Public defender on leave after drug arrest

Published: Feb. 27, 2012 at 7:56 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2012 at 9:46 AM CST
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Nelvil Hollingsworth (Source: West Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office)
Nelvil Hollingsworth (Source: West Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Public Defender accused of trying to sneak marijuana into Angola is now on leave from his job.

Warden Burl Cain said Nelvil Hollingsworth was at Angola to visit Barry Edge, one of the so-called "Angola 5" on trial for the beating and stabbing death of Angola guard David Knapps back in 1999.

"I was shocked; I couldn't believe it and you know we know him well and he's been representing Barry Edge for years, since we've started these trials," said Cain. "And, I don't see how he can continue, obviously, and so, it's going to set the trial back, probably a good bit, so that's disappointing. But, I feel bad for him. I don't understand."

As the head of the Capital Homicide Division, Hollingsworth is arguably the most high-profile attorney on staff at the public defender's office; handling murder cases like that of Derrick Todd Lee.

Following his arrest, Hollingsworth is again in the spotlight, and not because of his infamous clients. East Baton Rouge Parish public defender Mike Mitchell warns people not to jump to conclusions.

"Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty," said Mitchell. "We ask that everyone take a step back. I will calmly review the facts around it. The accusations and not act hastily and I will take the appropriate actions at the appropriate time."

Mitchell says he is handling Hollingsworth's potential death penalty cases while he is on leave; including taking care of a hearing Monday for accused triple murder Courtney Williams.

Hollingsworth is, however, still the attorney of record.

"As far as we're concerned, Mr. Hollingsworth is still their attorney until further notice," said Mitchell. "Each capital case has more than one attorney and that's not gonna be an issue."

Melvin Brumfield is a former client of Hollingsworth. He credits him with turning his life of crime around back in the early 90's. "Mr. Hollingsworth represented me in 1993-94 on a murder charge here in Baton Rouge, and he cleared me of that charge. He told me that God woke him up and told him to represent me," said Brumfield.

Hollingsworth is charged with one count of bringing contraband into a penal institution. He posted a $10,000 bond over the weekend.

Hollingsworth had no comment when contacted Sunday.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.