BATON ROUGE – The decision by Louisiana's new attorney general to drop perjury charges against a former state official likely is more about cleaning house than slamming a predecessor, two Loyola University law professors said in separate interviews.
"It is not unusual for new attorney generals or prosecutors to dismiss charges filed by their predecessors," Bill Quigley, law professor and director of the law clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University, said in an email interview with the Louisiana Record. "If prior charges have problems, the new prosecutor does not want those problems on their record."
The new attorney general also may not see the case the same way his predecessor did, Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino said in a telephone interview with the Louisiana Record.
"Even if there had been probable cause in the case, he may just feel it's a case he can't win," Ciolino said.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Landry dismissed nine perjury counts filed by his predecessor, James "Buddy" D. Caldwell, against former Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein. Bobby Jindal, then governor and now failed presidential candidate, named Greenstein to the DHH post in 2010. Greenstein resigned in 2013 amid state and federal investigations into awarding a $200 million Medicaid contract to Maryland-based CNSI where Greenstein once worked.
The Jindal administration canceled the contract shortly before Greenstein resigned. The cancellation followed details leaked from a federal grand jury subpoena that involved the contract award.
Greenstein was indicted by a special state grand jury the following year on charges he lied under oath about his involvement in the CNSI contract.
Landry's decision to drop the case was revealed in a document filed on April 8 with the 19th Judicial District Court, in which Assistant Attorney General Brandon J. Fremin described how the conclusion was reached.
In the document, Fremin said when Landry assumed the AG office, two prosecutors with a combined 50 years of experience re-evaluated cases initiated by Caldwell.
“The conclusions in each review were that there was a factual basis for the grand jury to return the indictment on September 23, 2014 (against Greenstein)," Fremin said in the document. "However, subsequent pretrial motions, discovery activities, investigations and hearings in related matters have provided additional information in the case. The state cannot meet its burden of proof and obtain a conviction that could be sustained under the standards required in appellate review.”
With the perjury charges dropped, Greenstein is clear of criminal charges in the case.
Greenstein's attorney, John McLindon, has reported Greenstein has struggled to find steady employment.
The trial of CNSI's civil case against state agencies over the contract's cancellation is scheduled to begin on Oct. 11 in the 19th Judicial District Court.
Neither Landry nor Caldwell responded to requests for comment.
Fremin's comments in the court document indicate the Greenstein case is not the only Caldwell case that Landry is reconsidering, Ciolino said.
"It does sound like Mr. Landry is taking another look at litigation that Mr. Caldwell had pending," Ciolino said. "And maybe that's what he should be doing. After all, Mr. Caldwell was voted out of office. The voters have said they want a fresh approach. So this second look may be what's called for."
Landry, 46, succeeded Buddy Caldwell on Jan. 11 after defeating Caldwell in a runoff election the previous November with more than 56 percent of the vote.
Ciolino and Quigley differed over whether Landry's decision to drop the perjury counts against Greenstein will impact CNSI's civil case. Ciolino said it will not make much difference, but Quigley opined that it would.
"This will also surely impact the pending civil case," Quigley said. "Most civil cases end up settling; and if a pending criminal case over the same matters is dismissed, the range of settlement is likely less now as well."