any indication, of course.
Still, if anyone failed to read between the lines, attorney Robert Jenkins, who happens to be defending former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin against bribery, money laundering and conspiracy charges, drove the point home.
Other credentials aside, you can say this for Charbonnet, Jenkins quipped, “He’ll never be represented by me.”
Landrieu vows to fight against ‘sacred cows’
The list of groups and individuals that Mayor Mitch Landrieu is feuding with seems to grow almost weekly: the sheriff, a pair of federal judges, the police unions, the firefighters union, the taxi drivers, the judges at Civil District Court, the clerk at Criminal District Court, the heirs of Edward Wisner, the local NAACP, etc.
At a meeting of the local Rotary Club this week, Landrieu recalled that it wasn’t always this way.
As a member of the state Legislature and then as lieutenant governor, he said, “My reputation was one of a guy who was really easy to get along with, someone that was a consensus builder, someone who always tried to get to ‘yes,’ no matter what.”
Landrieu had to acknowledge though, “As mayor of New Orleans I have developed a reputation recently — evidently — for being a fighter,” adding, “I want to talk about that for a second.”
If the gathered Rotarians expected an olive branch to follow, they were disappointed.
“There are certain things that are really worth fighting for, and they’re fundamentally important to the future of the city,” Landrieu said. If he’s going to hand City Hall to the next generation of leaders in better shape than he found it, it’s going to require “slaying sacred cows — and there are many of them in the city of New Orleans.”
Compiled by Claire Galofaro and Andrew Vanacore