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Archive for the ‘Attorney General’ Category

It’s now been 20 months since that 17-year-old girl was RAPED twice in a jail cell in the Union Parish Detention Center in April 2016 and there still has been no resolution to the ongoing investigation by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Because the detention center is administered by a committee that includes the local district attorney, he properly recused himself and the case was turned over to the attorney general for investigation.

To refresh, the girl was brought to the detention center after being found high on meth. Demarcus Shavez Peyton, 28, of Homer, was being held in the center awaiting a scheduled sentencing for his conviction of aggravated rape.

Sometime on the night of April 19, he was released from his cell and he entered the girl’s cell and raped her twice.

So, what’s to investigate? The victim is known. The perpetrator is known. The date is known. The location, a tiny, restricted jail cell, is known. It just doesn’t make sense that the “investigation” is taking so long when Landry is so quick to jump on every decision or action of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

It seems from my perspective that Landry is spending more time and energy on watching every move of Edwards and preparing his own run for governor rather than concentrating on his own job duties.

For that reason, I started making monthly checks into the progress of the investigation. Here’s one response to my first inquiry from his press secretary:

From: Wisher, Ruth [mailto:WisherR@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2017 11:25 AM
To: ‘Tom Aswell’ <azspeak@cox.net>
Subject: RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

Mr. Tom,

 This matter is under investigation, therefore I cannot comment on the specifics or answer questions at this time.  

That has been the consistent response to my monthly update request, including the latest:

From: AG Landry News
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 10:02 AM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: RE: FOLLOW UP: STATUS

Good morning,

This is an ongoing investigation therefore I cannot comment on any specifics.

And that’s not the only case of Landry’s foot-dragging on cases other than the low-hanging fruit he seizes upon for his regular press releases to display his tough on crime stance.

When an employee of the DeSoto Parish district attorney’s office cashed more 580 money orders at the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office—money orders that amounted to something on the order of $130,000—the district attorney recused himself from the investigation on the basis of his being the victim of the theft. Accordingly, he called upon the attorney general’s office to conduct the investigation.

That was in February 2014, during the administration of Landry’s predecessor, Buddy Caldwell, the singing attorney general. Caldwell’s record was no better than Landry’s but when Landry came into office, the case continued to languish with neither attorney general ever filing any documents with the court.

The employee worked in the district attorney’s worthless checks and diversion programs, responsible for overseeing the case files, accepting payments from defendants, and recording receipts of payments.

A federal grand jury finally indicted her, charging than when she would direct defendants to pay with money orders with the recipient’s and remitter’s names left blank. She would then accept money orders for payments. Instead of recording the payment, she would notate the cases nolle pros, or charges rejected and then enter her name as the payee and cash the money orders at the sheriff’s office.

But Caldwell apparently was too busy with his Elvis impersonations and Landry was too involved in grinding out his daily press releases to burnish his reputation as a modern-day Marshall Dillon to waste time on remote parishes like DeSoto and Union.

Let’s face it: A felon in DeSoto Parish and a teenage meth addict rape victim in Union Parish aren’t likely to generate much sympathy or many votes in his run for governor.

A man trying to establish a reputation as a straight-shootin’, straight-talkin’ tough-on-crime politician still has to be pragmatic, after all.

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LouisianaVoice keeps trying to prod the Attorney General’s office into getting off its backside in the investigation of that RAPE of a 17-year-old girl by a convicted rapist in a Union Parish Detention Center cell in April 2016, but it seems Jeff Landry is far too occupied with some grand scheme that he thinks will ultimately land him in the governor’s office.

In our monthly tabulation, it has now been 19 months and counting since the girl, who was being held in a cell after being picked up on a drug charge, was raped not once, but twice, by an inmate who had already been convicted of aggravated rape in Claiborne Parish and was awaiting sentencing while being held in adjacent Union Parish.

To refresh your memory, because the district attorney is a member of the Union Parish Detention Center Commission which operates the center, DA John Belton recused himself and requested that the AG conduct an investigation of the incident. The victim has since filed a LAWSUIT over the incident and now Landry’s office is attempting to lean on that as a legitimate reason for not providing a status of its so-called criminal investigation.

Back on Oct. 17, we submitted our monthly request as to the status of the assault investigation to both the AG’s Public Information Office and to its Criminal Investigation Section. The next day, Oct. 18, we received following response:

—–Original Message—–
From: AG Landry News [mailto:aglandrynews@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 1:49 PM
To: Tom Aswell <azspeak@cox.net>
Subject: Re: QUESTION

This matter is under investigation.

Thanks!

Ruth

So, we did our obligatory monthly report of inactivity on Landry’s part. But then on Wednesday (Nov. 15), we received the following response from Assistant Attorney General Luke Donovan, Executive Division:

From: Donovan, Luke [mailto:DonovanL@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 4:30 PM
To: azspeak@cox.net
Cc: Dirmann, Shannon <DirmannS@ag.louisiana.gov>
Subject: PRR 17-0159 Tom Aswell, Louisiana Voice

Good afternoon Mr. Aswell,

In response to your public records request pursuant to La. R.S. 44:1 et seq, the information you requested has been processed. You sought records related to the following:​

… any documents or reports pertaining to the status of the attorney general’s investigation of the rape of the 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail cell last April. That’s the investigation 3rd JDC District Attorney John Belton asked the attorney general’s office to investigate because of a conflict of interests.

Louisiana’s Public Records Act, specifically La. R.S. 44:3(A)(1), exempts records held by the office of the attorney general which pertain “to pending criminal litigation or any criminal litigation which can be reasonably anticipated, until such litigation has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled….”  

Therefore, the records which you seek are exempt from production at this time.

If our office can be of any further assistance, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Luke Donovan

Assistant Attorney General, Executive Division
Office of Attorney General Jeff Landry
Phone: (225) 326-6712  Fax: (225) 326-6098
www.AGJeffLandry.com

Well, that prompted my immediate response:

Your response is pure, unadulterated B.S.

That’s only because your boss is more interested in promoting his campaign for governor than doing anything on this case for the past 19 months. I’m not at all sure what you mean by “criminal litigation,” but I do know what “criminal investigation” and “civil litigation” are. The first is an investigation and, if warranted, an indictment and trial on criminal charges—and I suggest 19 months to investigate an assault in a confined area when the date, the victim and the assailant are all known to prosecutors is more than enough time to conclude an investigation and to indict. Any litigation would be a civil matter and completely unrelated to criminal charges as that would be a separate matter altogether. The information I am seeking is the status of the criminal investigation, i.e. has the alleged perpetrator been formally charged? If so, what was the charge and is there an arraignment/trial date?

To try and hide behind “pending criminal litigation” is a bit disingenuous. But then I would expect nothing better from Jeff Landry.

The only thing I neglected to say (and I wish I had, so I’ll say it here) is this:

Judging from the manner in which he can drag a matter out, perhaps Landry should consider offering his services as defense counsel for Roy Moore.

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General Jeff Landry remains the same self-serving, opportunistic, suck-up sycophant he has been since his first run at public office.

This is the same attorney general who almost daily sends out glowing press releases designed to put him in the best possible light as he gears up for what he hopes will a run for the state’s highest office—if not in 2019 against John Bel Edwards, then sometime in short order thereafter.

By taking full advantage of his agency’s public information office which by now is sorely challenged to keep coming up with sufficient superlatives—at taxpayer cost, no less—Landry has managed to see to it that every single news release is all about him first and the attorney general’s various enforcement divisions second.

Landry, taking over from another cruel joke of attorney general foisted upon Louisiana’s electorate in 2016, has made a career of nabbing deviates who like to download kiddie porn (or at least announcing that he, apparently personally nabbed them), low-ranking civil servants with no political connections who attempt to rake money off the top of various programs, including Medicaid, and a scam artist here and there.

All that’s well and good. Those people should be arrested. But where has Landry been in cases involving the politically powerful appointees, legislators who use campaign funds to pay for personal expenses like luxury autos, payments of income taxes and even ethics fines? It’s relatively easy to bust a town clerk somewhere in north Louisiana or even a DHH employee who gets a little greedy. But there are other big-time crooks a-plenty in state government who Landry seems to be able to quietly ignore.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office is different from its counterparts in other states, thanks to the lobbying efforts of Louisiana’s district attorneys way back in 1974 when the current State Constitution was written and subsequently adopted by voters. The District Attorneys Association, jealous of its turf, managed to overcome the objections of then-Attorney General William Gueste in ramming through the Constitutional Convention a provision that the attorney general’s office could not intervene in local investigations unless invited to do so by the local DA.

