NEW ORLEANS -- A decade-old dispute tied to the former ownership of Barq's root beer has turned violent, according to attempted murder charges filed this week.
Brad Robinson, a litigious local landlord with an uncanny habit of popping up in all sorts of controversies, was booked by New Orleans police Tuesday with attempted second-degree murder for allegedly trying to run over his cousin with a truck on Sept. 20.
The cousin, Baton Rouge attorney Hansel Harlan, has been dueling Robinson in court for more than a decade. On Sept. 20, Harlan won a ruling in Orleans Parish Civil District Court that said he could go forward with a claim to collect on a $100,000 judgment against part of the value of Robinson's home on Panola Street in the Carrollton area.
Robinson wasn't in court for the hearing.
After the hearing, Harlan left the courthouse and tried to walk across Poydras Street at Loyola Avenue.
That's when he was hit by a pickup truck with a temporary license plate. Harlan broke his foot and a rib, fractured his vertebrae and suffered lacerations to the top of his head, according to Robinson's arrest warrant.
Witnesses described the vehicle and the driver to police and said the collision didn't appear to be an accident, noting that the driver revved the engine and appeared to hit Harlan twice.
New Orleans Police Detective Michael Flores said witness descriptions matched Robinson's salt- and-pepper hair and his 2011 gray GMC pickup truck, including damage to the driver's-side mirror that Flores said Robinson later got repaired. What's more, Flores found that Robinson reported the truck stolen three weeks after the incident, then withdrew his claim the next day.
Flores said in the arrest warrant that the theft report was Robinson's attempt to cover up the crime.
Later on the same day that Harlan was hit, Robinson showed up at River Oaks Hospital, a mental health facility, with a gun.
A Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office report stated that Robinson took a man hostage at River Oaks, requested a priest to hear his last confession and said he wanted the Jefferson Parish SWAT Team that came to the scene to shoot him.
But Robinson's criminal attorney, Gerald DeSalvo, said Jefferson Parish dropped terror-threat charges against Robinson because he was pointing the gun at himself and not at anyone else. Later, Jefferson Parish re-filed aggravated assault charges against Robinson.
DeSalvo said he's still reviewing the attempted-murder charges against his client, but questioned how the NOPD can charge attempted murder 'when they don't quite know who the driver even is.'
'Kids shoot somebody in New Orleans and when the police find out the victim isn't dying, they charge the shooter with aggravated battery,' DeSalvo said. 'But if you hit a lawyer with a car, it's attempted murder? I don't get that.'
Robinson, a Gulf War veteran and former Army Ranger who says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is on disability, has fallen on tough times in recent years.
He was a victim of the first case of federal Road Home fraud after Hurricane Katrina, in which the feds eventually convicted one of Robinson's former tenants. Around the same time, a worker who came to town to help rebuild a courthouse was staying at Robinson's house and was found murdered on his property.
Robinson also sued the state of Louisiana over his own Road Home claims and lost much of his rental property, then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 2012.
But the bankruptcy is in dispute because he claimed a second mortgage on his house that the trustee questions. The note for the mortgage was held by Robinson's sister and later was transferred to Robinson's children's trust, and the trustee says the mortgage is actually controlled by the debtors, Robinson and his wife.
If the mortgage is found illegitimate, it would open the door for Harlan to claim the equity on Robinson's home to cover a $100,000 contempt judgment against Robinson in the case involving the Barq's heirs.
Robinson's late father, Arthur Robinson, once owned a piece of Barq's Beverages in New Orleans, along with Arthur Robinson's sister, the late Yula Danna, who was Harlan's grandmother. Brad Robinson alleged that Danna failed to pay his father his fair share of a real estate deal related to the old Barq's bottling operations in Mid-City. He also alleged that Danna forced Arthur Robinson to write his three children out of his will while he was living with Danna in Baton Rouge for the last seven years of his life.
Court documents show that Arthur Robinson was bought out of Barq's in the 1970s. The firm was then sold to John Koerner in 1988, and Brad Robinson contends that's when Robinson Realty, a family company owned by Danna and other heirs, stopped paying Arthur Robinson for his share of the ownership of the Mid-City bottling facility. Koerner subsequently sold Barq's Beverages, along with a separate Mississippi Barq's company, to Coca-Cola. The New Orleans bottling facility shut down and was left vacant.
Robinson's civil attorney, Andrew Kramer, said Harlan's side of the family collected $4 million in the sale to Koerner, but Harlan wouldn't confirm that number.
Robinson is being held in Orleans Parish Prison on $600,000 bond.