No Legal Fees For Ex-Prosecutor In Wrongful Conviction Suit

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former New Orleans prosecutor and ex-judge has lost an attempt to make the state reimburse him for money he spent defending himself in a civil lawsuit over a notorious wrongful murder conviction in the 1980s.

Thursday's ruling by the state's 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge was a loss for Ronald Bodenheimer.

Bodenheimer is best known in Louisiana as a former state judge in Jefferson Parish who went to prison after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges in 2003. But he was also a former assistant district attorney in New Orleans who prosecuted Reginald Adams for murder.

Adams was cleared after serving 34 years in prison for a killing he did not commit. The case prompted a public apology in 2014 from then-District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro after it was found police and prosecutors under an earlier district attorney had made false statements and concealed information about physical evidence and other suspects.

In 2017, Adams sued the city and others, including Bodenheimer, over the wrongful conviction.

The city agreed to pay Adams $1.25 million in a settlement that ended the civil case for all involved. According to Thursday's 1st Circuit opinion, however, Bodenheimer sought state reimbursement for $70,000 in legal costs, saying Louisiana law obligated the state to cover his costs for claims arising from his official duties.

Thursday's appeal court ruling said the Adams case was settled with no court determination that Bodenheimer was acting in the scope of his official duties, or that he was free of misconduct in the case — two factors that would have to be met before the state would be required to reimburse him.

Bodenheimer's attorney, John Venezia, said in response to an email query that he was considering whether to seek a rehearing at the appeal court or appeal to the state Supreme Court.