East Baton Rouge DA recuses his office from Alton Sterling case, citing relationship with officer’s parents _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III will recuse himself from an ongoing federal investigation into the police shooting of Alton Sterling, he said Monday.

Moore called the decision to pull himself from the case “one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my career.” The recusal is necessary because of his long professional relationship with the parents of Officer Blane Salamoni, who, a source has told The Advocate, is the one who shot Sterling. Both of Salamoni’s parents have served with the Baton Rouge Police Department, where Salamoni’s mother worked for 32 years and rose to be a captain and where his father, also a captain, continues to be employed.

Moore said he’d worked with both of Salamoni’s parents during his 42-year career as an investigator, prosecutor and private criminal defense attorney. Moore, who’s served as district attorney for the past seven years, said he’s generally reluctant to recuse himself from a case, but stepping aside “is the only and proper decision to make” in the Sterling case.

“This is in the interest of justice, for the community and all involved,” Moore said.

The FBI and federal prosecutors are handling the investigation into Salamoni and officer Howie Lake II, determining whether there were any civil rights violations when an officer shot Sterling outside a convenience store.

Although U.S. Attorney Walt Green and the Justice Department will first consider whether federal charges are appropriate in the case, if they decide they don’t have evidence for a federal charge, it then would revert to state prosecutors for consideration of charges based on possible violations of Louisiana law.

With Moore exiting the case, it now moves to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, which can either keep the case and handle it or assign it to another district attorney’s office.

In a statement, state Attorney General Jeff Landry did not say whether he would have his office handle the case or give it to a district attorney’s office. He noted that his office will not be allowed to review the investigation until it is completed and the feds decide whether to prosecute at that level.

“The Louisiana Department of Justice trusts the federal government will prepare a full, fair and thorough investigation in this matter, and we look forward to fulfilling our responsibilities upon completion of the investigation and receipt of the complete investigative materials,” the statement reads.

“Considering the Louisiana Department of Justice will not have full access to this investigation until the federal government’s actions are completed, we will not make any further comment about this ongoing investigation beyond the LADOJ will be prepared to act in a timely, prudent, and judicious manner at the appropriate time.”

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