After weeks of stony silence under a barrage of negative news coverage, Walter Reed, district attorney for St. Tammany and Washington parishes, fired back Wednesday with a three-page email defending the conduct of his public and private work and taking reporters to task for what he described as falsehoods and mischaracterizations.
Reed, who is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation, said he has hired Morgan Stewart, of Stewart Communications, to serve as his spokesman for campaign matters, Reed’s outside income and his family. Rick Wood will continue to be the spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, he said.
Reed complained that his office has been inundated with requests for public records on a sometimes daily basis, not only from media but also from what he described as individuals and special-interest groups.
The demands are creating “a drain on my offices’s resources and a distraction from the primary function of administering justice in the courts,” he said. People are also trying to use the “wave of media reports” to relitigate unfavorable legal results in cases against the DA’s Office, he said.
The records requests are often repetitive, he said, and some have involved cases that are more than 20 years old “and seem completely irrelevant to the function of this office in 2014.”
Reed also complained about reporters submitting “lists of questions” to him, saying they have tried to force him to respond to stories that would suggest wrongdoing by him or his office.
Reed has consistently ignored requests for interviews on stories about his office, his campaign finances and his private business dealings. In recent weeks, his public information officer has not even acknowledged receiving questions or requests for interviews.
“I have properly and consistently refused to respond to such ‘drop everything’ responses, given the other pressing business of our office and limitations on our ability to discuss many of these cases,” Reed wrote.
Ethics rules prohibit the District Attorney’s Office from making extrajudicial statements, Reed said, and that’s why his office hasn’t commented on issues that include decisions on charging defendants, motions to recuse and other dispositions of individual criminal cases — a policy he said he’ll continue.
“Unfortunately, this policy has been misinterpreted when media reports that ‘the District Attorney’s Office has been contacted but declined to comment,’ ’’ he said.
Reed said the media also have been obsessed with his campaign donation and expenditure reports. “It is important to note that campaign funds are not in any way public funds, but are monies contributed by my supporters to aid my political efforts,” he said.
Reed accused the media of using the terms “campaign funds” and “public funds” interchangeably, but did not offer any examples to back up that claim.
His only obligation, he said, is to properly report expenditures and donations.
Several news stories have focused on large sums of money that Reed paid to his son, Steven Reed, from his campaign funds. The New Orleans Advocate has also reported claims by his former girlfriend, Claire Bradley, that Reed’s campaign paid her and her son for work they didn’t do and that he billed a lavish birthday party for her to his campaign. Wood characterized that party as a planning meeting for a golf tournament.
Reed defended his outside business interests, including his private law practice and involvement in MR Precious Metals, a firm that buys and sells gold, saying there are no rules against such outside work and that his only legal obligation is to report his additional sources of income.
Reed unleashed his harshest comments on reports concerning his brother Richard Reed, who recently resigned from St. Tammany Parish Hospital, where Reed had provided legal services for about 20 years.
“Most of the media has no idea the trials and tribulations he has been through. Richard has been a mainstay in the Covington area for many years, working as a funeral director at Schoen Funeral Home, then at E.J. Fielding Funeral Home. Despite a horrific accident many years ago, Richard has continued to work in his field, and has worked with St. Tammany Parish Hospital over the years,” he wrote.
Like many people, Reed said, his brother found it necessary to work two jobs. Richard Reed left the hospital because of media attempts to vilify him, Reed said, and he “deserves better from an obsessed media than being attacked for merely being my brother.”
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter at @spagonesadvocat.