Despite solid evidence of improper usage, the voters of New Orleans overwhelmingly decided to elect her to lead the city for the next four years. Unfortunately, for Cantrell, she cannot just wish the scandal away as the wheels of justice turn slowly.
The first raindrop on the Cantrell parade occurred during the campaign when an anonymous criminal complaint was made. Eventually, the case was given to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro decided not to handle the complaint because he endorsed Cantrell’s opponent in the Mayor’s race, former Judge Desiree Charbonnet.
Landry is now investigating Cantrell’s credit card use and has issued subpoenas for her bank records. However, the investigation almost hit a roadblock as six Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judges refused to sign Landry’s subpoenas. Most of them cited conflicts of interest in the case, but an even bigger problem is that Harry Cantrell, the Mayor-Elect’s Father-in-law, is the Magistrate Commissioner of the Criminal Court. Eventually, Judge Camille Buras signed the subpoenas but immediately recused herself from the case as well.
This dilemma is undoubtedly why Landry is asking all Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges to be removed from the case. On Friday, Chief Judge Laurie White will hold a hearing on this request. She also placed all pleadings in the matter under seal.
In his request, Landry noted not only the connection to Harry Cantrell, but also the $3 million in annual funding the court receives from city government. In addition, the court operates in a city-owned building. Due to these conflicts, Landry is requesting the Louisiana Supreme Court appoint an ad hoc Judge to preside over the investigation and potentially the prosecution that may result.
Obviously, an impartial judge needs to be appointed to this case. Otherwise, there will be too many questions about favoritism toward the incoming Mayor.
Landry is handling this matter in a thorough and fair manner. First, he needs to gather the evidence and that effort was almost stopped by Orleans Parish judges. An independent judge will remove all questions about preferential treatment and allow this matter to be investigated properly.
It remains to be seen whether Landry will find that Cantrell was involved in any criminal activity. It is a whole other issue whether she would be convicted if eventually indicted in this case. Nevertheless, until it is resolved, New Orleans voters may be wondering if they made a serious mistake.