Former Orleans Parish civil judge C. Hunter King has managed to have his record expunged as part of a deal under which he pleaded guilty to extortion and conspiring to commit public payroll fraud. His offense was requiring court employees to sell batches of $250 fundraising tickets or face termination. That's not only illegal but pathetic. Does he really deserve to have his record wiped clean? In my view, probably not. Mr. King's offense reflected incredibly poor judgment for a sitting judge and lawyer. That is not the sort of judgment that is the hallmark of judging. Nor does it seem fair given that so many people with far more petty offenses are plagued with stained criminal records that prevent them from ever enjoying gainful employment, while Mr. King looks like he's on the road to practicing law again. And Mr. King's fraud is particularly galling because he used public resources -- public servants paid by the state -- for his own personal gain. He not only has poor judgment, but he abused the public trust as part of a scheme to perpetuate his own political existence. He hardly deserves a free pass for that.
Judge Julian Parker, the criminal court judge who sentenced Mr. King, thinks the expungement fairly cleanses the supposed racism under which Mr. King suffered. At sentencing, Judge Parker lamented from the bench that Mr. King had been "set up." Really? Mr. King's decision to break the law by conscripting public employees to do his bidding was part of a racist entrapment plot? It sounds to me that Mr. King was "set up" in the same way that former DC Mayor Marion Barry was "set up" by that "*itch" who smoked crack with the Mayor in a hotel room. Mr. Barry and Judge Parker seem to be saying, "Never mind the underlying crimes; blame the person who had the courage (audacity?) to shine the light on the shady conduct." That's a glorified street thug creed to blame the snitch, forget the crime. Just what New Orleans needs.