Wesley Muller, Louisiana Illuminator
The five white law enforcement officers indicted in connection with the May 2019 beating death of Black motorist Ronald Greene pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the respective charges they face.
The defendants — four Louisiana State Police troopers and one Union Parish Sheriff’s deputy — were arraigned at the Third Judicial District Court in Union Parish.
Master Trooper Kory York faces the most serious charges, including one count of negligent homicide and 10 counts of malfeasance in office.
After entering their pleas and deciding on dates for the next hearing, the defendants and their attorneys left the Union Parish Courthouse without speaking to reporters who had gathered outside.
“I could tell from the meeting with the judge that he would prefer to try this case in the courtroom and not on the street,” York’s attorney Mike Small said while walking to his car. “We’re happy with the dates that were set today. Everyone mutually agreed with the dates, and we’re prepared to go to court and get this thing underway.”
Lt. John Clary, the ranking officer on the scene almost four years ago, faces charges of malfeasance and obstruction of justice. An internal investigation revealed Clary mislabeled his body-camera footage. Once it was eventually found, it showed graphic parts of Greene’s beating not captured on any other cameras at the scene.
York and Clary were suspended from State Police in January but are still entitled to receive any leave and compensatory pay.
Trooper Dakota DeMoss and Capt. John Peters each face a count of obstruction of justice. Union Parish Sheriff’s deputy Chris Harpin faces three counts of malfeasance in office.
DeMoss was fired in 2021, and Peters has since retired.
Greene died May 10, 2019, following a vehicle pursuit outside of Monroe. Body-camera footage of the incident, which State Police withheld for two years, shows the troopers beating, choking, stunning and dragging Greene before leaving him shackled in a prone position for at least nine minutes and failing to render aid. He was dead when paramedics arrived on the scene, according to testimony given to a Louisiana House of Representatives committee that investigated the alleged cover-up.
State Police initially failed to investigate the incident, which only came to light when Greene’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May 2020 that spurred news reports. Troopers initially told Greene’s family that he had died on impact after his car struck a tree.
Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s court hearing and called on Gov. John Bel Edwards to do more to prevent police killings of unarmed Black men.
“What we saw on those videos clearly without a doubt — everyone knows — was the murder of a Black man,” Hardin said. “You can’t continue to sugarcoat the murder of a Black man while he was driving.”
Hardin was accompanied by other African-American families who have lost relatives to police violence. They included the kin of Oscar Grant III, who died in Oakland, California, in 2009 after being shot by a transit officer; Andrew Joseph III, a 14-year-old killed crossing an interstate after police ejected him from the Florida State Fair in 2014; and former NFL player Glen Foster Jr., who died in police custody in Pickens County, Alabama, two years ago. An autopsy suggested Foster succumbed to strangulation.
“I don’t know how I wake up everyday knowing that my son isn’t here,” Sabrina Foster said about her son. “But because of Mona and the path that she has blazed for us, I’m following her lead, and it’s a shame we had to meet like this under these circumstances.”
Glen Foster Sr. said the continued police killings of unarmed Black men is “a plague in this country that has gone on for decades.”
The next hearing in the case has been set for May 12.
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