Orleans judge relents on jail sentence for public defender

An Orleans Parish criminal court judge backed down from sending a high-ranking public defender to jail Thursday for contempt, ending a ruckus that drew former judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys into the spat.

Criminal District Judge Robin Pittman instead slapped Kenny Green, the public defender’s chief of trials, with a $100 fine.

Through his attorney, Steven Scheckman, Green declared his regret over the fallout from a February hearing in which Pittman angrily labeled him a threat to herself and her family in a bid to enforce his 24-hour jail sentence.

“I feel like my life and my children and my entire family’s life is at risk based on Mr. Green’s threatening behavior, disrespectful behavior,” a miffed Pittman told him at a Feb. 8 hearing during which she held him in contempt for refusing an order.

Pittman’s idea, it appeared, was to prevent Green from posting an appeal bond, which is allowed in such cases unless the person sentenced is a threat to someone or a flight risk.

The result was a four-month conflagration of appeals up to the Louisiana Supreme Court, back down and up again.

Pittman’s sentence stood, and Green, a public defender for three decades, was poised to go behind bars Wednesday.

That’s when former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, retired Criminal Court Judge Calvin Johnson and a host of other high-profile legal figures rallied to the courthouse to step in and ask for a reasonable solution.

They never got the chance.

An appeals court issued an emergency stay, and Pittman and Scheckman worked out the resolution.

Pittman could not be reached afterward for comment.

Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton said Green is just relieved it’s over and that he’s not wearing orange jails scrubs.

“I’m glad cooler heads prevailed and our trial chief didn’t go to jail,” Bunton said.