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Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

Call it the summer doldrums or whatever you wish. The truth is there hasn’t been much political blog activity—from any of us.

It’s not that there is a dearth of news to report; between killings by cops, killings of cops, terrorist attacks, political accusations, political promises that border on fantasy, e-mail scandals and plagiarized speeches, there’s more than enough to go around. But somehow, we’ve become inured, victims of a malady we can only identify as scandal fatigue for lack of a better term.

But LouisianaVoice, with the help of a couple of volunteer researchers, is working on a project that should generate considerable readership interest—unless, of course, readers are also victims of the summertime lethargy that seems to be at least somewhat contagious.

But we’d be less than honest if we didn’t admit we get pretty discouraged when we expose wrongdoing—some of it even criminal in nature—on the part of elected and appointed officials and nothing is done about it.

What more needs to be done, for example, than to point out the illegal use of campaign funds for such personal use as season tickets to sporting events, luxury car leases and even paying ethics violation fines and personal federal income taxes from campaign funds? Yet, nothing is done.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/05/17/improper-spending-of-campaign-funds-appears-to-be-the-rule-rather-than-the-exception-in-louisiana-random-check-reveals/

What more needs to be done than to publish official investigative reports of a state trooper having sex in his patrol car while on duty to bring severe disciplinary action down on that officer?

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/10/04/you-couldnt-time-an-egg-with-this-guy-state-police-lt-has-sex-twice-on-duty-once-in-back-seat-of-patrol-car-still-on-job/

It took LouisianaVoice weeks and many stories before official action was finally taken against a state trooper who went home to sleep during his shift so that he could work his second job the next day before he was finally fired. And even though we revealed that his supervisor allowed this practice to go on for years, the supervisor was simply transferred—even after we published audio recordings of that same supervisor refusing to accept a citizen’s complaint after he had denied refusing the complaint.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/11/gift-cards-for-tickets-payroll-chicanery-quotas-short-shifts-the-norm-in-troop-d-troopers-express-dismay-at-problems/

After we ran a story about a legislator, who made thousands of dollars by purchasing stock in a company he knew was going to be approved for a major program with the Department of Education, that legislator was re-elected.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/27/senate-education-chairman-appel-purchases-discovery-stock-week-before-company-enters-into-state-techbook-agreement/

When we outed Frederick Tombar III, the $260,000 per year director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation, over his sexually explicit emails sent to two female employees, he promptly resigned only to turn up at Cornerstone Government Affairs, a consulting company headed by former Louisiana Commissioners of Administration Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater.

https://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/page/9/

When we ran the story of a clerk in Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe with ties to powerful attorney and banking interests who was failing to show up for work, both the Louisiana Attorney General the Office of Inspector General punted on their investigations.

When a north Louisiana contractor sued the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development over attempts by DOTD employees to extort payoff money from him, he won more than $20 million. Instead of paying up as it should, however, the state simply said it doesn’t have the money to pay the contractor who was forced into bankruptcy by the department’s criminal activity. Yet, no one at DOTD was fired, much less prosecuted.

http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/local/2015/12/04/contractor-wins-20m-suit-against-dotd/76813444/

Department of Public Safety Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux twerked the system by taking an incentive buyout for early retirement that netted her an extra $59,000. She promptly promoted herself and came back to work the next day at a salary bump. Ordered to repay the $59,000 by then Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, she never did.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

But a caseworker for the understaffed and overworked Office of Children and Family Services was arrested with all the appropriate posturing and chest-thumping by law enforcement officials—including State Police—for payroll fraud after allegedly falsifying reports on monthly in-home visits with children in foster care.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/13/dcfs-funding-slashed-necessitating-driveway-visits-but-overworked-caseworker-is-arrested-for-falsifying-records/

The lesson here is obvious: if you’re politically connected, you can scarf off $59,000 with no repercussions but if you’re a lowly civil servant striving to meet impossible work demands brought about by budgetary cuts, you’re SOL. It’s not that we condone the payroll falsification, but justice should that should be administered evenly and blindly—but somehow never is.

The stories we have written about the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry and what the board does to dentists to destroy their practices and their very lives are horrific. Some of the investigative tactics and the retributions against defenseless dentists are sadistic at best and criminal at worst. Yet the board is allowed to continue its practices unchecked.

And as recently as May 2, we have the announcement from Gov. John Bel Edwards of the appointment of TERRENCE LOCKETT of Baton Rouge to the Louisiana Auctioneers Licensing Board. His appointment was made despite his being ordered in 2013 to pay $600 in penalties for his failure to file lobbying expenditure reports from March-December 2011 and his second-offense DWI in April 2014, which was reduced to a first-offense DWI.

http://gov.louisiana.gov/news/gov-edwards-announces-boards-and-commissions-appointments-5-2

By now, you’ve probably detected a trend.

It’s more than a little frustrating to see these transgressions reported, to know they are seen by those in a position to do something, and yet see these same ones in charge do nothing—or do so little as to make any discipline meaningless.

LouisianaVoice over the next few days will examine ethics fines that have gone uncollected for years, critical legislative audits of state agencies about which nothing seems to get done, and campaign contributions and lobbying activity that fortify the positions of special interests while diminishing to virtual insignificance the influence and interests of Louisiana’s citizens.

And nothing gets done.

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For the embodiment of what has happened to the newspaper industry and to erstwhile good, hard-hitting investigative reporting, one need look no further than the Alexandria Town Talk.

It’s not that The Town Talk, one of five Gannett-owned newspapers in Louisiana and one of 123 Gannett publications in the U.S., Guam, and the United Kingdom, is necessarily the poster child for the fast-food media genre. But when a newspaper ignores a major news story all but gift-wrapped and dropped in its lap, it unavoidably becomes a microcosm for all that’s ailing the once robust medium.

So, what’s this big story that The Town Talk and other area media were repeatedly called about but chose not to pursue?

That would be the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Alexandria.

It’s not that the problems of veterans obtaining medical treatment from the VA has been hiding under a rock. It’s a national disgrace and it’s well documented that while the rest of the country is politely offering an empty, robotic “Thank you for your service” to our military, it begins to take on a hollow ring as our nation’s leaders continue to send our young men and women into harm’s way only to discard them when they return with missing limbs, closed head injuries, psychological disorders and PTSD. They’re quietly shunted aside and forgotten. The Pentagon, it seems, has little use for damaged merchandise—unless it’s a billion-dollar aircraft that won’t fly built by a defense contractor (read: campaign contributor) favored by some powerful member of Congress.

When a friend, a career soldier, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few years ago, he was promptly discharged before he could qualify for his pension. Thank you for your service.

The horror stories of long waits for treatment and refusals of benefits and medication are by now well-known and it is no different at the Alexandria VA Medical Center.

But it is at that medical center that the stories become almost macabre in nature. And they all seem to revolve around a single doctor, Dr. Shivani Negi.

Here’s what we know about Dr. Negi:

  • The families of several patients have signed affidavits attesting to her callous treatment of patients and her insistence that family members allow patients to die without attempts at resuscitation;
  • Those same grief-laden affidavits describe in detail how abusive and non-communicative Dr. Negi becomes when families refused to sign “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) forms;
  • Some family members said in their affidavits that they believed Dr. Negi allowed their loved ones to die deliberately and that she purposely removed them from the intensive care unit (ICU) to a remote room on another floor without benefit of one-on-one care normally given critical patients;
  • Other doctors and nurses have provided written statements or testified in depositions as to her inappropriate remarks in the presence of family members and patients;
  • The same doctors and nurses describe her violent temper and her threats to “kick butts” of subordinates;

The Commonwealth of Virginia granted her license to practice medicine after she testified she had never been refused a license elsewhere and that she had withdrawn her application in Florida. The only problem was Florida had actually refused her application a full two months prior to Virginia’s awarding her a license. Her Florida application, however, was not withdrawn until 2006.

The minutes of the Florida Board of Medicine’s Credential Committee of Sept. 13, 2003, provide little insight as to the reasons for the  denial of her license application but do hint at some problem in Dr. Negi’s professional past.

“The applicant (Negi) was present and sworn in by the court reporters,” the minutes begin. “The applicant gave a brief history of events. The Committee discussed in length the seriousness of the issue. Dr. Tucker made a motion to deny the (application). The motion was seconded by Dr. Avila. The motion failed with Dr. Miguel, Dr. Davies and Mr. Dyches opposing. Dr. Davies made a new motion to deny the application…and allow 14 days to withdraw. The motion was seconded by Dr. Miguel. The motion passed unanimously.” REFUSED HER APPLICATION

The Florida statutes on which the application rejection was based were identical in both motions with only the provision to allow 14 days for Dr. Negi to withdraw added to the second motion.

There was no explanation of the “history of events” given by Negi, nor the circumstances of those “events.” Nor was there any explanation of the “issue” described deemed by the committee to be a serious sticking point in the consideration of her application.

The problem, however, could have been with the medical school she attended, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica which was not accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the body that approves medical programs in the U.S. as of September 2013, according to a story by Bloomberg Markets. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-09-10/devry-lures-medical-school-rejects-as-taxpayers-fund-debt

RUSM has since been taken over by Illinois-based DeVry University which Bloomberg says accepts students rejected by U.S. medical colleges. And even though it is a for-profit school, U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for about 34 to 48 percent of students who default on their student loans which average about $250,000 compared to $170,000 for graduates of U.S. medical schools.

On her Florida application, a copy of which was obtained by LouisianaVoice, there were a series of questions and blocks to check for the appropriate “yes” or “no” answers.

For the question “Have you ever been dropped, suspended, placed on probation, expelled or requested to resign from any school, college or university,” she first checked “Yes” but scratched that answer out and checked “No.”

On another page further into her Florida application, she also checked “No” to the question: “Have you had any application for professional license or any application to practice medicine denied by any state board or other governmental agency of any state, territory, or country?”

Virginia apparently asks a similar question on its application forms because Dr. Negi submitted an “Addendum to questions 14 and 15” which said, “I had applied for a Florida license but changed my mind and did withdraw my application.” APPLIED FOR A FLORIDA LICENSE

There is a problem with the timeline on that answer, however. LouisianaVoice has copies of a document from Florida Regulatory Specialist Cherise Davis which indicates Dr. Negi did not withdraw her application until June 8, 2006, nearly three years after her license was issued by Virginia.

In the case of Floyd Hamilton, Jr., a Bronze Star recipient who died in 2009, there are many questions but few answers.

Hamilton, 85 died at the hospital in 2009, nearly three years after Dr. Negi removed him from ICU to a room on another floor and far from the nurses’ station and without the ventilator support necessary, in the view of one physician who was involved in a verbal exchange with Dr. Negi when he attempted to treat Hamilton. Hamilton’s son claims his father suffered irreparable brain damage from the removal of the ventilator.

At least two other doctors at the VA hospital, as well as other staff members, have taken issue with both Dr. Negi’s medical decisions and her attitude toward patients and co-workers.

Dr. John Sams said he responded to a code for another patient on July 19, 2011, and found him “minimally breathing.” He initiated treatment and the patient’s pulse became stronger and he began to stabilize. SIGNED REPORT

“More than five minutes after I arrived, Dr. Negi made her appearance,” he wrote in his signed report. “With no assessment of the situation, she immediately ordered me to return to the (Express Treatment Unit) and rudely told me I was not to leave the ETU for CLC (Community Living Center, or VA nursing homes) codes. She was temporary Chief of Medicine at the time, my boss,” he wrote.

“I returned to ETU…and upon entering found that the patient was being rolled into a bay. He was unaccompanied by Dr. Negi, who was soon pounding on the ETU door for admission. He (Hamilton) had lost his pulse. Chest compressions were begun.

“No attempt at intubation was allowed by Dr. Negi. Finally, I reordered and received a laryngoscope tube and easily intubated the patient. During the mayhem by Dr. Negi, she verbally terrorized the ETU. While I was doing the chest compressions, Dr. Negi vulgarly stated to me, ‘Sams, you’re doing them too slow. Do them like a young married man—hard, deep and fast.’”

Dr. Sams wrote that Hamilton did not respond to resuscitative efforts and Dr. Negi “asked if anyone had any suggestions prior to ending the code.” Sams said he said he would like to obtain an arterial blood gas (ABG)—a procedure to determine how well the lungs are moving oxygen into the bloodstream. “She left the code to sit down, mocking the suggestion with a derogatory comment. She continued to shower us with her inappropriate comments until the ABG returned. The date was (sic) not helpful and resuscitative efforts were stopped. At that time, I informed Dr. Negi that never in the future would I tolerate her unacceptable behavior.”

Dr. Sams said he reported the incident in writing to his director supervisor who, instead of taking action against Dr. Negi, reprimanded Sams for responding to the CLC code.

Dr. Mark St. Cyr, an emergency room contract physician, testified in a deposition that he had a conflict with Dr. Negi from the first moment they met. He said Dr. Negi threatened to “kick my butt” after he sought permission to admit an ER patient into the hospital. His deposition was given in a lawsuit by Floyd Hamilton, III, the deceased patient’s son.

He said the younger Hamilton gave specific instructions that he wanted his father kept in ICU and that the family “wanted everything possible done” to keep his father alive—and that he did not wish to sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.

Attorney Robert Evans, III, indicated in the deposition of Dr. St. Cyr that he had been in communication with the families of several patients of Dr. Negi “who believe that their family members have died from her treatment.” COMMUNICATION WITH FAMILIES

Floyd Hamilton, III, as did family members of other patients, said Dr. Negi became incensed and abusive when her requests for DNR orders were not signed by family members. Hamilton said she even stopped communicating with him and would not return his calls.

Documents showed that Dr. Negi even sent a $50 money order to one woman in Leesville so that she could travel to Alexandria to sign a DNR order.

Dr. St. Cyr said Dr. Negi’s decision to remove a tube protecting his airway was not consistent with the family’s wishes. Asked in his deposition of removing the tube was not consistent with the family’s request to do everything possible, Dr. St. Cyr responded, “That’s a fair statement.” THAT'S A FAIR STATEMENT

St. Cyr described Dr. Negi as “aggressive” in terms of “getting patients in and getting them out” of the hospital. “(If) she doesn’t feel like something is worth it, she may not be quite as aggressive medically in terms of performing certain actions,” he said.

When asked by attorney Evans if “she might put him somewhere and take out the tube to expedite his demise,” Dr. St. Cyr again replied, “It’s a fair statement.” EXPEDITE HIS DEMISE

That line of questioning developed over St. Cyr’s description of how Dr. Negi removed the elder Hamilton from ICU to another floor at the end of a hall furthest from the nurses’ station. “Why would he (Hamilton) go to the floor, the last room at the end of the hallway (when he) can’t press a button, can’t call a nurse, or anything, and he’s not even responsive?” he asked. “You’re literally putting the person out there to die.”

Asked if any other hospital personnel were involved in the removal of the intubation of Hamilton, Dr. St. Cyr said, “No, sir. That’s solely Dr. Negi. When a person’s in the intensive care unit, Dr. Negi was in charge and you don’t go against Dr. Negi.”

Two nurses also filed written reports of the confrontation involving Dr. Negi and Dr. Sams, both claiming that Dr. Negi was yelling, belligerent, unprofessional, and throwing her gloves. “…She stated, ‘You never stop CPR,’” one of the nurses quoted her as saying. “CPR was never stopped on the vet other than when Dr. Negi was doing CPR.” The same nurse said Dr. Negi “continued to berate Dr. Sams” because Dr. Sams wanted a blood gas. Dr. Negi made the comment to respiratory, ‘Well I guess you will get to practice your collection of blood gases.’”

The Calcasieu Parish District Attorney, in a letter to his counterpart in Rapides, intimated that had the events involving Hamilton occurred in Calcasieu, “I would certainly immediately provoke an investigation by law enforcement, or possibly a grand jury, to investigate allegations against this doctor.”

D.A. John Derosier, in his Dec. 23, 2014, letter to Rapides D.A. Phillip Terrell, Jr., wrote, “Please have someone…determine whether or not there is sufficient basis to move forward with a formal investigation.”

 

LETTER TO HIS COUNTERPART

D.A. LETTER PAGE 2

Terrell, claiming his office was not equipped for such an extensive investigation, asked for assistant from then-Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office and Assistant Attorney General Arthur Ogea of Lake Charles was given the assignment.

Jeff Landry, upon taking office as Caldwell’s successor, however, fired Ogea and seized all his records on the Hamilton case. Contacted by LouisianaVoice, Ogea agreed to talk in more detail about his thoughts in the coming days but did say he felt there was sufficient evidence for a grand jury investigation and possible charges of negligent homicide against Negi.

It will be interesting to see how Louisiana’s new attorney general proceeds with this investigation.

Floyd Hamilton, III, meanwhile, kept applying pressure by picketing the hospital and by notifying members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation and VA officials.

Because he took photographs of his father that showed the stark contrast between the elder Hamilton’s condition before and after being removed from ICU, there is now a sign posted at the VA Hospital in Alexandria proclaiming an absurd—and unenforceable—rule that photographs are no longer allowed at the facility.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, conducted an investigation of “suspicious deaths” at the Alexandria VA hospital. In its executive summary dated Feb. 14, 2008, the OIG repeatedly—and predictably—said that investigators “did not substantiate” any of the allegations involving Hamilton or any of several other patients who died while in the care of Dr. Negi.

Five days later, Christina Lavine, director of the VA’s Hotline Division, wrote Hamilton’s son, Floyd Hamilton, III to say that the VA OIG had closed his father’s case. “As we advised you when we opened this case, our decision to close a Hotline case is final, and there are no appeal rights,” she wrote.

Instead of definitive, meaningful action, all we’re received so far are insincere apologies and empty promises that conditions will improve. But they never do.

A congressional subcommittee held hearings on the Alexandria VA Hospital only last week. Even though subcommittee members were well aware of irregularities pointed out by Floyd Hamilton, III, and even though he was in attendance at the hearing, he was never allowed to testify. Perhaps, to borrow a phrase from Al Gore, Hamilton’s claims constituted “an inconvenient truth” to officials who should be infuriated at the manner in which our veterans are treated upon their return from duty.

 

 

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DISTRICT ATTORNEY JERRY L. JONES

DISTRICT ATTORNEY JERRY L. JONES

“I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years working and sweating while we were all in the air conditioning.”

—Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry L. Jones, on why he declined to prosecute two University of Alabama football players from Ouachita Parish on drug and weapons charges.

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An important legal breakthrough for anyone in Ouachita and Morehouse parishes facing prosecution for drugs and/or weapons charges: your charges will be dismissed if you sweat.

So says no less an authority than 4th Judicial District Attorney Jerry L. Jones.

According to Jones, if you are a grave digger, a landscaper, bricklayer, carpenter, roofer, highway construction worker, or anyone involved in a myriad of occupations and endeavors that result in your exposure to sun and sweat, you are good to go with illegal weapons or the drug of your choice.

Hell, even if you’re a jogger, a tennis player, or an Alabama Crimson Tide football player, you get a free pass on drugs and weapons charges. Like fishing in the hot sun? Grilling out on July 4 is certain to get those sweat pores working overtime. But don’t worry. By the newly defined legal standards of the 4th JDC District Attorney’s office, sweat is like a Get Out of Jail Free card in the real-live game of Monopoly.

Did you break a sweat trying to chase the garbage collector down the street in your robe because you were a little late taking out the trash? Don’t worry about it. Both you and the garbage collector are good to go; you’re both outside, working up a sweat while Jones is in his air-conditioned office. Light up, wave that gun around, do a line. Together. Jones won’t prosecute. He said so himself.

This is the logic Jones himself expressed in dismissing charges against two Alabama football players who happen to call the Monroe area home.

All-Southeastern Conference offensive tackle Cam Robinson of West Monroe and reserve defensive back Laurence “Hootie” Jones of Monroe were arrested after a Monroe police officer smelled marijuana coming from their parked car in a closed public park. The officer spotted a handgun in Jones’ lap. A search of the car produced marijuana and a handgun that had been reported stolen in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Baldwin County is immediately east of Mobile County and includes the cities of Gulf Shores, Foley, Loxley and Orange Beach.

Prosecutor Neal Johnson of the DA’s office first said there was insufficient evidence in court documents to proceed with charges. Hence, there would be no grand jury and no bill of information from the DA’s office. http://sports.yahoo.com/news/somehow–bizarre-and-clumsy-handling-of-alabama-players-could-be-justice-001548496-ncaaf.html

Had Jones let it go at that, the decision not to prosecute probably would have received little attention. After all, who better to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial than prosecutors themselves?

But Jones, inflicted with a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth, just couldn’t shut up when shutting up would have been the prudent path to follow.

“I want to emphasize once again,” he told KNOE-TV in Monroe, “that the main reason I’m doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years working and sweating while we were all in the air conditioning.” (Emphasis added). http://theadvocate.com/news/16165207-65/report-da-drops-drug-weapons-charges-against-alabama-football-players-louisiana-natives-cam-robinson

So there you have it. You work and sweat and Jones will look the other way. Hell, you might even be allowed to rob a bank except that’s a federal offense over which Jones has no authority. So, instead, go knock over a convenience store. Just make sure you’re sweating when you do so.

Unanswered (unasked, actually) was the obvious question: How many persons has Jones prosecuted on similar drugs and weapons charges who did not happen to be members of a big-time collegiate football program?

How many non-football-playing black kids from Monroe’s low-income, unemployed population are housed in the Ouachita Correctional Center for the sin of being caught with a single marijuana cigarette?

Well, an Internet post on the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Web page in August 2012 lists the results of the Ouachita Parish Task Force seizures:

  • 4 ounces of marijuana;
  • 13 marijuana cigarettes;
  • 60 one-eighth-ounce bags of marijuana;
  • Three quarter-ounce bags of marijuana;

Just last week, A West Monroe man (gasp) drove through a private parking lot to avoid a stop sign. He gave officers his consent to search his backpack and a vitamin bottle was found to contain “one to two grams” of marijuana and a marijuana smoking pipe. He was booked into the correctional center.

http://www.hannapub.com/ouachitacitizen/news/crime/wmpd-traffic-stop-leads-to-marijuana-arrest/article_ca8ba618-3758-11e6-a833-b784638b4c68.html

In 2014, Bernard Noble, 48, was sentenced to 13 years of hard labor for possession of the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes. Neither Noble nor the West Monroe man played football and probably did not sweat until they were arrested. http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2014/04/louisianan-given-13-year-prison-sentence-possession-two-marijuana-cigarettes

We stumbled across an online report that admittedly, is rather dated but interesting nonetheless. In 2007, there were 18,535 arrests for marijuana offenses in Louisiana. That represents an arrest rate of 432 per 100,000, which ranks Louisiana at number 5 in the nation.

http://www.drugscience.org/States/LA/LA.pdf

(We have to keep those private prisons occupied for their owners somehow.)

While we’re in no position to challenge Johnson’s contention of insufficient evidence, Jones’s justification for not prosecuting the two is certainly sufficient reason for demanding his resignation and disbarment. No one, not even an idiot like Jones, should be able to use sweat as a barometer for deciding whether or not to enforce the law with a blind eye to social status or celebrity.

In the case of Jones and the 4th JDC District Attorney’s office, justice isn’t blind; it’s stoned—stoned on the deranged notion that certain among us are above the law.

 

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When it comes to financial shell games and political flim-flam, it seems that the two have a lot in common, oftentimes including the same personality mixes whose names keep cropping up. Sometimes those names can materialize like a deadly vapor in proceedings separated by a couple of decades. And somehow, those years and events mysteriously converge to affect the lives of thousands—or millions—of people.

It was in late 1990 that the late John Hays, the cantankerous publisher of the weekly Morning Paper in Ruston began writing stories that raised questions about Towers Financial Corp. and its chairman, one Steven Hoffenberg.

At first, his stories attracted little interest. On paper, as the sportswriters would say, it was a mismatch. Hays, described by NEW YORK TIMES in an April 1993 story as “a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, cowboy-booted newspaper publisher” was pitted against Hoffenberg, who briefly ran The New York Post, eventually taken over by Rupert Murdoch. Hoffenberg owned two jets, a yacht, limousines, mansions, and a Fifth Avenue office. Hays drove an old van well past its prime. It quickly shaped up as an epic battle between a small-town publisher operating on a shoestring and a sophisticated New Yorker who had, it seemed, more money than God.

But investors were getting nervous in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Some of them called Hays who had a penchant for taking on phony investment schemes. Hays, as was his wont, began making calls that piqued the interest of Securities and Exchange Commission investigators as well as state regulators. He had worked with these same regulators in other scams, so he had the credentials necessary to make them sit up and pay attention whenever he called.

Hays even managed to attract the attention of major newspapers like the WASHINGTON POST

Hoffenberg had all the right political connections. He was a business ally of former Texas Gov. John Connally and with a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. Other friends in high places included Victoria Reggie, daughter of powerful Crowley Judge Edmund Reggie and the future wife of Sen. Edward Kennedy, New York City Mayor Mario Cuomo, and Mickey Kantor, President Bill Clinton’s trade representative. Heavy hitters, one and all.

Some of his connections, however, tended to hang back in the murky shadows of a darker side of society. https://porkinspolicyreview.com/tag/steven-hoffenberg/

http://gawker.com/501354/exposed-the-leon-black-jeffrey-epstein-connection

http://www.mediaite.com/online/vanity-fair-editor-reportedly-removed-underage-girls-allegations-about-jeffrey-epstein-from-2003-story/

When a Shreveport brokerage firm started peddling high-yielding notes for Towers in 1990, Hays said he immediately wondered “if some fellow up in New York has such a good deal, what would inspire him to come down here to northern Louisiana and make the local people rich?”

He started making calls and writing stories—stories that obviously did not sit well with Hoffenberg.

If Hays was suspicious of Hoffenberg, the feeling was more than mutual. “He’s not a credible person,” Hoffenberg said of Hays. “He runs a newspaper that is full of lies. I have never heard from anybody that John Hays was somebody we should take seriously. I mean, he gives his newspaper away; he throws it on people’s driveways.” Twenty-five years later, one could close his eyes and almost hear Donald Trump talking about another candidate or some reporter covering his campaign.

(Oh, just as a heads-up, keep that Trump comparison in mind. He’ll come up later in this story.)

Hoffenberg was correct in that last statement. Hays did indeed toss about 25,000 free copies a week in the driveways of Lincoln, Union, Bienville, and Jackson parishes.

But Hays also became a national clearinghouse for information between state regulatory agencies. He was credited by Arkansas authorities as providing information to them that allowed them to keep Hoffenberg and Towers Financial Corp. out of that state.

But not all states. Hays began making calls to regulators and learned that Towers was selling notes in states where it had failed to meet registration requirements. Enter the feds. More stories followed.

So, who won the war of words?

Well, Hoffenberg eventually entered a guilty plea to running a $475 million Ponzi scheme, the largest on record until Bernie Madoff dwarfed Hoffenberg’s financial chicanery. In 1997, Hoffenberg was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for defrauding thousands of investors. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/08/business/hoffenberg-gets-20-year-sentence-in-fraud-case.html

His nemesis who he said “runs a newspaper that is full of lies” and a man he said he never heard “from anybody that John Hays was somebody we should take seriously,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Someone once said never start a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel and newsprint by the boxcar. Apparently Hoffenberg wasn’t listening.

The Hoffenberg/Towers Investment saga was the subject of a lengthy abstract by Gene Murray, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Grambling State University. http://list.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A3=ind9710a&L=AEJMC&E=7BIT&P=1328897&B=–&T=TEXT%2FPLAIN;%20charset=US-ASCII

But let’s fast forward to 2016. John Hays has been dead for a year now, the Morning Paper stopped publication several months before his death when his cancer weakened him to the point he could no longer peddle his ads or chase down a good story.

Hoffenberg couldn’t get out of jail in 1996 because, he said, he was so broke he couldn’t post the $100,000 bail. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/money/sec-hoffenberg-pay-stay-jail-article-1.730715

Twenty years later, however, he is back in the money—and he wanted everyone to know it. It’s almost enough to make you wonder if he may have had a few dollars stashed safely offshore all that time.

The man who couldn’t make $100,000 bail a couple of decades ago has recently pledged $50 million to his super PAC set up to coordinate a marketing campaign in support of Donald Trump. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ponzi-schemer-steven-hoffenberg-pledges-50-million-to-help-trump/article/2593931

Hoffenberg, who professes to be a born-again Christian (funny how prison can do that; just ask Chuck Colson), is also in the business of marketing something called the Christ Credit Card to more than 700,000 registered Christian churches through Towers Financial.

http://whaminc.us/investor-questions-wham-answers

In addition to pledging $50 million of his own money to his super PAC, he also says he intends for his PAC to raise more than $1 billion in support of Trump. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/convicted-ponzi-schemer-ill-conduct-50-million-marketing-campaign-for-trump-224350

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-super-pac-predicts-raising-1-billion/article/2592210

So much for Trump’s claim that he is financing his own campaign—or for Hoffenberg’s earlier claims of poverty.

The announcement by Hoffenberg was the first time he has explained why he founded the Get Our Jobs Back, Inc. PAC back in April. He is listed as treasurer and custodian of records by the Federal Election Commission. http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/forms/C00616078/1070515/

Could this be déjà vu all over again? Can you imagine someone like Hoffenberg having the ear of a President Trump?

We have only a few random observations to make about this latest development, this unholy alliance between two high-rolling carnival hucksters of dubious trustworthiness:

  • Watch closely how he raises that much campaign cash.
  • Does his credit card scheme figure in the mix?
  • Old habits sometimes can be hard to break.
  • Where is John Hays when we really need him?

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