When several news outlets got an anonymous early morning e-mail Thursday describing a fatal two-car accident involving state House District 93 candidate Helena Moreno, a “summary” preceding the report was less than accurate.

As explained in The Times-Picayune today, Moreno’s opponent, James Perry, put out a news release repeating some of the inaccuracies or highlighting some facts while ignoring others.

But the story didn’t point out what was missing – or that the case was sent to the district attorney’s office in regard to the other driver, but not Moreno.

The anonymous report distributed to news media, including The Lens, was missing more than 15 pages, including some that would have reflected favorably on Moreno. Click here to download the full report, released by the New Orleans Police Friday.

In the October 14, 2002 accident, Moreno T-boned the passenger side of a car that ran a red light, killing the passenger and inflicting brain hemorrhaging and a broken jaw on the driver. Moreno admitted to driving 35 in a 25 mph zone, and the investigator determined that the other car ran the red light.

The anonymously released report did not include pages that showed:

  • The Coroner’s Office ruled the death “Accidental: Motor Vehicle Fatality.”
  • Both drivers were investigated as negligent homicide suspects, not just Moreno
  • Both drivers tested negative for alcohol or drugs in their blood and urine samples

Other missing pages included mundane details, such as the position and operational features of the traffic signals at the fatal intersection, Carondelet Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Perry’s release highlighted the fact that Moreno was interviewed under suspicion of negligent homicide. He didn’t say Vanessa Robinson, the other driver, was likewise investigated.

The investigation was sent to the district attorney’s office for consultation. That’s different from when police make an arrest and forward charges to the district attorney’s office, which then must accept or refuse charges, or do nothing and let the charges drop after an allotted time expires.

In a consultation, there’s no time limit for deciding on whether to pursue charges, other than the statute of limitations for a particular crime.

The consultation apparently concerned Robinson’s role only.

Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, said files indicate that then-DA Eddie Jordan’s office got the case in December 2002, three months after the accident. It wasn’t until 14 months later, in February 2004, that Jordan’s office declined to prosecute.

“There’s no indication that NOPD sent a case against Ms. Moreno to the DA’s Office,” Bowman said.

Neither Robinson nor Moreno were cited in the accident, which the NOPD investigator said could have been prevented by either driver.

Moreno and Perry face off May 29 in the runoff for the state representative postition.

Steve Beatty

Steve Beatty is the publisher and chief executive officer of The Lens. He worked as an editor for The Times-Picayune for 15 years, leaving New Orleans just before Katrina to take a position as an editor...