Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg scored their latest in a string of exclusives on the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene, finding that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards watched a key video of Greene taking his final breaths — a full six months before prosecutors were aware the footage even existed.
While the Democrat has distanced himself from allegations of a cover-up in the explosive case by contending evidence was promptly turned over to authorities, AP’s monthslong investigation involving dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of documents found that wasn’t the case with the 30-minute video he privately viewed in the fall of 2020.
Investigative reporter Mustian and law enforcement reporter Bleiberg revealed that neither Edwards, his staff nor the state police he oversees acted urgently to get the crucial footage into the hands of those with the power to charge the white troopers seen stunning, punching and dragging Greene. In fact, that video, which showed critical moments and audio absent from other footage that was turned over, wouldn’t reach prosecutors until nearly two years after Greene’s May 2019 death. Now three years have passed, and despite lengthy, ongoing federal and state probes, no one has been criminally charged.
Response to the story was swift. A bipartisan legislative committee formed to investigate the case in response to AP’s previous reporting indicated that it would move quickly to call Edwards and key members of his staff to testify under oath. And Edwards’ lawyers immediately sent every lawmaker in the state a lengthy letter saying essentially there was no way for the governor to have known when he viewed the video that it hadn’t already been turned over to prosecutors.
The scoop by the pair, one of AP’s most-engaged stories of the week, was just the latest in a long line of exclusives on a highly secretive in-custody death that troopers initially blamed on a car crash. AP was first to raise questions about the crash narrative, first to obtain audio of a trooper bragging about beating Greene and, most notably, first to obtain and publish the long-withheld body-camera video that showed white troopers stunning, punching and dragging Greene as he screamed for mercy.
Their tireless reporting established that Greene’s death was among at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which Louisiana State Police troopers or their bosses ignored or concealed evidence of beatings, deflected blame and impeded efforts to root out misconduct. And they found that the governor himself was aware of the key facts of the case within hours, then stayed publicly silent on the case for two years while police pushed the false car-crash scenario.
Several fellow journalists tweeted praise for Friday’s story, including Washington Post investigative reporter Amy Brittain: