The Louisiana Blue Plate Special

Another errant judge served up in the Bayou State



Criminal Court Judge Edward A. Haggerty presided at the Kennedy conspiracy trial of Clay L. Shaw in New Orleans in 1969. Jim Garrison, the controversial district attorney who has since faced problems of his own, had brought Shaw to trial on charges of conspiring to murder the president. On March 1, 1969, Shaw was fully acquitted.

Nine months later, Judge Haggerty was arrested along with thirteen others in a motel vice raid. Among the others was Malcolm Munday, Jr., who at one time was Garrison's assistant district attorney.

On January 9, 1970, the fifty-six-year-old Haggerty pleaded not guilty to charges of "organizing an assemblage for indecent purposes, procuring lewd films and photographs, and procuring prostitutes." The case was heard without a jury by Judge Haggerty's fellow judge, Matthew S. Braniff, who ruled that the gathering was a "private" party and found Haggerty not guilty.

But the Louisiana Judiciary Commission was not satisfied. After a preliminary investigation and a six-day hearing, the Commission determined that Judge Haggerty was guilty of charges that warranted his removal from the bench. The Commission submitted a forty-six-page report in support of its opinion, setting forth its conclusive evidence.

A bachelor party honoring one Kenneth Reeves was held at the DeVille Motel on Tulane Avenue in New Orleans on December 17, 1969. The local vice squad, which had been investigating illegal lewd parties, learned of the affair and planned a raid. The detectives never realized who would be there.

The police had tipped newsmen about the raid, and photographers were conveniently on hand to get pictures of Judge Haggerty as he struggled with police in an effort to escape the embarrassing scene.

Haggerty had attended and helped arrange the orgy. He contributed money before the party to assist in its arrangement and again after the party started. Testimony of those present established that Haggerty knew the party was to be held in the DeVille Motel and that he brought the obscene films to the party. The pornographic films were shown to those attending, including three prostitutes whom Judge Haggerty also brought to the party. The "hookers" put on a live show and then sold their wares.

Judge Haggerty admitted inviting the trio of ladies to the party and accompanying them across the street from the Rowntowner Motor Hotel to the DeVille Motel. He claimed the invitation was a joke and that he did not know the women were "working girls."

During the raid, Judge Haggerty's personal behavior was not exactly that of an innocent victim caught up in a raid. When the police arrived, Haggerty fled the room where the stag films were being shown, ignoring a police officer who informed him that he was under arrest. He next resisted two other officers who attempted to arrest him in the corridor — about forty feet from the room he had just left. Following a struggle, he was brought back to the room but again tried to break away, this time slugging one of the officers. He was finally subdued on the motel room floor and handcuffed. Unusual conduct for a respected member of the judiciary.

The Commission further noted that the judge regularly participated in illegal gambling activities. Haggerty had associated with Manuel Soto, a known "bookie" with a rather lengthy criminal record, and he placed bets with Soto in public on an almost daily basis.

Judge Haggerty also frequently associated with Frank Occhipinti, the manager and part owner of the Rowntowner Motor Hotel. Occhipinti, who admitted significant business dealings with certain underworld characters in the New Orleans area, permitted Haggerty to run up a bill at the hotel's bar and restaurant in excess of $1,700. No request or demand for payment was ever made.

Occhipinti had a brother, Roy, who had felony charges pending before the criminal district court. As chance would have it, in February of 1969 Roy's case was assigned to Judge Haggerty, who subsequently heard numerous motions in conjunction with its prosecution. The judge made no attempt to reassign the case, nor did he excuse himself. Roy was a frequent visitor to his brother Frank's Rowntowner Motor Hotel, where the judge often spent his off-the-bench hours.

Besides lewd sex parties, Judge Haggerty also engaged in other types of "indoor sports" at the DeVille Motel and was an avid fan of the games played there. Often, Haggerty was a big winner and was required to pay the rental fee for the room used for a game. The usual rate was $12 per night. Between June 24, 1969 and January 15, 1970, forty-two nights of room rentals had been charged to Haggerty.

Although Judge Haggerty maintained that all these activities in no way affected his behavior on the bench, on November 23, 1970, the Louisiana Supreme Court, upon the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission, ruled that he was unfit to be a judge and ordered him removed from office without further delay.

Adapted from: Charles R. Ashman, The Finest Judges Money Can Buy, Nash Publishing, Los Angeles, 1973.

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