December 27, 2007

The Ballad of Elton Phillips

Something is definitely up here.
I said this when things first exploded on Eddie Jordan two months ago, and I'll say it again--we don't have the whole story on Elton Phillips, Eddie Jordan, Thelonious Dukes, or the criminal justice system as a whole.

Let's focus on the travels of Elton Phillips as we know them. After a day spent in Baton Rouge with Jordan's girlfriend, he returns to the city and robs a man in Algiers. When the victim rams the getaway car, Phillips dashes to Jordan's place, and eventually escapes. Days later, NOPD officer Dukes is killed in his home after exchanging gunfire with three assailants. Phillips is soon identified as one of these men, and the Jordan fiasco blows up and leads to Eddie's resignation. Phillips is AWOL for a month, the explanation being that 1. his family once suffered at the hands of corrupt police, with a relative murdered to silence her confessions, and 2. he didn't have anything to do with the Dukes murder.

So finally, Elton Phillips surrenders on Nov. 10th, and is held on $150,000 bond, but never formally charged in the Dukes murder, as two other men are. Then, on Dec. 21st, without posting any bail, Phillips walks out of jail on what looks to be a "clerical error." With at least 300 years of New Orleans history taken into consideration, we ought to ask some questions.

First, what is going on inside either the (interim) DA's office or the Orleans Parish Sheriff's office that leads no one to raise a red flag when Phillips is set free by a comment on a sheet of paper? If you and I and Eddie and half the citizens know about the most high profile violent offender in New Orleans, how does the clerk at the jail or on Poydras Street somehow miss that name? How does the bail payment get wiped clean so easy? Waking up to this kind of news sends another ripple of doubt to those of us who continue to invest lives into Naginville. If even this infamous guy walks without any fanfare or notice, why would a witness testify against ANYONE?

Second, REALLY? Really, the kid for whom Eddie Jordan provided a safehouse, unknowingly of course; the kid who's name popped up immediately in what was supposedly a random act of violence against a cop in a plagued neighborhood; the kid whose family has a dark history with the police; that extremely unique kid walked out without paying bail, and no one but a mistaken clerk had anything to do with it? REALLY?

Something is not right here.

And this morning, after reading this news in print, we walked out to get in the van and drive to work. A police car blocked the street, keeping traffic from the construction crew hard at work on the soon-to-be condos down the way from us. Supposedly intended for "artists," these news units will likely be inhabited by, as my neighbor said, "young girls from the northeast." Fortunately, the cops are there to escalate that progress by sitting in cars.

I wonder, though--how many of those artists and young girls from the northeast are going to want to live with Elton Phillips?