By Robert Rhoden | The Times-Picayune
For 30 years, North Shore District Attorney Walter Reed held an unshakable grip on his position as the top law enforcement officer and undisputed political boss in St. Tammany and Washington parishes. After winning office in 1984, he was re-elected four times, drawing an opponent only once, before deciding not to seek another term in 2014 as the dark clouds of a federal investigation swirled over his head.
But now the former law-and-order prosecutor finds himself on the wrong side of the criminal justice system, facing the prospect of a conviction and stiff sentence. The 69-year-old Covington resident is scheduled to go on trial Monday (April 18) in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on 19 counts of conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements on his federal income tax returns. His son, Steven, faces charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon is expected to last at least two weeks. By law, Reed could be imprisoned for life if convicted of all charges, although maximum penalties in federal court are rare for first offenders. He is the second high-profile political figure from St. Tammany to be charged with federal crimes since 2013.
The U.S. attorney’s office accuses Reed of illegally spending at least $100,000 from his campaign fund for such things as flowers for relatives, private dinners and expenses incurred by his son, and paying people to steer potential clients to himself and his law firm. Louisiana law prohibits the use of campaign money for personal expenses unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of public office.
The 2015 indictment also says Reed pocketed $30,000 a year from St. Tammany Parish Hospital for legal work, money that should have gone to the district attorney’s office. And he is accused of overpaying his son for work allegedly performed on behalf of the Reed campaign.
St. Tammany DA on Trial Next Week