Covering Louisiana

Oct 19, 2012 10:52 AM by AP

DA off Independence mayor's case

AMITE, La. (AP) - District Attorney Scott Perrilloux has recused his office from the criminal case involving Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa.

Ragusa was booked last month on public intimidation and simple battery counts involving an incident with an Independence police officer. The mayor has maintained his innocence.

Perrilloux told The Advocate on Thursday the officer is a witness in other cases being prosecuted by his office and this case might cause a conflict if his office handled it.

Perrilloux said he has handed the case over to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Perrilloux said the recusal of his office also avoids any appearance of impropriety.

"It will eliminate the notion that politics have something to do with the outcome," he said.

Perrilloux said Ragusa has not been charged, and it will be Caldwell's decision how to proceed.

The arrest of Ragusa in September involved an Aug. 6 incident in which Ragusa had words with an officer during a traffic stop involving Ragusa's son.

Ragusa said he didn't batter or try to intimidate the officer.

Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards III said Ragusa tried to get him to fire the officer, Jeannie Cruz, after the incident.

The mayor slammed the door of Cruz's car on her arm, the police report states.

The report by Cruz also says Ragusa held the door shut, cursed her and ordered her off his property where she and another officer had followed Ragusa's son to make the traffic stop.

No citation was issued to the mayor's son Hunt Ragusa, Edwards said.

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