NEW ORLEANS – The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed an ethics complaint against the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office over the use of fake subpoenas.
The bogus subpoenas were used as leverage against witnesses unwilling to answer questions from prosecutors working with office, according to the SPLC.
Uncooperative witnesses were told they would face fines and jail time if they failed to work with the prosecutors, and the subpoenas were drawn up as a further means of intimidation, according to a complaint filed today with the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has gone on the record to admit that his office has engaged in the practice since 2009, according to the SPLC.
“District attorneys have almost unchecked discretion in our criminal justice system,” SPLC deputy legal director Lisa Graybill said. “As Louisianans work to reform the state’s criminal justice system and shed the title of incarceration capital of the world, district attorneys must be held accountable when they abuse the public’s trust. These bogus subpoenas violated people’s legal rights through manipulation and intimidation. An investigation is needed to restore the public’s confidence, and prevent other prosecutors from engaging in such misconduct.”
At least one person was threatened with arrest for failing to comply with a fake summons, which warned of a fine or jail time if the person failed to appear before prosecutors for questioning.
The SPLC has filed a similar complaint against Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick for issuing fake subpoenas “ordering” witnesses to speak to investigators, although jail time was not explicitly threatened.
Connick has since said his office would stop the practice, according to the SPLC.