Yet, here we have Landry churning out those news releases almost daily about some major arrest of some perpetrator somewhere in the state, raising the question of how he manages to interject his office into so many of these local matters. Even in the case of low-hanging fruit like state civil servants, should he involve his office in the arrest of say, a DHH employee for stealing from Medicaid and Medicaid or the intended recipient of the Medicaid benefits decides to sue DHH, Landry has himself a sure-fire pickle called conflict of interests.

You see, under the present structure of his office, his primary job is to defend, not prosecute, state agencies. Yet, in case of such litigation, he would be in charge of overseeing the AG attorney or contract attorney who is called upon to defend DHH. That in turn raises another question: How can he investigate an agency and defend it?

And most recently, LouisianaVoice received in its email inbox a puff piece from Landry lauding the nomination of Brandon Fremin as U.S. ATTORNEY for Louisiana’s Middle District. Fremin, you see, is Criminal Director “for General Landry’s office,” the news release says, where he oversees several sections, including general prosecutions, insurance fraud “and the award-winning Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.”

“Under his watch, over 15 public officials have been arrested for public corruption charges—many of whom are currently being prosecuted by the LADOJ (Louisiana Department of Justice, as the AG’s office is officially known).”

But how many of those 15 held positions of supervisors or higher? Better yet, how many cases of supervisory sexual harassment cases has Landry investigated during his brief tenure? Several such reports have been received by LouisianaVoice in recent months and we are attempting to investigate them ourselves, despite the lack the personnel and authority that Landry has at his disposal.

And just for good measure, it would be interesting to learn why he hired an employee for his Fraud Division who herself had been convicted of FRAUD.

Calling Fremin’s nomination a “grand slam homerun,” Landry lost no time in moving the dialogue to a me, me, me theme. “Under my administration,” he trumpeted (emphasis added), “our office (did he really say “our”?) has created a strong partnership with our federal partners and we look forward to continuing this with Brandon in leadership. Brandon will continue to help make Louisiana an even better place to live, work, and raise our families. I hope he is quickly confirmed by the Senate.”

There is one thing we’d love to see occur before the “Criminal Director for General Landry’s office” departs for the Federal Building downtown. As Director of the AG’s Criminal Division, we can only assume it is he who is ostensibly conducting the investigation of that jailhouse  RAPE of a 17-year-old girl in April 2016—an investigation now moving into its 19th month without a sign of resolution.

We’ve asked before and we’ll ask again: “General” Landry, just how long does it take to investigate a rape in the known confines space of a jail cell where the date of the assault and the identities of the victim and the assailant are all known to investigators?

Because the Union Parish district attorney sits on a governing board that runs the Union Parish Detention Center, he rightly recused himself and asked the AG’s office to conduct an investigation.

Inspector Clouseau could’ve hit a “grand slam homerun” on this one in a week. Yet that great champion of law and order, Jeff Landry, he of higher political aspirations, can’t seem to get traction after 18 months.

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An interesting scenario is playing out up in Bossier Parish that could impact the landscape in the 2019 state elections and the 2020 congressional elections with key players being U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson and Bossier Parish Superintendent of Schools Scott Smith.

Back in 2015, there was an uproar over students’ plans to install “prayer boxes” at Airline High School in Bossier City. While the controversy died down rather quickly, it provided a window for then-State Rep. to lead the fight against the ALCU right on into Congress.

Today, the dispute is between the Bossier Parish School Board and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State over last May’s Benton High School graduation ceremonies that opened and ended with prayers and Smith is right in the middle of the controversy.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/news/education/2017/09/25/bossier-schools-respond-complaint-graduation-prayers/699983001/

Cynics are asking, “Why Bossier?” and “Why now?”

The scuttlebutt, when plotted out, makes good political sense and a couple of comments from Smith’s wife, former State Rep. Jane Smith only serve to validate the rumors.

But first some background:

During Johnson’s time in the State Legislature, he authored House Bill 707, known as the MARRIAGE and CONSCIENCE ACT, which would have prohibited the state from denying any resident, nonprofit or business a license, benefits or tax deductions if the business took actions “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” about marriage.

Critics said the bill had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with discrimination against same-sex marriage and the bill died in committee only to have Bobby Jindal promptly issue an executive order to enforce the intent of Johnson’s bill—a similar one of which had already been struck down in Kentucky by the courts.

JANE SMITH, a former Bossier Parish School Superintendent in her own right who was in her third term and term-limited by the Louisiana Constitution, was appointed by Jindal in 2012 as deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue even though, as she admitted to a friend, she knew “nothing about revenue.”

