In July 2014, Richard Reed was merely the little-known brother of St. Tammany’s most powerful and embattled politician, then-District Attorney Walter Reed.
But then the younger Reed made his own front-page headlines when he was accused of attacking an intoxicated woman at a Covington bar — an incident in which he allegedly tried to draw on his brother’s stroke by showing police an honorary badge issued by the DA’s Office.
Even so, Richard Reed’s attorney, Buddy Spell, says his client’s notoriety is largely attributable to the media’s interest in his more famous brother, who left office earlier this year and then was indicted on a raft of federal charges.
Walter Reed’s high-profile travails, Spell argues, have helped keep a spotlight on Richard Reed’s arrest and upcoming trial on sexual battery charges, and therefore Richard Reed’s trial should be moved outside the New Orleans and Baton Rouge media markets.
Spell originally filed his motion for a change of venue in the spring, but he supplemented it Tuesday with a lengthy supporting memo. In it, he argues that both Walter Reed’s power and his eventual fall helped poison potential jurors.
In fact, Spell claims that during Reed’s 30-year tenure as district attorney, “no one individual held more power over the lives of the citizens of St. Tammany Parish.”
Spell even offers a wry nod to the elder Reed’s reputation for being tough on crime.
“Literally thousands of criminal defendants were prosecuted by his office in a parish which earned the moniker ‘St. Slammany’ under his supervision. In a parish which incarcerates more of its citizens than nearly any other place on Earth, the number of families adversely affected by the policies of Walter Reed’s office can hardly be overestimated,” Spell wrote.
He also points to Walter Reed’s recent legal troubles as having cast a pall over anyone with whom he associates, including his brother.
In St. Tammany, the very mention of Walter Reed “creates a subliminal negative reference to Richard Reed in the mind of the prospective jury pool,” Spell said.
Spell also takes aim at Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz, who held a news conference to announce Richard Reed’s arrest that Spell describes as a “circus,” and state Assistant Attorney General David Caldwell, who said that if the police had not stopped Reed one block from the restaurant, there would have been a rape.
“Caldwell’s reckless and ill-advised speculation served absolutely no purpose but to inflame and pollute the jury pool in St. Tammany Parish,” Spell wrote, also calling it “grandstanding” and “loathsome.”
Richard Reed could not possibly get a fair trial in a parish so tainted by a swirling media and legal frenzy, Spell concludes.
Richard Reed’s media saga certainly intensified when he was arrested on a sexual battery count, but he had already come under some fire after news articles questioned whether a job he held at St. Tammany Parish Hospital was a sop to his brother, who had a $30,000 annual contract with the public health center in Covington. That contract figures prominently in the elder Reed’s indictment.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said prosecutors will contest the motion. A hearing on the motion is set for October.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.