[StBernard] AP NewsBreak: Spending topped $360, 000 on failed Katrina case

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Fri Feb 8 20:22:22 EST 2008

AP NewsBreak: Spending topped $360,000 on failed Katrina case
2/8/2008, 4:20 p.m. CST
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Former Attorney General Charles Foti spent more than
$360,000 on the failed prosecution of the owners of a nursing home where
more than 30 people died during Hurricane Katrina, including almost $82,000
for lessons in jury picking and advice on running the trial, according to
documents obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Sal and Mabel Mangano were the only individuals charged with any of the more
than 1,400 deaths attributed to Katrina, which struck in August 2005. They
were accused of 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of cruelty to
the elderly or infirm after floodwaters inundated the St. Rita's Nursing
Home in suburban St. Bernard Parish. After a 2 1/2-week trial, a jury took
less than four hours to find the couple not guilty.

"This is a colossal waste of taxpayers' money on a case that should never
have come to trial," said James Cobb, one of the lawyers who represented the

Foti's office drew heavy criticism for prosecuting the Manganos and, in a
separate case, a doctor and two nurses for the deaths of nine patients at a
New Orleans hospital after the hurricane.

Critics said Foti used the prosecutions as an election grandstand. He has
steadfastly denied the charge. He failed in his re-election bid last fall.

Foti, now a member of a New Orleans law firm, did not immediately return a
call for comment on Friday.

In the hospital case, Foti led investigations that resulted in the arrests
of cancer specialist Dr. Anna Pou and nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry, who
worked at the flooded Memorial Medical Center after the Aug. 29, 2005 storm.

A grand jury refused to indict Pou on July 24, 2007. Landry and Budo
testified before the panel under immunity and were not indicted.

All three women denied the accusations.

An accounting of the expenses from that case is not yet available.
Foti refused to formally drop the case, and criticized the way the grand
jury was run. A report of the investigation was leaked to news
organizations, causing Pou's lawyer to charge the case was politically

Three days after a jury acquitted the Manganos, then-Orleans Parish District
Attorney Eddie Jordan refused to file charges in the Katrina-related deaths
of 19 elderly patients at a New Orleans nursing home operated by Roman
Catholic nuns.

Foti had investigated the deaths at the Lafon Nursing Home, run by the
Sisters of the Holy Family and turned the case over to Jordan. But Jordan
determined no criminal conduct occurred.

In a primary election last fall, Foti lost to two opponents and Democrat
Buddy Caldwell won in a runoff. One of Caldwell's early actions after taking
office last month was to refuse to prosecute two men Foti said "tortured and
maimed numerous dogs wandering the streets" after Katrina swamped St.
Bernard Parish.

Michael Minton, 44, a former St. Bernard Parish sheriff's deputy, and
sheriff's Sgt. Clifford Englande, 36, who had been on desk duty for more
than a year, were indicted on charges of aggravated animal cruelty in
November 2006.

The initial expense figures in the Mangano case, provided by Caldwell's
office, do not include a $21,600 bill from Dr. Samantha Huber for
consultation on the manner of death of 18 of the 35 St. Rita's patients.
Huber was paid $20,000 for work done, but Caldwell is questioning the
additional bill.

Also missing from the accounting are airfares to Dallas and Miami, which
would run about $1,600, said Tammi Arender Herring, spokeswoman for

Huber did not testify in the Manganos' trial last summer. It is unclear how
her case reviews were used. Other expenses in the Mangano case include
$81,533.89 to Courtroom Sciences Inc., a Dallas based company that
instructed Paul Knight and Julie Cullen, the assistant district attorneys
who conducted the trial, on jury selection, opening statements and trial

Brian Jarvinen, a hurricane expert, was paid $58,401.90, Dr. Robert Stall, a
professor of psychiatry, was paid $72,018.82, and Dr. Stanford Finkel, a
gerontologist, received $52,607.16.

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