So, what to make of all this?

Well, word is that Johnson has his eyes on bigger and better things than being a lonely voice among 435 members of the U.S. House.

Governor?

Nope. That plum belongs to U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, presently a not-so-lonely down-home voice among 100. It’s the worst-kept secret in Louisiana that Kennedy wants desperately to challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2019.

The plan, according to some observers is for Johnson to run either for lieutenant governor or attorney general. Barring entry by any other candidates in those two races, we would be left with the less-than-desirable choice between Johnson and Billy Nungesser or Johnson and Jeff Landry.

Should that scenario play itself out and should Johnson be elected to one of those statewide posts, that would leave the door wide open for Scott Smith, who those same observers in northwest Louisiana, is already being groomed to run for Johnson’s vacated seat in a special election in early 2020. Johnson is tight with Landry but if Landry opts for a run at higher office, Johnson may feel the job is his by divine right. At any rate, speculation is the deal has already been cut.

Far-fetched? Perhaps not so much. The information making its way down to LouisianaVoice is that Jane Smith is already telling close friends that she has accepted a lobbying job in Washington.

All we can say for certain in all of this is anytime a politician waves a Bible while wrapped in the flag, little good can come from it. Sanctimony is not a trait becoming to anyone.

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Lest Attorney General Jeff Landry mistakenly believe that LouisianaVoice is going to drop the matter of his office’s foot-dragging in the investigation of the rape of that 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail back in April 2016, let this be a reminder that he is sadly mistaken.

https://louisianavoice.com/2017/09/07/17-year-old-girl-raped-in-union-parish-jail-cell-files-lawsuit-meanwhile-ag-still-hasnt-completed-probe-after-17-months/

Yesterday, (Tuesday, Oct. 17) I sent the following public records request to the Attorney General’s office:

  • Please provide me with any documents or reports pertaining to the status of the attorney general’s investigation of the rape of the 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail cell last April. That’s the investigation 3rd JDC District Attorney John Belton asked the attorney general’s office to investigate because of a conflict of interests.

Today, I received the following response from Luke Donovan, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division:

  • Your request has been assigned the tracking number 17-0159.  Our office is in the process of determining what, if any, records are subject to this request and, if so, whether any privileges or exemptions apply. This may take some time. You will be notified within 30 days whether records have been located that are responsive and approximately when they will be ready for review.

First of all, I don’t know the response came from the Civil Division when this is clearly a criminal matter.

But, just to cover my bases, I also sent a second inquiry at the same time, this one to Ruth Wisher of the Attorney General’s press office. Rather than putting it in the form of a public records request, I simply made it a straightforward question:

  • Could you provide me with a status update on the investigation of the rape of the 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail cell?

Today, I received a five-word response from Ms. Wisher:

From: AG Landry News [mailto:aglandrynews@ag.louisiana.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 1:49 PM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: Re: QUESTION

This matter is under investigation.

Thanks!

Ruth

To be clear, none of this bureaucratic shuffle is the fault of Ms. Wisher or Luke Donovan. God knows, they have an impossible task of trying to get the rest of us to take their boss, this clown Jeff Landry, seriously.

But in the year-and-a-half since this young lady was raped—not once, but twice—by an inmate already convicted of aggravated rape and awaiting sentencing who was allowed into her cell, I have seen the most egregious example of an overall lack of interest by the one person who should be on a white charging steed to wrap this investigation up and to deliver some semblance of justice for this heinous act.

Granted, the girl was brought into the jail because she was on meth. An innocent saint? No, but how many of us are? Who among us has nothing in our past that we wish we could change. I believe the passage goes something like this: Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.

So, granting that she was not the typical young lady you’d see in the church choir, she was still someone’s daughter, maybe soiled and hardened, but still someone’s little girl.

And to be denied justice while the attorney general grandstands on all sorts of other high-profile issues in an orchestrated effort to enhance his political career so that he can run for governor is reprehensible, disgusting, and unpardonable.

I am on Landry’s email list for his politically-crafted news releases and I have gathered a few of them and listed them below in no particular order. Following each one, I have included my personal observations in italics:

Oct. 18, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is once again offering his office’s assistance to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in an effort to protect critical federal funding for the City from the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ).

