DA's office wins skirmish in battle with public defender

DA's office wins skirmish in battle with public defender

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A Criminal Court judge on Thursday issued a ruling that appears to be a victory for the Orleans district attorney's office in a bitter legal feud with the public defender's office.

The ruling is the latest salvo in a fight that arose from a rape case in which the victim's name was revealed. The long-running legal battle involves allegations of wrongdoing on both sides.

"We are pleased with the judge's ruling," Assistant D.A. Chris Bowman said.

Judge Tracey Flemings Davillier ruled that attorneys for the public defenders office violated protections for victims of rape by revealing the victim's name in public court documents. But the judge held off on moving forward with a hearing to determine if the attorneys for the public defender's office - Mike Magner and Mark Cunningham - should be held in contempt while they appeal her ruling.

Davillier said she also wanted to get the proceedings underway, but she said at this point, there was no point in moving forward.

There are several other legal issues remaining in the fight arising out of the Curtis Hawthorne rape case. Hawthorne was convicted in December 2014 of raping a Texas woman on Mardi Gras night. After that conviction, a grand jury indicted Taryn Blume, an investigator with the Public Defender's Office, for impersonating a peace officer by allegedly posing as a D.A.'s investigator in an effort to get information needed by Hawthorne's defense team.

Then, the public defender's office countered with an accusation that the D.A.'s office withheld evidence, seeking to have District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and assistant D.A. Jason Napoli removed from the case.

The attorneys for the public defender accuse the D.A.'s office of trumping up the charges against Blume in an effort to cover up alleged prosecutorial misconduct, an allegation that the D.A.'s office says lacks factual or legal support.

More hearings are set for May as both sides dig in for a lengthy fight.

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