Independence mayor apologizes, gets counseling as part of court agreement

Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa has entered a pretrial diversion program stemming from his arrest in September 2012 for allegedly yelling at an Independence police officer and slamming a car door on her arm.

The pretrial diversion agreement, signed Aug. 7 by Ragusa, required Ragusa to issue a public letter of apology to the officers involved and complete anger management counseling, the state Attorney General’s Office said Thursday.

Ragusa also had to reimburse the Independence Police Department $250 for costs associated with the investigation.

Ragusa’s pretrial diversion agreement also says Ragusa must remain arrest-free through Oct. 1.

Ragusa said Thursday that he has already completed the program and had his apology letter published in a local newspaper.

Ragusa, when asked why he entered the program after previously denying the allegations, replied, “I’m just doing what I was advised to do.”

Kurt Wall, director of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division, said in a statement that the officer involved in the incident approved of Ragusa’s pretrial diversion plan.

Ragusa was booked Sept. 27 into the Tangipahoa Parish Jail on counts of public intimidation, battery of an officer and resisting arrest in an Aug. 6, 2012, traffic stop involving Ragusa’s son outside the mayor’s construction business.

Ragusa was accused of threatening Independence Police Officer Jeannie Cruz and slamming a car door on her arm during the incident.

Two officers, including Cruz, followed a speeding truck as it pulled into the mayor’s construction business, according to a police report of the incident. The mayor’s son, Hunt Ragusa, was driving the truck.

While the officers were talking to Hunt Ragusa, Michael Ragusa approached Cruz’s police vehicle and began yelling and slammed the vehicle’s door shut, causing the door to hit Cruz’s arm.

The report, written by Cruz, says Ragusa held the door shut, cursed her and told her she was on private property.

Cruz said she forced the door open and almost knocked Michael Ragusa to the ground. Ragusa continued to curse at her and ordered her off his property, the report says.

The mayor’s son then pushed his father back from the officer. Ragusa yelled that he was going to get the officer fired, according to the report.

No citation was issued to Hunt Ragusa, Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards III has said.

Michael Ragusa surrendered to police after officers obtained warrants for his arrest, authorities have said.

Ragusa had previously denied the allegations.

Ragusa has said he approached the police car and leaned over the door of the vehicle to ask Cruz why she had driven onto his private property.

Ragusa has said he did not shove the door but was almost knocked down when Cruz opened it. He has said he didn’t resist arrest or try to intimidate the officer.

District Attorney Scott Perrilloux removed his office from the case in October and sent it to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

Edwards did not return a phone call for comment Thursday.