Though PRR response (including “sanitized phone”) may insulate Noel from alleged Greene death cover-up, estate seeks to substitute LSP trooper’s wife in lawsuit.

Ronald Greene shortly after his death on May 10, 2019.  The photo was released by his family to social media outlets in frustration over the family’s contention that Louisiana State Police (LSP) had not been forthright concerning Greene’s manner of death.

On September 10, 2020, Sound Off Louisiana was first to publish a feature on LSP secrecy surrounding the death of Ronald Greene.  As was easily predictable, our initial feature was followed by numerous features by other local, state, national, and even international media outlets.

On September 22, 2020, one key trooper involved in Greene’s death, Chris Hollingsworth, died in a one-vehicle crash mere hours after being informed by former LSP Col. Kevin Reeves that he would be terminated over the incident.  We’ll note that this action on Reeves’ part took place a full 501 days after Greene’s death but only 12 days after our feature linked above!

On October 1, 2020, former Advocate and now Associated Press journalist Jim Mustian broke a feature entailing Hollingsworth being recorded as saying he “beat the ever-living f—” out of Greene.

On October 8, 2020, LSP Commission Chairman Eulis Simien and LSP legal counsel Faye Morrison sparred over the circumstances and lack of communication of Greene’s death.  Let’s take a look:

10/8/20:  Simien and Morrison spar over Greene’s death.

Though many have characterized Hollingsworth’s death as a suicide, it should be noted that Hollingsworth’s death certificate officially classified his death as an accident.

On November 8, 2020, Sound Off Louisiana published this feature wherein we informed the public that, in Greene’s Federal civil litigation, former LSP Col. Kevin Reeves was added as a defendant in the litigation; furthermore, we stated our belief that it was likely that action and the filing’s allegations entailing why Reeves was added that caused Gov. Edwards to lose confidence in Reeves.  Reeves retired mere days after he was added as a defendant to the lawsuit notwithstanding Gov. Edwards’ very public proclamations made only days before that he had the “utmost confidence” in Reeves.

In the feature linked in the preceding paragraph, we outlined the defendants’ efforts to get the lawsuit tossed or, “in the alternative, provide a more definite statement” regarding a cause of action against the defendants.  In responding (i.e. making such a more definite statement), Greene’s attorneys outlined Hollingsworth’s words on the recording referenced above.  Reeves, while still serving as LSP Colonel, was added with allegations that he “conspired” with the troopers to conceal the nature of Greene’s death.  The amended pleadings also stated that all defendants, including the newly-added Reeves, wanted to “deny access” for a lawsuit to be filed seeking redress for Greene’s death.

That’s the history prior to today’s feature, in which we’re going to focus on the latest developments in Greene’s civil lawsuit.  We’re going to do so in table format, and that table follows:

Date of Filing in Federal CourtSummary of Filing with Hyperlink to Filing Itself
November 24, 2020Greene estate files this motion and order to substitute Darby Hollingsworth (Chris' wife) into his civil litigation in his place.
November 24, 2020Notice of specification of parameters for consideration of substitute party motion.
December 11, 2020Magistrate judge issues report and recommendations regarding Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (or make more definite statement).
December 15, 2020Chris Hollingsworth's attorney files this memorandum in opposition to the substitution of party motion filed by Greene's estate.
December 21, 2020Greene estate attorneys file this response to Hollingsworth's Opposition Memorandum to Substitute Party Motion.
December 26, 2020Defendants' attorneys file this appeal of Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation entailing Motion to Dismiss or Make More Definite Statement
December 28, 2020Defendants file this objection to Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation referenced above.
December 29, 2020Judge issues this judgment affirming the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations.
December 31, 2020Former Col. Reeves' attorney files this Motion to Dismiss him from the litigation.
January 4, 2021Court issues parameters for consideration of Reeves' Dismissal Motion

We’ll let the attorneys on our distribution list and/or those who came to this feature by reference have a field day reading the detailed court filings above, but we’re just going to cut to the chase on what’s in the filings:

Greene’s attorneys assert the following in seeking to substitute Chris Hollingsworth’s wife, Darby, for him in the lawsuit (from the first document linked in the table):

The death of Defendant Hollingsworth has been suggested upon the record, and Plaintiff is entitled to substitute Hollingsworth’s successor, Darby Hollingsworth, as a Defendant in this action.  Accordingly, Plaintiff, respectfully requests that this Honorable Court Grant her Motion.

