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Jeff Landry is a man who knows the value of positive public relations.

Negative PR? Not so much.

LouisianaVoice has for months now been attempting to extract some type of information regarding the AG’s progress in investigating that April 2016 RAPE of a 17-year-old female inmate by a convicted rapist—in the Union Parish Jail in Farmerville.

And after months of not-so-artful dodging with the oft-repeated, “This matter in under investigation, therefore I cannot comment on the specifics or answer questions at this time” response of Press Secretary Ruth Wisher, there apparently has been no progress in the investigation.

Recently, though, the AG’s office has altered its method of responding to public records requests—and the method for submitting same.

Once it was sufficient to initiate an official public records request (PRR) with a simple email that began: Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana (R.S. 44:1 et seq.), I respectfully request the opportunity to review the following document(s):

Following that referencing of the state’s public records act, one would simply list the documents desired (It’s crucial that you request actual documents and not just general information: public agencies as a rule—there are exceptions—won’t respond to general requests). Here is a recent (Dec. 13, 2017) request submitted by LouisianaVoice for which no response has yet been received:

  • Please provide me a current list (and status) of all criminal investigations undertaken by the Louisiana Attorney General’s office since Jeff Landry’s inauguration.
  • Said status should include all dispositions of cases, including convictions and/or dropped charges, where applicable.

But now, Landry’s office appears to be circling the wagons. No more are we to submit request to the Public Information Officer, which makes public information something of an oxymoron. Here is our latest inquiry about the status of the investigation of that rape case which is now entering its 21st month despite the fact that authorities know the following:

  • Where the rapes (she was raped twice) occurred (in the confines of a small cell);
  • When they occurred;
  • The identity of the victim;
  • The identity of the alleged rapist (who was awaiting sentencing for a prior conviction of aggravated rape)

Here is LouisianaVoice’s request:

“Please provide me an update on the current status of the Union Parish jail cell rape case that occurred in April of 2016.

Should you respond with the usual “ongoing investigation” response, then please try to give me some indication as when this unusually lengthy investigation of a relative uncomplicated matter will be completed.”

Here is the AG’s response:

As you have anticipated, Louisiana’s Public Records Act, specifically La. R.S. 44:3(A)(1), exempts records held by the office of the attorney general that 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, records related to open investigations are not subject to disclosure until the case is finally adjudicated or otherwise settled. 

Additionally, your request does not identify any currently existing record. The creation of periodic “status updates” is not an obligation imposed upon public bodies by Louisiana Public Records Law, La. R.S. 44:1, et seq. Please direct future requests for press releases to our Communications Division at AGLandryNews@ag.louisiana.gov. If you have any further requests to make pursuant to La. R.S. 44:1, et seq., please let me know. 

With Best Regards,

Luke Donovan
Assistant Attorney General

Well, I can certainly understand that records of pending matters are exempted but how long is Landry going to let this languish? The victim has filed suit against the state and Union Parish but that is a civil matter. The rape is a criminal investigation. And while the AG is charged with defending the civil suit, the two are separate matters handled by separate divisions.

And what, exactly, does Donovan mean by “pending criminal litigation”? We have pending civil litigation and we have pending criminal prosecution. Again, they are separate, handled by separate divisions.

But then, Landry is nothing if not a publicity hound. He loves to see his name in print. He just doesn’t have the same enthusiasm for actual work. Take the theft from the DeSOTO PARISH Sheriff’s Office that was turned over first to Landry’s predecessor Buddy Caldwell and then to him to investigate because the victim of that theft was the local district attorney, creating for him a conflict of interests.

Landry never did complete that investigation which pre-dated the Union Parish rape case by two years. It was a federal grand jury that ended up indicting the employee involved.

And finally, there is the ALTON STERLING case which, following the U.S. Justice Department’s punting on the matter, was taken up by Landry last May. Nearly 10 months later, Landry has yet to give any indication as to when he will issue a report on that shooting by Baton Rouge police.

