Filed Under:  Local

State AG loses bid to move Cantrell probe

26th December 2017   ·   0 Comments

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s efforts to move his probe of New Orleans Mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell’s use of a city-issued credit card from the jurisdiction of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court were rejected on Tuesday, Dec. 20, by a state appeals court panel.

In last week’s split ruling, 4th Circuit of Appeal Judges Roland Belsome and Daniel Dysart found that Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White acted within her proper discretion when she refused to recuse herself of any of the other Orleans Parish criminal court judges from presiding over the Cantrell investigation, as AG Landry had proposed.

The lone dissenter on the issue was 4th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano. reported that Judge Lobrano said in her dissent that she would have reversed Judge Laurie White’s decision “out of an abundance of caution” given what Lobrano characterized as “the unique circumstances surrounding this matter.”

The probe stems from allegations that emerged during the November mayoral runoff between Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet when an anonymous complaint accused New Orleans City Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell of improperly using her city-issued credit card without providing adequate documentation of the expenses or reimbursing the city when it was appropriate.

The complaint led to two separate investigations of the allegations, one by the state’s Legislative Auditor and the other by state AG Jeff Landry.

“We are clearly disappointed by this ruling, and we will appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court,” Landry said in a statement released last week.

Cantrell became the city’s first Black female mayor when she was elected in the Nov. 18 runoff by a wide margin and is slated to take office in May.

The investigation of the Mayor-elect’s use of her city-issued credit card is expected to be completed by then.

A hearing has been set for Jan. 3 during which Cantrell’s attorney, Billy Gibbens, will seek to have a subpoena signed by Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Camille Buras on Dec. 4 thrown out.

The subpoena was one of three issued by state AG Landry.

Gibbens described Landry’s pursuit of his client’s personal banking records as “nothing more than an intrusive and harassing witch hunt by a political opponent.”

In his efforts to convince the Louisiana Supreme Court to appoint an ad hoc judge to oversee the investigation of Cantrell, the state Attorney General’s Office expressed concerns about Judge White and her 11 colleagues’ ability to handle the matter fairly.

The AG’s Office also pointed out that as mayor, Cantrell would have “considerable influence” over the court’s budget and that the mayor-elect’s father-in-law, Harry Cantrell, currently serves as the court’s magistrate judge.

The Attorney General’s Office accused Judge Laurie White of undermining its probe by allowing the mayor-elect’s attorney to view the subpoenas for Cantrell’s financial records. reported that those subpoenas remain under seal and are not available to the general public for review.

Cantrell said earlier this month at a luncheon that her use of a city-issued credit card during her tenure as a councilwoman does not rise to the level of criminal activity.

This article originally published in the December 25, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.