Meanwhile, from the fourth document linked above, Hollingsworth’s attorney argues:

The Supreme Court in Robertson noted that “ ‘the survival of civil rights of actions under § 1983 upon the death of either the plaintiff or defendant’ ” was an area not covered by federal law….

Hollingworth’s attorney further argues that, in the absence of Federal law covering the matter, the Court has to revert to Common Law to ultimately make the following argument (again, from the fourth document in the table):

Thus, under article 428, Greene’s claims against Trooper Hollingsworth were strictly personal and abated upon his death. Therefore, the claims are extinguished, so Darby Hollingsworth cannot be substituted as a defendant.

Likewise, there is no evidence that Darby Hollingsworth accepted the succession of the deceased Trooper Hollingsworth. Under Louisiana law, “[a]n action to enforce an obligation, if the obligor is dead, may be brought against the heirs, universal legatees, or general legatees, who have accepted his succession, except as otherwise provided by law.” LSA-C.C. art. 427. In the absence of any evidence that Darby Hollingsworth (1) is an heir; (2) who accepted the succession, she is not a proper party to this action.

In response to Hollingsworth’s attorneys arguments as outlined above, Greene estate attorneys replied (fifth document in the table above):

An action does not abate on the death of a party. The only exception to this rule is an action to enforce a right or obligation which is strictly personal. La. C.C.P. Art. 428. The statute makes no distinction between Plaintiff’s and Defendants and Hollingsworth cites no authority where Louisiana Courts have interpreted the statute to apply only to Plaintiffs. Instead, Hollingsworth argues that his obligation is strictly personal and therefore abated. An obligation is strictly personal when its performance can be enforced only against the obligor.  Moreover, a victim’s action for recovery of tortious damages is not strictly personal because it is a right to recover money damages.

It is undisputed that Darby Hollingsworth, was the spouse of Chris Hollingsworth at the time of his death. Accordingly, she is his heir and presumptive universal legatee. Specifically, where a deceased spouse is survived by a descendant, the surviving spouse has a usufruct over the decedent’s share of the community property to the extent that the decedent has not disposed of it by testament. La. C.C. Art. 890. Accordingly, Darby Hollingsworth, is Chris Hollingsworth’s successor. In the absence of a renunciation, a successor is presumed to accept succession rights.

Greene estate attorneys conclude by stating that, in the event the Court does not grant its Motion to Substitute Darby Hollingsworth for Chris Hollingsworth, that (again, from the fifth document in the table):

To the extent that Darby Hollingsworth claims to not be an heir to Chris Hollingsworth, Plaintiff requests that this Honorable Court grant Plaintiff limited discovery to discover the heirs to Chris Hollingsworth estate.  To the extent that Darby Hollingsworth claims to renounce succession, Plaintiff requests that this Honorable Court Order her to do so explicitly and formally.

What’s likely at stake here may be any life insurance proceeds obtained from Hollingsworth’s unfortunate death, and that may be especially the case given that the manner of his death was officially classified as “accident,” and many life insurance policies have a double-indemnity clause which kicks in for accidents.  Of course, the insurance company may opt to dispute the declared manner of death listed on Hollingsworth’s death certificate and, if the manner of death is ultimately deemed to be suicide, the benefit amount would drop to the policy’s face amount (assuming the policy had been in place for a minimum of two years).

Once the Motion to Substitute Darby Hollingsworth for Chris Hollingsworth is ruled upon, we’ll certainly alert our subscribers and other casual readers/viewers of Sound Off Louisiana of the Court’s ruling.

In the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, she, Karen Hayes, concludes that, partially relying upon “common sense” (perhaps utilized from Hollingsworth’s recording of admitting to, “beating the ever-living f—” out of Greene?), that Plaintiff’s complaint, as amended (from the third document linked in the table):

states a plausible claim for relief (as to all counts, save her access-to-courts claim), sufficient to afford defendants fair notice of the claims against them.

Hence, the Motions to Dismiss were all denied except for the Denial of Access claim, which was dismissed without prejudice.  As the table above indicates, Defendants appealed the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendations, but the Judge ultimately affirmed that Report’s Recommendations and reduced same to a Judgment.

