GRETNA, La. -- Bond was set at $50,000 Wednesday in Jefferson Parish for Brad Robinson, a New Orleans resident charged with aggravated assault over an incident last September at the River Oaks mental hospital.
Robinson, 55, is already in Orleans Parish Prison on attempted murder charges for a separate incident that happened the same day as the alleged assault at River Oaks, Sept. 20.
The alleged incidents apparently relate to Robinson’s unsuccessful fight to lay claim to his late father’s lost share of Barq’s root beer, before the company was sold to Coca-Cola almost 20 years ago. It’s a bizarre and sad story for a man whom we’ve interviewed several times regarding a number of high-profile disputes.
Robinson, a disabled veteran who served 22 years in the Army and says he retired as a colonel with a 100-percent disability for post-traumatic stress, was the victim of the first Road Home fraud case in 2007 when a former tenant of his filed false documents to snag a $132,000 Katrina recovery grant on one of Robinson’s rental properties.
While Robinson was dealing with that issue, a man staying at Robinson’s Panola Street home was found murdered in the driveway. And then, Robinson went bankrupt and lost his various rental properties around New Orleans.
On Sept. 20, 2013, an Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge ruled against Robinson and in favor of his cousin, Baton Rouge attorney Hansel Harlan. They had been in a long-running civil dispute over their family’s former ownership of Barq’s Beverages and the root beer bottling facilities that operated in Mid-City until the 1980s.
The Orleans Parish civil court ruling allowed Harlan to move forward in his efforts to collect more than $100,000 from a contempt judgment against Robinson, using Robinson’s home in the Carrollton neighborhood.
Harlan left the courthouse after the victory and was trying to walk across Poydras Street to go to his car when he was run over by a pickup truck, which immediately left the scene. Witnesses said the incident looked deliberate, but it was initially classified by NOPD as a hit-and-run.
With the prospect of losing his last remaining asset, Robinson showed up later that afternoon at River Oaks psychiatric hospital in Harahan and put a gun to his own head. A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office report says a counselor sat with Robinson to talk, but then Robinson pulled a gun out of his waistband and pointed it at his head. He put the gun in his mouth and under his chin, but when the counselor tried to intervene, Robinson pointed the gun at him briefly, the police report said.
A Jefferson Parish SWAT team arrested Robinson and he was booked on a terrorizing charge, but the counselor, Christopher Howard, told police he was not in danger and did not want to press charges. The charges were officially dropped in Jefferson Parish on Oct. 23.
According to an affidavit by New Orleans Police Det. Michael Flores, it wasn’t until November that Sgt. Ernest Luster told Flores he believed the hit-and-run on Harlan was an attempted murder. Flores investigated and found that Robinson tried to report his truck stolen in October, then withdrew the claim the next day. Flores also found Robinson fixed damage to his driver’s side mirror, matching with damage reported by witnesses when Harlan was hit.
In December, Jefferson Parish re-issued charges against Robinson related to the River Oaks incident. This time, they charged him with aggravated assault on the counselor, Howard, in spite of Howard’s refusal to press charges earlier.
“There was clearly some influence on changing the charges in Jefferson based on the incident alleged in New Orleans,” said Gerald DeSalvo, Robinson’s criminal attorney.
In court Wednesday, Jefferson Parish prosecutor Jerry Smith told Judge John Molaison Jr. that he plans to introduce evidence from the New Orleans case, tying the two incidents together.
Robinson has pleaded not guilty in both cases. He has a hearing set in Jefferson Parish on April 7 and another in Orleans Parish the next day. Molaison suggested that Robinson speak with the court’s liaison for the Department of Veterans Affairs about getting help with mental health care.