So, Ruth Wisher is stuck with the unenviable task of trying to make her boss look good. It’s not quite as daunting a task as that of Sarah Huckabee Sanders in trying to make a silk purse of the sow’s ear that is Donald Trump, but daunting nevertheless.

The glowing press releases will continue in Landry’s unabashed quest for the governor’s office while the real work of completing the investigation of the rape of a 17-year-old will continue to get short shrift because, realistically speaking, there are no votes to be gained in protecting the rights of a meth addict.

And that, readers, is the very definition of hypocrisy.

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Former Trooper Jimmy Rogers is ready to don the uniform of a Louisiana State Trooper again.

This is the same Trooper who worked LACE while serving a suspension in violation of state police policy.

His friend and commander, Capt. Chris Guillory, allowed him to work LACE while serving a 240-hour suspension. Rogers was suspended for threatening people and using state police resources for personal use such as criminal background checks on persons he was threatening. Sources tell LouisianaVoice the threats were issued to the boyfriend of a woman he was having an affair with and impregnated.

Rogers was the target of an investigation of charges that he used his state police position to influence criminal charges against Dwight Gerst. Internal Affairs investigators obtained a statement showing Rogers getting a witness to go along with him which in turn resulted in criminal charges against Gerst.

Rogers was cleared in that investigation. Gerst was acquitted of the unwarranted criminal charges. Gerst currently has a lawsuit for civil damages pending against Rogers.

LouisianaVoice previously reported former Trooper Jimmy Rogers was suspected of claiming LACE hours which he did not actually work. In the midst of the investigation, he suddenly resigned. LSP repeatedly denied our requests for the investigation file leading up to his resignation claiming they are not subject release because Rogers was not punished.

LouisianaVoice received information that Rogers has requested to return to LSP on March 7 of this year. Several Troopers are concerned that he might be rehired. Under former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, this was a legitimate concern. We find it highly unlikely that he would be hired under Col. Reeves. We made a public records request for the email sent by former Trooper Rogers. Here is the email:

Captain Broussard

Rogers, Jimmy <JimmyARogers@cbi.com>

Tuesday, March 07,2017 2:07PM

 Benny Broussard

I’m not sure if you remember me. I left Troop D just before you were brought on as the Captain. As you know we were the subject of intense press and investigations. I resigned in good standing due to all of the pressure involved and the job opportunity that was presented to me. Lately, I have been rethinking that decision. Being a Louisiana State Trooper was my life and I did it to the best of my ability every day. I was clear of every claim except altering times on tickets. I am guilty of writing times on tickets later than the stop actually was. I would like the opportunity to finish the investigation with IA over LACE discrepancies and serve whatever penalty comes my way. I will always be LSP to my core and I miss the job to the point of coming to you for mercy. If this is even possible. Could you direct me appropriately!

(Check on images to enlarge for easier reading):


Check out the privacy notice at the bottom of that email. Rogers sent the message from his work computer. He went begging for his old job at 2:07 p.m., while on duty at his current job. His employer, Chicago Brick and Iron, should really appreciate that.

Broussard responded tactfully to Rogers, telling him he was directing his request “up the chain of command.”

Broussard forwarded the request to Region 2 Commander Maj. Becket Breaux, also on March 7:

From Breaux, the email from Rogers went up the line to LSP headquarters in Baton Rouge:

…And finally, to former LSP Chief of Staff Charlie Dupuy:

That, apparently, is where the matter rests. There were no other communications provided to LouisianaVoice by LSP.

But for the moment, let us focus for a moment on this statement: “I am guilty of writing times on tickets later than the stop actually was.”

Criminal investigators call this a confession. It is a usable confession made voluntarily and not subject to any Miranda limitations. The email sent to Troop D Commander Capt. Benny Broussard asking for his job back suggests he committed the following crimes.

14:138 Public payroll fraud (felony)

14:133 Filing or maintaining false public records (felony)

14:134 Malfeasance in office (felony)

Our sources say that Rogers’ dash camera footage, witnesses, citations, radio logs, and time sheets will further prove he was abusing the LACE program. We have attempted to get this information but were denied. We have reissued our public records requests to the new LSP administration in hopes of compliance with the law or a valid denial based on the records are now part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

LSP has the same information on Rogers as was discovered by Lee Zurik in the investigation of other troopers. Zurik’s information has resulted in criminal investigations. The only difference is when LSP finds it, they have covered it up. It is time for LSP to do the right thing for the citizens of Calcasieu Parish who paid for services that were not provided.

