NEW ORLEANS, LA
Capital defense attorney / civil rights lawyer Nick Trenticosta filed a formal complaint with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor today complaining of fraud, waste and abuse by Louisiana prosecutor Hugo Holland and several District Attorneys and requesting an investigation. The loss to Louisiana taxpayers is said to be over one half million dollars.
The complaint is based upon documents secured by the Promise of Justice Initiative revealing that Holland receives payment for acting as an Assistant District Attorney in up to ten parishes at the same time, including two supposedly full-time positions. In addition to his multiple salaries, Holland gets paid a premium hourly rate to seek the death penalty, having branded himself as one of Louisiana’s lead capital prosecutors.
Nick Trenticosta, the lawyer who filed the complaint, recognized that Holland could retaliate against him or his clients: “Holland is a bully – wears his gun and badge in court trying to intimidate those who represent the poor. Prosecutors are supposed to be ministers of justice not hired guns double billing the taxpayers.”
Trenticosta’s formal complaint follows a lengthy review of Holland’s career published by Radley Balko of the Washington Post, titled “How a fired prosecutor became the most powerful law enforcement official in Louisiana.” The article used employment records collected by the Promise of Justice Initiative to demonstrate how Holland had secured a number of jobs with “at least 10 parishes” resulting in a salary of “at least $210,000.” To put that into perspective, Louisiana’s governor makes $130,000 per year. The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court makes $167,000.
Using documents secured by the Promise of Justice Initiative, the Post article describes how Holland gets paid both as a prosecutor and as an unregistered lobbyist, lobbying the legislature for harsher punishments and to cut funding for the indigent capital defendants he prosecutes.
Holland first received attention in 2012 as one of two prosecutors forced to resign after an investigator was fired for accusing Holland of filing false paperwork to obtain assault rifles from the Department of Defense. When it became clear that Holland had authorized the submission of false documents to the Federal Government, the investigator ultimately received a settlement for wrongful termination. Alexander Burris, Caddo DA: Settlement in Neighborhood of $447,000.
The Promise of Justice Initiative began tracking Holland’s work after he was fired. After Holland was fired, he was given a new job virtually immediately by D.A. John DeRossier, the then head of the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association (LDAA) and signed a contract with the Caddo Parish DA’s Office to lobby on behalf of the LDAA. Since then, Holland has amassed a staggering number of contracts and become the highest paid assistant district attorney in Louisiana.
An article from June, 2017 by Jim Mustian of the Baton Rouge Advocate introduced Holland “Meet ‘controversial’ Louisiana prosecutor: an outspoken death penalty champion with cat named after Lee Harvey Oswald.” In that article, Holland boasted that he could operate in ten different parishes as a prosecutor because it will take him 15 minutes to review a file that might take another lawyer five hours.
Trenticosta’s complaint raises specific concerns about: dual office holding (holding two full-time state positions at once); pay roll fraud; and, improper unregistered lobbying. In addition to the false paperwork filed to obtain assault rifles, Holland has been found to have withheld favorable evidence from the defense; half of the death sentences he has obtained have been reversed or set aside. Holland continues to skirt the consequences of his actions, and as the Washington Post article revealed – he has doubled his salary since he was dismissed for filing false documents with the federal government.
The data collected by PJI identifies three fundamental problems with the way Holland operates: first he is billing the state of Louisiana for more than two full time jobs; second, he is getting paid to lobby with state funds without registering as a lobbyist; and third whether it is illegal, Holland appears to think that the rules do not apply to him. Ben Cohen, Of Counsel at PJI, observed “It’s a dangerous world-view for a guy in charge with deciding who lives and who dies.”
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor is responsible for gathering evidence regarding fraudulent or abusive activity affecting governmental entities. Their audits are designed to detect and deter the misappropriation of public assets and to reduce future fraud risks.