New Caddo District Attorney James Stewart was sworn into office on December 1. Since then the roster of Caddo assistant district attorneys has changed dramatically—and continues to do so. How the transition finally shakes out will probably not be known for a few more weeks—and during the interim Stewart aka The Grim Reaper continues to send shock waves through the district attorney offices and the Caddo criminal courts. Stewart’s ardent criminal defense attorneys wanted some change in the line up of assistant district attorneys (ADAs),- but none expected the wide spread fall out from Santa Stewart that is hitting all the criminal sections.
Dhu Thompson, the outsider who had a good chance of becoming DA before the Soros money flooded into the Stewart camp, resigned immediately after the run off election on November 24. The tumultuous tenure of acting DA Dale Cox ended when Stewart became the District Attorney. Cox resigned with an effective date of December 31; additional retirements include Elizabeth Eisenhart (effective December 17), Ford McWilliams (effective year end) and Lisa Rogers (effective January 17).
Stewart’s first firing was Jason Brown—the son of Second Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jason Brown. Jason had been on the criminal defense bar hit list from the beginning of the campaign and his termination was expected—and cheered by many. Thereafter Ben Langford received his termination notice; Langford had reportedly supported Thompson on social media postings. Others to follow—that were known at press deadline—were Scott Brady, Kelvin Rogers, Geya Prudhomme and Cloyce Clark.
Brady had a solid reputation but reportedly he had quietly supported Thompson. Rogers had a reputation of being basically inept and he had been reportedly counseled by Stewart’s predecessor Charles Rex Scott. Prudhomme was involved in the controversy over her appointment to the Shreveport City Court as an ad hoc judge during Judge Sheva Sims 30 day suspension. Prudhomme remained on the DA payroll while wearing the black robe for about a week before her appointment was pulled by Justice Scott Crichton.
The termination of Cloyce Clark caught many court house observers by surprise. Clark served as the legislative liaison for Scott; Clark was one of the individuals who discovered Scott dead from a heart attack in his Baton Rouge hotel room. Prior to his death, Scott endorsed Clark for the Louisiana Senate seat that ultimately was won by John Milkovich. Scott’s widow remained actively involved in Clark’s campaign after her husband’s death; she also endorsed Stewart and was prominent in Stewart’s campaign media. Many believed Clark lost his election bid when Scott died—and that it’s the ultimate irony that Stewart canned a favorite of Scott.
For those keeping track by race—the ranks of the white full time ADAs have been will be thinned by 9; the number of black ADAs will be reduced by 2. And word in the courthouse halls is that a few more desks may come open in time for the New Year; as expected those assistant DAs still on the staff are walking on eggshells and looking over their shoulders as they think about jolly Saint Nick and go about their holiday “festivities.”
Wilbert Pryor was Stewart’s first attorney hire; this was expected since Pryor had been a very active Stewart supporter from the “Run James Run’ campaign that started in June. Pryor had previously run unsuccessfully for the Caddo Juvenile judgeship against Shonda Stone. Pryor’s salary of $137,500 puts him in a top tier, although he is not expected to be The First Assistant because of the lack of his heavy duty trial experience. Former Caddo and DeSoto assistant district attorney Ron Christopher Stamps has also been hired as a part time felony special prosecutor; both Pryor and Stamps are African Americans.
According to Pryor, many experienced attorneys have submitted resumes to fill the open positions in Stewart’s office. Actually, the DA office has experienced a very serious loss of long tenured prosecutors in the last few years—starting with the “gun-gate” purge by Scott of Lea Hall and Hugo Holland. These losses were compounded by the election of Brady O’Callaghan as judge and the resignations of both Cox and Thompson. Many court house wags and social media bloggers have questioned who will handle the high profile case concerning the murder of Shreveport police officer Thomas Lavelly by Grover Canon, along with other potential death penalty cases that basically stalled out after Scott’s death.
One name mentioned about by many to be first assistant is Don Hathaway Jr., the son of the former sheriff. Hathaway has served in the Caddo DA office as well as in the U.S. Attorney office; currently he is in private practice and he is in the incoming president of the Shreveport Bar Association. Both Don Jr. and his dad were front line Stewart supporters and he is considered to have an inside track at this very important spot. Ross Owens, who matched Prior in the“Run James Run” campaign effort, is said to have a job offer pending from Stewart. Owens has significant prosecutorial experience and at one time considered being a candidate in the DA election.
During the campaign Stewart camp was very tight lipped and with the exception of a “shake down” fundraiser on Thursday December 17 orchestrated by Stewart’s ringleader Ron Miciotto, Stewart has been a virtual hermit. Many civic minded citizens are concerned that Stewart is not being a gracious winner and that everyone associated in any fashion with the campaigns of his opponents (as well as the opponents themselves) have been marked for revenge. During the campaign that Stewart considered himself to be the anointed one and acted as if it was beneath his dignity to deal with the realities of a political campaign, much less a runoff election. He can expect a short honeymoon as the new District Attorney, and as an elected official not wearing a black robe, he will be required to account to the electorate for his actions.