Troopers should not be afforded the opportunity to resign for the purpose of stopping a criminal investigation. LSP does not offer this option to other agencies or individuals. It is time for LSP to do the right thing on their own and stop making the media do their investigations for them.

Better yet, comply with Rogers’ request and complete the investigation.

 

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As more and more high-profile stories about sexual harassment begin to emerge, a Baton Rouge woman has come forward to say she was sexually assaulted by former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson more than three decades ago.

The woman, who identified herself to LouisianaVoice, has asked that her identity be held in confidence because the sensitivity of her occupation and to shield her teenage children from embarrassment and possible peer intimidation.

She said her husband knows about the incident but the rest of her family does not.

She said her motive in coming forward is not to get attention for herself. Instead, she said, she wants to expose him because her experience with Edmonson has been “a bitter pill” she has lived with for 35 years and that she knows “how he operates.”

“I want you to know what a fraud and phony he is,” she said, adding that she watched him as he rose through the ranks of Louisiana State Police (LSP) over the years. “I cannot imagine I am the only person who has been in a similar situation with him.” She said acquaintances of hers who also know Edmonson have told her how “handsy and flirtatious he is.”

Coincidentally, her revelations come on the same day that Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the appointment of members of his Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy Task Force which is charged with the responsibility of reviewing the sexual harassment and discrimination policies of each state agency within the executive branch.

The woman said she was 19 at the time and Edmonson was “probably 25 or 26.” She said her parent’s home was in the same neighborhood as Edmonson’s parents’ home. “I know the family well,” she said. I have known them since I was about in seventh grade.”

She said her family was visiting the Edmonsons and Mike Edmonson asked if she would like to ride to New Orleans with him. “I was very reluctant because I really didn’t know him that well and because of my being 19, he seemed like an ‘older man.’ Another person at the gathering sort of talked me into going, so I went. I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’ll be in good hands because he’s a policeman.’ How naïve I was.”

She said Edmonson took her to Pat O’Brien’s in the French Quarter and bought her Hurricanes with “extra shots.”

“I was probably 5-foot-two and may 115 pounds at the time, so you can imagine the effect this had. After I was completely wasted, he brought me back to his car and headed for home.”

She said Edmonson was not driving his personal vehicle, but a State Police patrol car at the time. She said he had the emergency lights on the entire trip to Baton Rouge.

“But he didn’t bring me back to my parent’s house,” she said. Instead, she said he took her to his home which at the time was in a subdivision north of I-12, just off Millerville Road.

“So, he had me, wasted, in his bed, and (he) proceeded to take off my clothes,” she said. “I was petrified and humiliated (and) I can remember just hugging myself in a ball so that he would leave me alone. He succeeded in getting some of my clothes off, but I guess it got to be too much trouble and eventually, (he) just left me alone.

“The more I think back on this, especially having a teenage daughter of my own now, the more I see how predatory this was. He knew exactly what he was doing.

“I’m still afraid of him, though, because he still has powerful friends. But real men, good men, do not ply women with alcohol to try to take advantage of them.”

LouisianaVoice sent an email to Edmonson in an effort to afford him an opportunity to respond to the woman’s allegations but he did not respond to the email.

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Controversy surrounding that preliminary default judgment levied against a Baton Rouge television station just won’t go away and now a second lawsuit has been filed naming the plaintiff in the first lawsuit and his employer, Louisiana State Police (LSP), as defendants.

And just to make matters a bit more confusing, the name of that defendant (and the plaintiff in the litigation against WBRZ-TV) is the same name—but not the same person—as an occasional writer for LouisianaVoice.

Throw in illegal background searches and claims of violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a police officer posing as a police officer, and a nasty divorce, and you’ve got the ingredients for a salacious story that would send a counsellor scrambling for the cabinet where the hard liquor is stashed.

