Obstruction charges against La. trooper dropped in fatal arrest
Charges were dropped for Lt. John Clary, the third of five troopers involved in a 2019 incident, following two years of withheld body camera footage
By Jim Mustian
BATON ROUGE, La. — Prosecutors have dropped charges against a Louisiana state trooper accused of withholding graphic body-camera footage that shows another officer dragging motorist Ronald Greene by his ankle shackles during his deadly 2019 arrest.
Lt. John Clary, the ranking officer at the scene, has agreed to take the stand in the trial of Master Trooper Kory York, a former colleague charged with negligent homicide in the case. York is accused of forcing the heavyset Greene to lie facedown and handcuffed for more than nine minutes, which use-of-force experts said likely restricted his breathing.
“Mr. Clary has and will continue to cooperate with the state and testify truthfully in this matter,” said John Belton, the Union Parish district attorney.
It was not immediately clear why prosecutors dismissed the obstruction of justice indictment against Clary before he provides his testimony, and the single-paragraph dismissal makes no mention of his pledged cooperation.
York is expected to stand trial next year but is asking an appellate court to throw out his own indictment after prosecutors acknowledged a mistake by allowing a use-of-force expert to review protected statements York made during an internal affairs inquiry. Such compelled interviews may be used to discipline officers administratively but are specifically shielded from use in criminal cases.
State police initially said Greene’s May 10, 2019, death was due to a car crash at the end a high-speed chase. After officials declined for more than two years to release the body-camera video, The Associated Press obtained and published the footage showing troopers converging on Greene before he could get out of his car.
Clary’s video is the only clip showing the moment a handcuffed, bloody Greene moans under the weight of two troopers, twitches and then goes still.
The dismissal of Clary’s indictment leaves charges against just two of the five officers indicted last year in Greene’s death. A judge earlier this year dismissed obstruction charges against two other troopers. Aside from York, the only other remaining charges are two counts of malfeasance against Chris Harpin, a former Union Parish deputy sheriff who taunted Greene before he stopped breathing.
The dismissals have prompted new calls for the U.S. Justice Department to bring its own indictment against the troopers. Federal prosecutors have been weighing civil rights charges for years amid a grand jury investigation that examined whether Louisiana State Police brass obstructed justice by protecting the troopers involved in Greene’s arrest.
Clary and his defense attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. The dismissal could clear the way for him to return to work at the Louisiana State Police, which placed him on administrative leave in December following his indictment. Capt. Nick Manale, a state police spokesman, said the agency would review the dismissal before determining whether to reinstate Clary.
Clary also faced no internal discipline after Col. Lamar Davis said the agency “could not say for sure whether” the lieutenant “purposefully withheld” the footage in question.
But State Police records obtained by the AP show Clary also lied to investigators about Greene’s resistance, saying he was “still trying to get away and was not cooperating.” Those statements were contradicted by Clary’s body camera footage and were apparently intended to justify further uses of force by troopers against the prone Greene, who had already been hit in the head with a flashlight, punched and repeatedly stunned.
“The video evidence in this case does not show Greene screaming, resisting or trying to get away,” Detective Albert Paxton wrote in one internal report. “The only screams revealed by the video were when Greene responded to force applied to him.”