“My office stands ready and available to work with your legal counsel in drafting a policy that conforms to federal law and ensures continued financial support by the USDOJ,” wrote General Landry in a letter today to Landrieu. “The safety of citizens who live, work, and visit New Orleans is too important to ignore.”

Landry jumped onto this issue like a monkey on a cupcake (to quote Ray Baronne in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond) for no other reason than it’s an issue being advanced by Trump, his favorite POTUS (I’ll leave it to the readers to determine whether that’s Trump’s favorite POTUS of Landry’s). Apparently, the safety of teenage citizens exposed to rapists in jail cells in Union Parish are not so important and can be ignored.

Oct. 16, 2017:

Attorney General Jeff Landry today announced the arrests of three New Orleans women as a result of an investigation exposing over $2 million in Medicaid Fraud.

“We have continued to see Medicaid welfare fraud increase as a result of the Governor’s expansion,” said General Landry.

Wait. What? We’ve had Medicaid fraud since Moby Dick was a guppy and he’s going to lay it off on Gov. Edwards? If Landry puts his mind to it, he can probably say gun violence, North Korea and climate change are “a result of the Governor’s (Medicaid) expansion.” That’s how grandstanding buffoons like Landry and his favorite POTUS think.

 

Oct. 10, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is urging parents, guardians, and consumers to be mindful of several child products that have been recently recalled.

“My office and I are committed to doing all that we legally can to make Louisiana a safer place for families,” said General Landry.

If he’s “committed” in the same way that he’s “committed” to investigating the rape of a 17-year-old in a small jail cell where the victim, the assailant, the time, and the assailant all are knowns, then parents, you’re on your own here.

 

Oct. 10, 2017:

Attorney General Jeff Landry is praising EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision today to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama overreach that would have devastated Louisiana’s power plants and energy consumers.

“On behalf of Louisiana workers, job creators, and consumers – I commend Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration for repealing this unconstitutional, job-killing regulation,” said General Landry. “The so-called Clean Power Plan was always a political attempt to force states into green energy submission.”

Yep, his favorite POTUS. If Trump or one of his lap dogs does it, you can expect these kinds of news releases to keep flowing non-stop from Landry’s office.

 

Oct. 6, 2017:

BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry will host a fair housing workshop in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. General Landry’s Equal Housing Opportunity Section will give an overview of the Fair Housing Act and address some of the most common misconceptions and violations under the law.

“My office is committed to educating the public on their housing rights,” said General Landry. “State law prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap; and we will continue working hard to ensure Louisiana’s people are treated fairly when it comes to buying or renting homes.”

…And if Trump should ever go public with his intense contempt for the Fair Housing Act (he was prosecuted for violations of the act as a private citizen/landlord), you can expect Landry to do a 180 so quickly that you’ll feel the breeze from his about-face.

 

Oct. 12, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has arrested a Covington man on charges of child pornography, and he is asking the public for their assistance and information on the alleged perpetrator.

“Today’s arrest is another step forward in making our communities safer,” said General Landry. “However, our work is not done. I am asking anyone with information or concerns about Victor Loraso to please contact my Cyber Crime Unit.”

Obtaining assistance from the public is most likely the only way Landry will ever successfully conclude any investigation, this one included. 

 

Oct. 17, 2017:

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry today announced additional criminal charges have been brought against Michael Wayne Tipton of Alexandria.

“It is a disturbing trend that those who view and distribute child pornography often are also hands-on offenders,” said General Landry. “My office will not rest in our efforts to arrest child predators and help rescue their victims.”

That last sentence is laden with irony and not one damned bit inspiring. Eighteen months after the jailhouse rape of a juvenile, and the investigation is still not complete? Are you kidding me?

 

Oct. 6, 2017:

BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Cyber Crime Unit has arrested three south Louisiana men on multiple charges of child exploitation, including molestation of a juvenile.

“The victimization of children should infuriate all of us and shake us to the core,” said General Landry.

Same comment as above.

This state and nation have seen its share of ambitious, self-serving, egotistical, megalomaniacs elected to office. Not a one of them qualifies as a true public servant in the sense of consigning his own financial and political career to a role that is secondary to the public good.

Jeff Landry, you are one of those and all the glowing news releases that you can gin out proclaiming your dedication to and concern for the people of Louisiana are just empty words. Every time you ring your bell of justice, we hear a dull, hollow clank.

To prove I’m wrong, Mr. Attorney General, get up off your ass and do the job you were asked to do in this matter. Bring this girl some justice.

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