Got it? Didn’t think so. Okay then, let’s review:

Back in October, 21st Judicial District Court Judge Doug Hughes signed a $2.5 million preliminary default judgment against WBRZ after the TV station failed to answer a defamation LAWSUIT against it and its investigative reporter Chris Nakamoto filed by State Trooper Robert Burns of Livingston Parish—a different person altogether than the Robert Burns who periodically writes for LouisianaVoice.

Nakamoto had reported a story about a 64-hour suspension imposed on Burns by LSP following an Internal Affairs investigation into his conducting 52 illegal computer searches on his ex-wife, one Carmen Hawkins, her current fiancé and a former boyfriend over a period of nearly three years—from November 2013 to October 2016.

Nakamoto’s story was taken exclusively from public records he obtained from LSP, so there should have been no question as to the story’s legitimacy. Had the station’s attorney filed an answer, the suit in all probability, would have been dismissed with prejudice, meaning the dismissal would be final. By failing to answer, WBRZ attorney Stephen Babcock of Baton Rouge left Judge Hughes no choice but to enter the preliminary default. That judgment, of course is now under appeal, if somewhat belatedly, and is likely to be reversed.

Burns, in appealing his suspension, said on 46 of those 52 searches, he was conducting a search of his own license plate and that the “spin-off” searches of his wife were a result of “unintended inquiries generated by an automated system.”

IA didn’t buy that explanation, especially since “spin-of” searches generated by an “automated system” couldn’t explain away the two searches on his former wife’s current fiancé and the four searches on her ex-boyfriend. Those searches, besides vehicle and driver’s license records, also included computerized criminal histories on the two men.

Moreover, Burns subsequently disseminated some of the information (we’ll get to that shortly) and then texted his ex-wife to request that she not report his actions because he “could get fired for doing so.”

The searches, according to a letter to him from LSP, were for “non-law enforcement purposes, in violation of department policy and federal law.”

Hughes signed the preliminary JUDGMENT on Sept. 28. On Oct. 19, the day after the LouisianaVoice STORY, Carmen Hawkins weighed in with her own LAWSUIT against the Department of Public Safety (DPS), LSP, and Burns and this is where things really get dicey.

She claims in her petition that she had her vehicle in an auto body shop in Walker when her ex-husband, Burns, appeared at the shop “in uniform and identifying himself as acting under the color of law and within his capacity as an employee of…Louisiana State Police, and proceeded to ask questions about plaintiff’s vehicle and the circumstances surrounding it(s) needing repair.”

Some time following his visit to the repair shop, she says in her lawsuit, Burns appeared at the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department “dressed in uniform and identifying himself as acting under the color of law and within his capacity as an employee of…Louisiana State Police (and) proceeded without probable cause to request that a warrant be issued” for her arrest “on allegations he knew to be false or which were based upon reckless disregard for the truth.”

She was then arrested at her home by sheriff’s deputies but “immediately release when the reason for her arrest was discovered,” she said. But that was far from the end of the matter.

In her petition, she says Burns then “published false and defamatory communications” to her employer, “which communications impugned plaintiff’s professional reputation and included the false allegation that plaintiff had accessed confidential, personal health (HIPAA) information.”

Unauthorized access and dissemination of confidential patient information is a violation of HIPAA regulations.

She said Burns’ claims were false and that it resulted in the termination of her employment.

LouisianaVoice sources have indicated Hawkins’ former employer was Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge and that she has since obtained employment at another Baton Rouge hospital.

She says little about the alleged HIPAA violations but does say in her lawsuit that her ex-husband’s access to LSP databases had been permitted “by the customs and regular practice” of LSP and former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who she said was believed to have had “actual knowledge that its employees, including…Robert Burns, who were not listed as authorized users, could and were engaging in violations of department policy and state and federal law by using the databases…”

Her attorney, Jonathan Mitchell of Baton Rouge, is asking that DPS, LSP and Burns be held liable in solido (jointly) for damages and losses sustained by his client.

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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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