The brother of former north shore District Attorney Walter Reed pleaded not guilty Monday to four charges, including kidnapping and sexual battery.
The charges stem from a bizarre August incident in which prosecutors allege Richard Reed groped an incapacitated woman at a bar, left with her in his car and then repeatedly flashed a badge issued by his brother’s office in an attempt to persuade police officers to release the woman, whom he did not know, into his custody.
Reed, clad in a striped shirt and gray slacks, stood impassively while his attorney, Buddy Spell, entered his not-guilty plea before 22nd Judicial District Judge Peter Garcia. In addition to the sexual battery and kidnapping charges, Reed faces felony counts of impeding a witness and intimidation of a police officer.
The plea came after a brief conference in Garcia’s chambers in which attorneys and the judge discussed whether Garcia had ever worked as an assistant district attorney under Walter Reed, who served as district attorney from 1985 until earlier this year.
When the attorneys and the judge emerged, Garcia asked Assistant Attorney General Butch Wilson, who is handling the case after Walter Reed recused his office last year, to recount his concerns in open court for the sake of transparency.
Wilson said he simply wanted to make sure the judge understood that Walter Reed could be called as a witness in the case. Wilson added that he had thought that Garcia had worked as a prosecutor under for Walter Reed.
But Garcia said he had worked for Reed’s predecessor and not Reed.
“I do not believe I fit any of the grounds for recusation,” Garcia said. “I went through that when the case was allotted to me.”
Before Garcia got the case, three of his colleagues on the 22nd Judicial District Court bench — August Hand, Raymond Childress and Reginald Badeaux — all recused themselves, citing relationships with either Richard or Walter Reed.
Wilson said he was satisfied that the case could move forward in Garcia’s court.
After hearing Reed’s plea, Garcia set a motion hearing for May 14 and trial for June 1, though those dates are likely to change. Reed’s attorney has yet to receive the discovery file, and Wilson said it will probably take some time for Spell to go through it.
Spell has already filed a motion to move the trial to another parish, arguing that extensive media coverage of the incident and its aftermath has tainted the jury pool in St. Tammany Parish.
Richard Reed’s legal odyssey began in August, when Covington police were called to the Chimes Restaurant because an intoxicated woman had become belligerent. When police arrived, bystanders told them the woman had left in a car driven by Reed. The car was spotted at a nearby stoplight and pulled over. Reed emerged from the car and showed the officers an investigator’s badge issued by the DA’s office and insisted that he was taking the woman home, police have said. Richard Reed has never worked for the DA’s office.
Police officers, however, became concerned for the woman’s health and instead took her to the police station to be checked for alcohol poisoning.
While the woman was there, Reed came to the station three times and demanded that the officers release the woman — whose name he did not know — to him so he could take her home, according to Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz. But the woman said she did not know Reed and did not want to go with him, Lentz has said.
Subsequent investigation revealed that the woman had become belligerent at the bar after Reed repeatedly groped her breasts and genitals, Lentz said in announcing Reed’s arrest a week after the incident. After Reed was pulled over, prosecutors allege that he went to the Chimes and asked an employee there to keep the matter quiet.
The incident occurred as Walter Reed came under intense media scrutiny, including several stories that examined a lucrative side deal he had with St. Tammany Parish Hospital, where his influence may have helped land a job for his brother.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.