AG’s Office pushes back on Avoyelles DA’s move to recuse office from Armando Frank case

Hearing expected to be set in November
Armando Frank (APSO)
Armando Frank (APSO)(KALB)
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 11:09 AM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office is pushing back on a Sept. 28 judicial move to grant a request by Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle to recuse his office from the prosecution of the death investigation of Armando Frank.

Frank, 42, died in Oct. 2017 following an arrest struggle with law enforcement while sitting on a tractor in the parking lot of Walmart in Marksville. The sheriff’s office reported at the time that deputies were trying to arrest Frank on two warrants when he resisted arrest and was tased. Frank died at a local hospital.

In March 2018, an Avoyelles Parish grand jury chose not to indict three law enforcement officers involved in the incident. In July 2018, Frank’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages. Included with the lawsuit was a pathologist report from Dr. Christopher Tape which concluded that Frank’s cause of death was “asphyxia due to respiratory compromise due to law enforcement arrest with contribution of hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.” The manner of death is listed as “homicide.” The matter is still ongoing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Alexandria. A telephone status conference is scheduled for Wednesday, October 21.

Last month, Riddle filed a motion asking for the appointment of the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office to handle any further developments with the case. That motion was signed on Sept. 28 by Judge Kerry Spruill of the 12th JDC in Avoyelles Parish.

“On amended motion of Charles A Riddle, III, District Attorney for Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana and on suggesting to the Court that his office must be recused from the prosecution in the matter of the investigation in the death of Armando Frank owing to an abundance of caution and to avoid the appearance of partiality, accordingly; it is ordered that the Office of Charles A Riddle, III, District Attorney for Avoyelles Parish, be and the same is hereby recused from further participation in the above captioned and entitled cause and further that the Attorney General be appointed to take such action as he may deem fit and necessary in connection with the prosecution of this matter.”

Judge Kerry Spruill, Sept. 28, 2020

Two weeks later, however, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office filed a new motion on Oct. 14, urging Judge Spruill to vacate the order that recused the district attorney’s office, pointing out that the case “remained closed and inactive” for roughly two and a half years until the recusal motion was filed.

Assistant Attorney General Grant Willis wrote in his motion that a procedural error occurred. He pointed out that no contradictory hearing was held and the recusal must be vacated for “failure to comply with the relevant procedural requirements for recusation of the District Attorney."

Willis also pointed out that the recusal motion does not show a valid ground for recusal, writing, “A district attorney shall be recused when he: (1) Has a personal interest in the case or grand jury proceeding which is in conflict with fair and impartial administration of justice; (2) Is related to the party accused or to the party injured, or to the spouse of the accused or party injured, or to a part who is a focus of a grand jury investigation, to such an extent that it may appreciably influence him in the performance of the duties of his office; or (3) Has been employed or consulted in the case as attorney for the defendant before his election or appointment as district attorney.”

“Indeed, prior to this recusal motion, the District Attorney prosecuted this matter through an entire grand jury proceeding, in which the grand jury ultimately returned a No True Bill on March 15, 20118, and the District Attorney does not provide any information about a material change in circumstances in the interim which would justify his office’s recusal in this matter.”

Assistant Attorney General Grant Willis

Riddle tells News Channel 5 that he plans to oppose the motion filed by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. There’s no word yet on when the hearing will be held, but it will probably be set for November.

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