If there’s anything dirtier than a rogue cop, it would have to be a rogue judge.
Put the two together and an epic miscarriage of justice is bound to occur.
The two are equally bad for different reasons. The bad cop has a badge and a gun. The judge exists for the sole purpose of seeing that justice prevails for society—that victims are protected and the guilty are punished. When one or both betray that trust, society is the loser.
Recent events up in Monroe have proved that Ronald Thomas and Larry Jefferson belong together—in the same jail cell.
It was bad enough that Thomas, a Louisiana State Police veteran of 18 years routinely went off the grid to go fishing or meeting up with his paramour—all while on the clock. But over a period of two years, Thomas, the evidence custodian for Troop F in Monroe, returned up to $1 million in confiscated drugs to the street by stealing packets of cocaine that he was charged with incinerating. The scheme enriched him by hundreds of thousands of dollars in dirty money. http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/14639945-75/state-police-evidence-scandal-ends-in-modest-prison-term-for-rogue-trooper
Thomas was enabled in carrying out his business venture because the evidence custodian position had few, if any, checks and balances.
In September 2012, for example, he removed two sealed boxes containing nearly 24 pounds of cocaine from the evidence vault. The evidence was scheduled for destruction and Thomas was to have taken it to an incinerator in Alexandria the next day. Hidden cameras in his office even recorded him stuffing cash into a sock and then secreting the money in his waistband before leaving work.
Thomas was charged after a year-long investigation and faced up to 20 years in prison. His attorney, Darrell Hickman said of his client at trial, “This is a man who is probably not going to be in trouble for the rest of his life. He lost his job, he lost his reputation, and he almost lost his family. That’s enough to bring any man back to reality.”
Really, Darrell? That’s your best defense? A real pity all accused felons couldn’t fall back on the “I’ll probably never get in trouble again” defense.
At least Thomas was a little more creative. He blamed his crimes in part on exposure to fumes from confiscated narcotics he handled for years after being removed from patrol to the evidence room.
Yeah, right. And I blame my poor grades in school to the foul odor of cabbage wafting up into my classroom from the school cafeteria.
So, what was his punishment? Did he get the full 20 years?
One year in the lockup, plus a $15,000 fine (remember, he raked hundreds of thousands of dollars by forsaking his sworn oath to uphold the law), and 240 community service.
And that’s where Judge Jefferson becomes the topic of our story and picture is ugly, to say the least. Yes, Thomas was a bad cop, but this story is about a disgraceful judge, a judge whose ego knows no bounds and his respect for the law appears miniscule.
First, a little background. A city court judge first, he was removed from the bench by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Jan. 18, 2000 after being formally charged by the Judiciary Commission with four separate counts:
Charge I: Judge Jefferson abused his authority as a judge with respect to the City Prosecutor for the Monroe City Court and the Clerk of Court for the Monroe City Court by exceeding his contempt power and/or abusing such contempt power, which demonstrates a lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor. These actions violated Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1), (2), (3) and 3B(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C in that the actions were willful misconduct relating to the judge’s official capacity and were persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.
Charge II: Judge Jefferson abused and exceeded his authority as a judge when he banned the City Prosecutor from his courtroom and subsequently dismissed 41 cases. His conduct violated Canons 1, 2, and 3A(1), (2), and (3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. Art. V, § 25C in that he engaged in willful misconduct relative to his office and engaged in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.
Charge III: Judge Jefferson engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of La. R.S. 13:1952, Canons 1, 2, 3A(1) and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to his official duty and in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Charge IV: That Judge Jefferson failed to comply with the order of May 28, 1998, issued by the Louisiana Supreme Court, pursuant to which he was relieved of all administrative duties at Monroe City Court. This was in violation of Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1) and 3(B)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to this official duty and in persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
In Charge I, the Commission charged Judge Jefferson with abusing his authority as a judge by exceeding his contempt power and abusing such contempt power with respect to the city prosecutor and the clerk of court for the Monroe City Court. The Commission found that such acts demonstrated Judge Jefferson’s lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor under the circumstances. Charge I included three incidents involving Judge Jefferson, the prosecutor, James Rodney Pierre, and the Clerk of Court, Ms. Powell-Lexing, in which the judge held these individuals in contempt of court. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-supreme-court/1212290.html
“The majority recommends that Judge Jefferson be removed from judicial office,” the January 2000 decision said. “However, this court has previously stated that “[t]he most severe discipline should be reserved for judges who use their office improperly for personal gain; judges who are consistently abusive and insensitive to parties, witnesses, jurors, and attorneys; judges who because of laziness or indifference fail to perform their judicial duties to the best of their ability; and judges who engage in felonious criminal conduct. Moreover, the removal of a duly elected member of the judiciary is a serious undertaking which should only be borne with the utmost care so as not to unduly disrupt the public’s choice for service in the judiciary.”
Judge Jefferson’s conduct warrants a two year suspension, retroactive to his interim suspension dated October 13, 1998. Effectively, the two-year suspension was in reality a 10-month suspension—to Oct. 13, 2000.
In September 2000, Judge Jefferson was sued by newsman Ken Booth in an effort to prevent his return to the bench. The lawsuit was thrown out because Booth could not prove he was a qualified elector in Ouachita Parish and thus, had no legal standing with the court.
But the court took matters a step further by point out the Supreme Court has no authority set qualifications for seeking office. “Once an individual has been removed from judicial office, he no longer is a judge, and is no longer subject to judicial disciplinary actions,” the ruling by the State High Court said. Because Jefferson’s license to practice law was not revoked, he was therefore eligible to seek another judgeship. http://www.leagle.com/decision/20002014765So2d1249_11742/BOOTH%20v.%20JEFFERSON
Accordingly, in November 2007 he again won election to the Monroe City Court judgeship with 62 percent of the vote.
Then, in November 2014, he ran for judge of the 4th Judicial District Court (Ouachita and Morehouse parishes), capturing 61 percent of the vote.
And so it was in 2016 that a dirty cop came forward to receive justice from a tainted judge who handed down a disgraceful sentence.
Thousands of non-violent offenders occupy cells in state and parish prisons throughout Louisiana for minor transgressions—and they’re serving sentences considerably longer than the cop who ripped off $1 million in cocaine from the State Police evidence room.
And there are judges who will turn a blind eye to such crimes but will berate a city court prosecutor or a city clerk of court for the most minor of offenses.
There is a certain irony that the last names of Thomas and Jefferson would come together to spit in the face of honest cops and judicial integrity.