Importantly, the “access” claim argued by Defendants was granted.  Accordingly, Reeves’ attorney (see the ninth document in the table) filed a Motion to Dismiss him from the litigation based on Judge Hayes’ Report and Recommendation.  As of the date of this feature, Greene’s estate attorneys had not filed any Opposition Memorandum to Reeves’ Dismissal Motion into the court record.

It should be noted that Reeves implemented something unique at LSP in that he established a committee to evaluate potential disciplinary action against Troopers accused of wrongdoing.  Also remember that, in our recent feature on LSP Chief of Staff Doug Cain, our sources indicated that the Chief of Staff is essentially the de facto LSP Colonel.

The Chief of Staff under Reeves for the critical time period entailing the Ronald Greene matter was then-Lt. Colonel Mike Noel.  Our LSP sources indicated that Noel should have been a crucial player in the Greene incident.  They encouraged us to seek any correspondence or voice recordings, text messages, emails, etc. in which Noel may have referenced the word “Greene.”  We did so, but unlike the response we received when seeking documentation on any separation of service for Cain in the feature linked above, we essentially struck out with Noel upon receiving this response to our request.  Well, maybe we didn’t totally strike out.  From that response:

we have completed the search and have identified nothing responsive to your request related to Ronald Greene incident.  We have identified emails with the term “greene” in them however, they are in no way associated with the Ronald Greene incident.  Many of these emails deal with department matters that would still require me to review and redact the emails.  In this circumstance, the work necessary to do that is overly burdensome considering that although responsive to your request to search for “Greene” these emails in no way related to what I think you are looking for based on your date range.

 

There were no text messages or voicemails to search because LTC Noel turned in his phone when he left LSP and at that time his phone was sanitized pursuant to policy. 

 

Finally, LTC Noel’s letter correspondence was searched without any results.

We presented this response to our LSP sources, and to say that they are dubious would be a huge understatement!  They indicated that most folk would have likely preferred to keep his/her phone along with the data on it.  Further, in Noel’s new role as Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, he remains under the huge umbrella of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety.  At any rate, we note some interesting commentary regarding Noel’s responsibilities in his bio on the Board’s website, to wit:

As Assistant Superintendent/Chief of Staff, Lt. Colonel
Noel was responsible for carrying out the executive level responsibilities and day-to-day operations of the Department overseeing 1,700 employees.

Noel assumed his present role on June 8, 2020, some 13 months after the Greene incident, so he had plenty of opportunity to be involved in the Greene matter.  Nevertheless, based upon the results of our public records request, it would appear Greene’s attorneys will have to work hard in deposing Noel to dispel the notion that he was “out of the loop” as George Hebert Walker Bush famously said.

After all, the person named to serve as Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board is expected to have character which is beyond reproach due to the fact that credibility and honesty are paramount to assure no improper activity transpires in gaming activities, lest a major source of Louisiana tax revenue suffer  a decline should revelations of any improper activity surface.  It goes without saying that anyone playing an active role in the cover-up of a murder would fail that criterion, so Noel certainly needs to be fully out of the loop entailing any alleged Greene murder cover-up.

Based upon the results of our public records request, Noel would certainly appear insulated from any alleged murder cover-up, thus leaving the only logical conclusion being that the sole upper-brass responsibility for any such alleged cover-up rests solely with Reeves.  Whether Reeves may have anything to say on that assertion, however, will likely be an interesting line of questioning during his depositions of the Greene civil trial!

Morrison asked us if the response she provided above would suffice, and we indicated that it would.

In concluding this feature, some folk associated with LSP were curious to whether Kory York (the other LSP Trooper on the scene immediately with Hollingsworth) would have anything in his file to indicate any discipline was handed down to him for the Greene matter.  Accordingly, we made a public records request for his file as well, and the content of that file revealed only a traffic accident transpiring in 2009, so the one-word answer would certainly appear to be “no.”

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2 thoughts on “Though PRR response (including “sanitized phone”) may insulate Noel from alleged Greene death cover-up, estate seeks to substitute LSP trooper’s wife in lawsuit.”

  1. From everything I’ve read it seems as though local deputies witnessed this crime and did nothing. Do you know if legal action is in the works for those officers? I haven’t read where any have been disciplined, either

    1. I do know that Deputy Sheriff Christopher Harpin was named as a Defendant in the original lawsuit. I will check to see who may be defending him and what filings may have been entered into the court record defending him and include same in the next update. Thanks for the inquiry and your interest in the feature.

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