To say the administration of Bobby Jindal has been steeped in double standards for nearly eight years now would be an understatement of monumental proportions. What else could one call it when $4.5 million is yanked away from Louisiana’s developmentally disadvantaged and handed over to one of the wealthiest families in the state for the ignoble purpose of funding repairs to a privately-owned $75 million auto racetrack in Jefferson Parish?
That precisely what was done in 2014 when the legislature approved the NGO (non-government organization) appropriation for NOLA Motorsports Park owned by Laney Chouest. The money was to pay for track improvements preparatory to the IndyCar Series race held in Avondale last April. But in order to make the funds available, Jindal had to prevail upon the Senate Finance Committee to remove the $4.5 million from the budget of the developmentally disabled.
But nowhere is the term double standard more clearly defined than in the manner in which Jindal or his administrative appointees have chosen to handle disciplinary matters involving law enforcement officials.
We have written extensively about the manner in which Murphy Painter was sacrificed for the benefit of mega-donors Tom Benson, members of his family and their businesses who have combined to pour more than $200,000 into Jindal campaigns since 2003.
And it was LouisianaVoice that broke the story in July of 2014 about the administration’s efforts to sneak a bill amendment through the legislature that would provide State Police Commander Col. Mike Edmonson an illegal $55,000-per-year increase in his retirement benefits even as thousands of other state retirees were denied minimal cost of living increases. Because of the publicity we gave to that bit of subterfuge, a state district judge ruled that the administration’s effort, fronted by State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), was unconstitutional.
But now LouisianaVoice has obtained documents from Louisiana State Police which reveal that a state trooper from Troop D in Lake Charles was given the symbolic slap on the wrist over a criminal complaint against him for sending threats of jail time and physical harm to and for conducting background checks on an individual with whom he had a running dispute.
Ironically, the token punishment meted out to State Trooper Jimmy Rogers coincided with the ongoing Painter investigation. Painter who, after being fired by Jindal, was indicted in 2012 by a federal grand jury on charges of using law enforcement databases between 2005 and 2010 for “non-official criminal justice purposes” by obtaining personal identification information and conducting illegal criminal background checks on people who had committed no crimes.
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street answers only to the governor and it was his office’s investigation that formed the basis of the federal indictment of Painter.
Painter, who LouisianaVoice said early on was the victim of retaliation by Jindal for not granting a liquor permit for Benson’s Champion Square outdoor venue across from the Superdome, was cleared of all charges in a trial in Federal District Court in Baton Rouge and the state was subsequently required to pony up more than $300,000 to pay his legal expenses.
Rogers, on the other hand, admitted to not only obtaining telephone numbers of the target of his wrath, but conducted a criminal background search on the individual, made threatening telephone calls to his residence and to his parents, threatened him on Facebook, in text messages, and phone calls using his position as a state trooper to threaten the man with bodily harm and even jail time, according to a nine-page, heavily redacted document (page three of the letter was redacted in its entirety) obtained from State Police.
Rogers’ punishment? A 240-hour reduction in pay (a 10 percent reduction for 30 pay periods). At $161.52 per pay period, that came to a $4,845.60 cut but sources indicate that was more than made up for in overtime Rogers was allowed to work during that period of just over a year.
The disciplinary letter of Nov. 19, 2010, signed by Edmonson, said Rogers had threatened the person “with physical harm” beginning on May 5, 2010, and that he initiated contact with the individual whose name was redacted and at least one other unidentified person on Facebook and the following day initiated “threatening and harassing text messages and phone calls to both.”
In Rogers’ May 6 text, which was provided to investigators, he even identified himself as “Trooper.” The victim told investigators that in subsequent conversations Rogers implied that he could “get away with anything” and could “do what you wanted and no one could touch you because you are a state trooper,” Edmonson said in his disciplinary letter.
Further, Rogers admitted in a taped statement that on May 6, he texted the dispatcher at State Police Troop D communications and asked her to look up the telephone number of the person. The dispatcher gave him two phone numbers which Rogers subsequently admitted “was strictly for personal use.”
The letter said, “It was independently confirmed by investigators through an off-line search that a criminal history was run (redacted) at your request.”
Apparently a third person emerged as a witness to Rogers’ vitriol. “(Redacted) all related to investigators that on May 9, 2010, you threatened (redacted) that you were in the position to do some damage to (redacted) and knew the right people,” Edmonson wrote in his letter. “All three confirm your May 9, 2010, telephone call with (redacted) was held on (redacted) speaker phone with (redacted) and (redacted) present and listening. They maintain that you offered to ‘swing for the title,’ and you threatened, ‘I am in the position to do some damage. I know the right people.’ Both (redacted) and (redacted) understood your threat to reference your position as a State Trooper.”
Edmonson continued by pointing out that Rogers then “attempted to contact (redacted) via telephone and text messaging, leaving messages on (redacted) parents’ residential phone and (redacted) cell phone. Recordings of those messages demonstrate that you related the following to (redacted):”
There followed completely redacted messages contained on the cell phones and land lines as well as a text message.
“(Redacted) also advised that you sent (redacted) two different pictures of (redacted) driver’s license photos to (redacted) iPhone on March 28, 2010. Through an off-line search, conducted in connection with this investigation by a Criminal Records Analyst, it was confirmed that you ran (redacted) criminal history on March 28, 2010, at 10:29 a.m. By your own admission, you obtained personal information for unofficial purposes. Text messages sent from your cell phone to (redacted) iPhone on March 28, 2010,…stated:
The entire content of that message was also redacted, but apparently contained a reference to threats of jail and bodily harm. “Your threatening (redacted) with jail and threatening (redacted) as detailed above, that you were in a position to do (redacted) damage were in violation of LSP (regulations).
“Your text messages to (redacted) and (redacted) as evidenced by their phone records and your voice messages to (redacted), as evidenced by the telephone recordings, were in the nature of a violation of criminal statute…,” Edmonson wrote.
Edmonson itemized other infractions of State Police regulations and state criminal laws which he said Rogers violated in his actions and ended by saying “Any future violations of this or any nature may result in more severe disciplinary action, including up to termination.”
LouisianaVoice is in possession of evidence of subsequent retaliatory actions by Rogers against other individuals and will be writing about these and other problems in Troop D in upcoming posts.
Meanwhile, we have requested that the Department of Public Safety provide copies of Edmonson’s letter that is not so heavily redacted. The names, addresses and telephone numbers of victims are not public record and we have no qualms with those being redacted. Likewise, ongoing investigations are not subject to the state’s public records laws but when we requested the file on Rogers, Edmonson’s letter was all we received. That letter was dated nearly five years ago and Rogers apparently did not appeal his punishment, so the investigation is presumed to be closed.
Accordingly, we maintain, and will pursue through all legal means available, if necessary, that the contents of the texts, emails, and voice mails to the targets of Rogers’ invectives which were the basis for his discipline are public records.