Jail dispute in New Orleans may be near resolution

AP News
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Posted: Jun 20, 2016 8:05 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — There were signs Monday that a resolution is near in a federal court dispute over whether the sheriff in New Orleans should continue to run the city's violence-plagued jail.

Lawyers for the Justice Department and inmate advocates asked a federal judge in April to turn jail control over to a third party, an extraordinary move that would strip an elected official, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, of his chief duty.

Gusman opposed the move, blaming his slow progress in implementing court-ordered reforms — the result of a 2012 lawsuit settlement agreement — on a lack of funding from the city.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond issued a news release Monday saying a compromise has been reached to prevent a federal takeover. The release contained no details. Richmond's office did not respond to a call for details.

Neither side in the case would comment but noted that testimony set for Tuesday was canceled in favor of an open-court status conference. Gusman set a news conference for Tuesday morning.

Gusman has likened the attempt to strip him of his authority to run the jail to an illegal coup and a move to thwart the will of voters.

Hearings on the motion to have the jail placed in "receivership" began late last month with testimony from a court-appointed monitor and others who described jail violence and conditions that contributed to a March suicide.

Gusman was expected to testify at some point but hearings have been repeatedly postponed since early June. Two people with knowledge of the case confirmed that the parties have been in negotiations. Each spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential.