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Did physical therapist Philippe Veeters have a guardian angel watching over him, protecting him from an aggressive investigation by Baton Rouge authorities after he was accused of inappropriate touching of female patients and inappropriate comments about their bodies?

Veeters, you may recall from LouisianaVoice’s story last month, was first arrested last February on the basis of complaints from several female patients but the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s office didn’t get around to submitted a bill of information against him until Nov. 1.

See that story HERE.

Veeters, it turns out, besides operating his own facility, Dutch Physical Therapy, also has an affiliation with The Spine Diagnostic Promotional, LLC.

Louisiana Secretary of State corporate records indicate that The Spine Diagnostic Promotional has two officers—Veeters and Dr. J. Michael Burdine.

The association with Burdine is significant in that until recently, Burdine was President of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

To be clear, the State Board of Medical Examiners has no direct authority over physical therapists who are licensed and regulated by the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board.

But both the State Board of Medical Examiners and the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board operate under the umbrella of the Louisiana Department of Health. That, and the business relationship between Veeters and Burdine creates at least a perception by one woman who has complained about Veeters of too much coziness between the two boards.

The two boards even shared a common legal counsel until attorney George Papale was TERMINATED by the physical therapy board following complaints about the board’s handling of….sexual misconduct cases involving physical therapists.

 

Business: THE SPINE DIAGNOSTIC PROMOTIONAL, L.L.C.
Charter Number: 35730933K
Registration Date: 6/28/2004

 

Domicile Address
  5408 FLANDERS DR.
  BATON ROUGE, LA 70808

 

Status: Active
File Date: 6/28/2004
Last Report Filed: 7/5/2018
Type: Limited Liability Company

 

Agent: J. MICHAEL BURDINE
Address 1: 5408 FLANDERS DR.
City, State, Zip: BATON ROUGE, LA 70808
Appointment Date: 6/28/2004

 

Officer: J. MICHAEL BURDINE, M.D.
Title: Member
Address 1: 5408 FLANDERS DR.
City, State, Zip: BATON ROUGE, LA 70808

 

Officer: PHILIPPE VEETERS
Title: Member
Address 1: 10343 SIEGEN LN.
City, State, Zip: BATON ROUGE, LA 70810

 

Here is the biographical information on Dr. Burdine prior to his leaving the Board of Medical Examiners:

Board Members

J Michael Burdine, MD – President

Dr. Burdine grew up in Lafayette, LA attending high school at Acadiana High and received his bachelor of science at LSU in Baton Rouge.  He attended medical school at LSU New Orleans graduating in 1983.  He completed his internship at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and after, worked emergency medicine for four years in the Acadiana area.  He attended the University of Arkansas in Little Rock studying Anesthesiology and moved to the University of Cincinnati to complete his fellowship in Pain Management.  He worked in Oklahoma City providing outpatient regional anesthesia and pain management for eleven years before returning to Baton Rouge in 2002 to practice pain management exclusively.

Since returning to Baton Rouge Dr. Burdine has been an active member in the Louisiana State Medical Society, the President of the Capitol Area Medical Society, and the President of the Louisiana Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.  He was an Executive Board Member of the Arthritis Association of Louisiana and was its volunteer of the year in 2006.  He serves on the Louisiana Medicare Carrier Advisory Committee; is an Executive Board Member of the Louisiana Society of Anesthesiologists; and the LSIPP Delegate to the Calcasieu Prescription Drug Task Force.

In 2008 he was voted Medtronic’s Patient Access Advocacy Hero and has twice been a CRC of America Top 100 Physicians in Pain Management.

Dr. Burdine is Board Certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and holds added Certification in Pain Management in 1996 and 2006 by the ABMS.  He is a member of multiple National and State wide physician organizations.  He is currently in full time private practice at the Spine Diagnostic and Pain Treatment Center of which he is the founder in Baton Rouge, LA.

 

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It seems I owe Steve Pylant an apology.

I left him out of my book Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption.

Please know it was an oversight and was never an intentional slight of the former three-term Franklin Parish sheriff and current lame duck state representative.

Please consider this my feeble attempt to atone for that glaring omission.

After all, his voting record in the House was consistently that of a staunch law-and-order, lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key hard-liner.

Except, of course, when he decided to come to the rescue of four former meth felons caught with weapons in neighboring Catahoula Parish.

In case you may not remember that story I wrote last January, you can read it HERE.

But my reason for bringing him up again is not only to express my contrition for omitting him from the book.

My reason this time concerns a couple of incidents just a couple of months ago which might leave the mistaken impression that Pylant is still the high sheriff—or thinks he is.

Pylant apparently feels he has the right to attempt to enter private property and question occupants without a warrant or even a badge.

In fact, he seems to feel he can even brandish a weapon and force two women driving alone at 10 p.m. to pull over on a darkened Franklin Parish roadway.

April Franks says she and her friend, Amber Conley, were stopped by Pylant and a man named Steve Drane, 50, of Gilbert on the night of Oct. 16. “It was a dark road,” said Franks, who said she believed Pylant, who was waving a gun, was drunk. “[He] grabbed the door window and slammed his pistol against it, telling us we could not leave.”

Drane was one of four convicted felons for whom Pylant secured a $90,000 property bond to spring them from jail in Catahoula Parish in December 2018. Another of those arrested for hunting on private property in Tensas Parish on that occasion was Michael Linder, whose brother, Bryan Linder, was—and still is—an employee of the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Department.

Each of the four men had prior drug convictions as well as other assorted convictions spread among them and each was armed at the time of the arrests even though convicted felons are prohibited by law from possessing firearms.

None of which deterred Pylant from stepping in to conduct his own traffic stop despite lacking the proper credentials to do so.

“He had no right to pull us over,” Franks said. “He and Steve Drane were sitting in a curve 200 yard from where we pulled out – right past the boat landing they had been watching us from for two hours. He was in the middle of the road waving his hands in the air and was holding a pistol. We had no choice but to stop. Amber, my friend, was driving and thought they must need help …. that was not the case at all. In the video I sent you he (Pylant) is saying he didn’t ‘point the pistol as us I had it in the air.’  He was visibly and audibly drunk that night.”

Franks said she subsequently called the police department and “told them some man stopped us with a pistol and was drunk and they told me that there was already an officer out there to talk to him.

“A few days later, I went to get a copy of the police report and (Deputy) Bryan Linder (brother of Michael Linder) took me to his office, acted like he was looking for it and then told me that he didn’t have one, that he doesn’t require his officers to write up every little call and if I didn’t like his response, I could go across the hall to (Sheriff) Kevin Cobb’s office and talk to him.”

No record of a report of a man waving a gun and pulling motorists over in the middle of the night? Seriously? That begs the question of just what would a person have to do to generate an incident report? Once, when I was running police beat for the Baton Rouge State-Times, I saw an incident report of a “deceased chicken.”

Cobb, of course, was Pylant’s chief deputy before succeeding his former boss as sheriff.

The traffic stop by an unauthorized individual brandishing a weapon (drunk or sober) would be bad enough but just minutes later, Pylant and Drane appeared alongside a houseboat on the Tensas River owned by Frank’s friend Amos “Gene” Kenney of Gilbert.

Pylant, claiming he smelled meth cooking. Kenney responded that he was running trot lines and was cooking only beans on his boat.

Pylant then referred to another boat in the river, indicating the smell was coming from that direction. “It may be,” Kenney said, “but that ain’t my boat. This is my boat here and I’m cooking a pot of beans.”

Pylant insisted on searching the boat but Kenney demanded to see a search a warrant, which, of course, neither he nor sheriff’s deputy Brandon Boxx, who eventually showed up on the scene, happened to have on them. When Franks alluded to Pylant’s pointing a pistol at her car earlier, he denied it, saying, he was holding the pistol “in the air.”

At one point, Pylant said to Franks, “I’m gon’ tell you, baby, you piss on somebody’s foot…” Without completing what almost certainly was a profound thought, he switched gears, telling “Baby”, “I been in law enforcement for 30 years. I was sheriff here a long time.”

Pylant, harking back to his glory days as sheriff of Franklin Parish, boasted, “I was sheriff here a long time. I been retired eight years. I been in the state legislature.” Claiming he knew what meth smells like, he said, “I took the first meth lab down in northeast Louisiana in 1996 and I know what it smells like.”

Then he said, “I’m interested in seeing what we gonna find on that houseboat out there ‘cause I done seen y’all go back and forth out there twice.”

“We were on a trot line,” Franks protested.

“Naw, you wasn’t on no damn trot line,” Pylant said. “Somebody’s probably still in the houseboat.”

“I hope so,” Franks said. “Then there won’t be any question.”

“Well I heard y’all get out and get on it and ever’thang,” Pylant said.

After more back and forth accusations and denials, Franks said, “Well, I’m not going to argue with you…”

“There ain’t no need,” Pylant said, sounding like a true southern redneck sheriff that he seemed to think he still was. “It’s a damn shame,” he said, “a damn shame.”

I couldn’t have said it better, Rep. Pylant.

The folks in House District 20 must be so very proud.

And folks dare wonder why our legislature is so dysfunctional?

For your viewing enjoyment:

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Pre-trial intervention (PTI) programs, in theory at least, are designed to give those charged with a first offense—such as driving while intoxicated (DWI), for example—to keep the conviction off their record by participating in a program of community service or a series of classroom sessions, usually extended over a period of several weeks.

The purpose of the programs, again in theory, is that not every person charged with an offense should be subjected to criminal prosecution and that there are those who can be prevented from becoming repeat offenders through proper intervention.

The problem with Louisiana’s PTI programs is that there is no uniform application or oversight, allowing local district attorneys complete autonomy in how the programs are administered.

Instead of serving their intended purpose, many local PTI programs have morphed into cash cows and as such, lend themselves to widespread abuses at the expense of other programs such as indigent defender boards and local law enforcement.

In May 2018, former Baton Rouge Advocate (now Associated Press) reporter Jim Mustian wrote an excellent story that illustrated that very point. His entire story may be seen HERE.

Mustian showed that from 2012 to 2017, two parishes in particular had taken advantage of the program to create a lucrative source of income for prosecutors while a third did even better during the years from 2012 to 2017.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier saw income for his office increase threefold, from $556,000 in 2012 to $1.65 million in 2016. Jefferson Parish did even better with its income from PTI programs increasing four times, from $335,000 to $1.37 million during the same period.

But Rapides Parish DA Phillip Terrell has turned the practice into an art form, boosting his PTI revenue by a factor of seven, from $302,000 in 2012 to a mind-blowing $2.2 million in 2017.

Still, that influx of new dollars didn’t keep Terrell from requesting more than $2.5 million in parish funds for his office in 2018 despite a looming budgetary shortfall of $427,000 for the parish.

That was enough to attract the attention of online publication Politico, which normally devotes its attention to stories of national and international significance than to the budgetary problems of a parish situated in the middle of Louisiana. Politico’s story can been read in its entirety HERE.

Rapides Parish Treasurer Bruce Kelly wondered why the DA’s office was suddenly asking for more funds than at any time in his 30 years in the parish treasurer’s office knowing, as he did, that the DA had a new fleet of vehicles with leather seats.

He soon learned why.

Pre-trial diversion, otherwise known as pre-trial intervention, or PTI.

The DA’s income from court fines had dropped by nearly half, from $900,000 to $500,000 over the past three years. That corresponded with a similar drop in traffic tickets issued—from 12,000 per year to 7,000.

At the same time, however, Terrell’s office had significantly increased its PTI program, allowing offenders to pay money to the DA in exchange for charges being dropped and their cases dismissed, thus keeping their tickets or arrests off their records as though they never happened.

Offenders were charged dismissal fees ranging from $250 for traffic tickets, $500 for misdemeanors and as high as $1,500 for felonies.

And Terrell’s office, Kelly learned, was keeping that money for itself—money that should have gone into the parish’s general fund to be shared with indigent defender offices and the sheriff’s office.

Believing Terrell was depriving the parish of fine money to which it was entitled, Kelly and the parish leadership filed suit against Terrell’s office in an effort to get the court to force the DA to share its PTI revenue.

Terrell responded that he could make as much as he wanted through PTI because…well, because the law didn’t say otherwise.

And he was right in the assertion that there were no statewide standards to the implementation and operation of PTI programs and thus, no restrictions as to his ability to exploit the program.

To make his case, he brought in a hired gun in the person of Hugo Holland, a prosecutor who normally works only as a prosecutor in criminal cases and who appears to be on the payroll of several parish district attorneys simultaneously, from Caddo Parish in north Louisiana to Calcasieu Parish in the state’s southwestern extreme.

The battle between Terrell and Rapides Parish Police Jury took on true Trumpian overtones when Holland threatened the police jury members with investigations into their own use of funds if they did not agree to drop their fight with his client. When that tactic failed, Terrell filed a countersuit arguing that he did not owe any money to the parish and calling the police jury’s lawsuit “politically-driven.”

It’s easy to see why Terrell is so possessive of his sudden stream of income—and why similar battle lines could be drawn between prosecutors and parish governing bodies as more and more DAs are made aware of the untapped revenue windfalls currently available to them.

It’s also pretty easy to predict an intense lobbying campaign by the Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA) to protect PTI programs from regulation should some state lawmaker have the temerity to introduce legislation to rein in such a lucrative enterprise.

I’m willing to bet even money that Arkansas would have a better chance of beating LSU today than any such bill would have of making it out of committee.

 

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John Paul Funes walked into federal district court in Baton Rouge on Thursday, not in an orange prison jump suit but in a dark business suit with a nicely-pressed blue shirt accented by a pink tie, for his sentencing in connection with his EMBEZZLEMENT of nearly $800,000 from a Baton Rouge hospital foundation—a children’s hospital foundation at that—and received a whopping 33 months in prison.

Funes, 49, was already receiving more than $350,000 per year in salary from the foundation he headed but that, apparently, was not enough.

He could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for his transgressions but U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, who earlier accepted Funes’ guilty pleas, apparently felt that 33 months was punishment enough for the white-collar crimes of wire fraud and money laundering.

Contrast that, if you will, with the sentence handed down to one BERNARD NOBLE, an African-American not pulling down $350 thou a year.

Back in 2010, he was arrested while biking in New Orleans—a bicycle, mind you, not a Lexus or BMW—for possession of three grams of marijuana. It would be seven years before he saw his family again.

Sentenced to 13 ½ years in prison at hard labor without the possibility of parole as a habitual offender—he did have previous drug arrests, none of them violent and none which involved stealing from cancer-stricken children—he spent seven years behind bars before being finally freed on parole, thanks in large part to the efforts of billionaire New York hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb who spent years lobbying courts and Louisiana elected officials to reverse Noble’s sentence.

Three grams. Enough for two whole joints.

Meanwhile, Funes pilfered gift cards intended for cancer patients. He flew family and associates to LSU and Saints football games on charter flights he labeled on the books as “outbound patient transports,” and funneled nearly $300,000 to the parents of two former LSU football players–$107,000 to the mother and sister of former quarterback Rohan Davey (they kicked back $63,000 to Funes) and $180,000 to James Alexander, father of former LSU offensive lineman Vadal Alexander.

But for DEREK HARRIS of Abbeville, an unemployed Gulf War veteran, things didn’t turn out so well. He’s currently serving life imprisonment for selling $30 worth of weed to an undercover agent.

After posting bond following his 2009 arrest, Harris, who also happens to be African-American, waited three years for his trial to start. He chose a trial by judge rather than facing a jury. On June 26, 2012, the judge found him guilty and imposed a 15-year sentence.

But that apparently wasn’t enough for the district attorney, who then filed a habitual offender bill of information based on Harris’s prior arrests and on Nov. 15, 2012, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole—his service to his country be damned. For $30 worth of marijuana, which shouldn’t rise to the level of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foundation intended for children suffering from cancer and giving it to football players’ families.

Did I mention that Funes got just 33 months for that? Or that he was making $350,000 a year when he went off the rails?

Noble was riding a bicycle and Harris was unemployed and were sentenced to 13 ½ years and life, respectively, for pot. Funes stole from sick babies. And he’ll serve maybe half of those 33 months before he’s a free man again. Maybe.

Following Noble’s conviction, two district court judges attempted to lower his sentence to five years because of his lack of a violent record but Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro put the kibosh on those attempts. Loeb, a major supporter of criminal justice reform efforts, eventually learned of his case and became involved.

Appeals to then-Gov. Bobby Jindal fell on deaf ears and it wasn’t until John Bel Edwards became governor and efforts were begun to reduce maximum sentences for marijuana possession. Finally, through the combined efforts of Loeb, Nobel’s attorney Jee Park of the Innocence Project of New Orleans (IPNO), Cannizzaro finally relented and he was re-sentenced to eight years.

Funes, however, received 33 months for embezzling from a charitable foundation to which people contributed in good faith in the belief they were helping sick children, some of them terminally ill.

Of course, Funes did help a couple of LSU football players and he did make restitution of $796,000, which is equivalent to little more than two years’ salary for him, so that must make it all right.

 

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Mike Edmonson, a veteran of 35 years with Louisiana State Police (LSP) and nine years as the state’s top cop, is reported to have been named Program Administrator for Police Patrol by the New Orleans French Quarter Management District (FQMD).

LouisianaVoice received an unconfirmed report on Tuesday that Edmonson, who retired at $128,559 per year after being forced out in March 2017, had been named to the post, advertised by the FQMD earlier this year.

An LSP spokesman said he had heard similar reports but could not confirm them.

Prior to making that request, LouisianaVoice attempted to obtain verbal confirmation from the New Orleans municipal offices but it took six calls to various offices before anyone even answered the phone.

Efforts to confirm the appointment and the salary of the position with the New Orleans mayor’s office by email met with referrals of all public records requests to an outfit called NextRequest.

NextRequest, headquartered in San Francisco, serves as a clearing house for public records requests for governmental agencies, schools, special districts, etc.

Apparently governmental agencies’ rush to privatize services now extends to responding to and complying with public records requests.

Edmonson retired from LSP in March 2017 following a San Diego conference attended by several LSP officials, including four troopers who made the trip in a state vehicle and who took a side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon in 2016.

The investigation of that trip resulted in two of the most convoluted, confusing and controversial—and conflicting—findings by the State Board of Ethics. In April 2018, the ethics board cleared—in secret—the four troopers of any wrongdoing, concluding that they were simply following orders from higher-ups and had taken the vehicle and the side trip with the approval of Edmonson.

Sixteen months later, in August of this year, that same board CLEARED EDMONSON of any wrongdoing for that same trip. Edmonson, it should be noted, was represented before the board by Baton Rouge attorney Gray Sexton who once headed the ethics board.

Sexton said at the time that other agencies investigating Edmonson were dropping their investigations, as well. It’s unclear whether or not the FBI has actually dropped its investigation of Edmonson, who was harshly criticized for his management practices in an audit by the Legislative Auditor’s office.

If reports of Edmonson’s hiring are true, he would find himself working in a familiar—and friendly—atmosphere, given his ties to Robert Watters, owner of RICK’S CABARET.

Edmonson was instrumental in negotiating a cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) whereby LSP would provide patrol duties in the French Quarter to augment New Orleans police.

In 2015, French Quarter residents approved a special quarter-cent sales tax increase in the district to pay for a PERMANENT LSP PRESENCE. Thirty-two troopers from Troop N were assigned permanently to the Quarter.

When proceeds from the sales tax proved insufficient, the Louisiana Legislature appropriated an additional $2.4 million to cover the shortfall.

In December 2018, a STATE AUDIT said LSP had not provided proof that $2.4 million in state funds set aside for policing the Quarter was actually spent there, a finding with which LSP disagreed.

If Edmonson has indeed been appointed program manager for the district, he will undoubtedly have interactions with his old agency that he left under a cloud two-and-one-half years ago.

 

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