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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

The film An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary about former Vice President Al Gore’s lectures on the perils of global warming, won an Academy Award.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning’s “convenient untruths” about the safety record of carnival rides in Louisiana and the so-called “intricate inspections” his office conducts of rides should win a few rotten tomatoes.

A recent STORY on a New Orleans television station about a so-called “near miss” when a ride called the Gravitron at a church fair in October malfunctioned and would not stop spinning.

No one was injured in the incident, though it did leave a few riders dizzy and more than a little concerned about the safety of the ride.

Browning said since he has been the fire marshal, “we’ve never had a ride fail—where you have a car come off a ride and that kind of thing.”

That remark has to be filed away behind the “C” tab, as in CYA.

Because state law mandates only that ride owners report when there is an injury, the so-called “near misses” get reported only when someone calls Browning’s office to file a complaint. In all, eight such incidents have been investigated by the fire marshal’s office in the past three years.

Browning said rides undergo “intricate” inspections. “They go through every piece,” he said. “They take things apart.” He said the rides are required to pass inspections by National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials each year in order to operate in Louisiana.

We will return to that requirement but first, let’s look at the record to see if Browning is being entirely truthful.

On May 14, 2011, two teenagers were injured when a ride MALFUNCTIONED at a school fair in Greensburg in St. Helena Parish.

Oh, sorry. That was more than three years ago and Browning did say only eight incidents had been reported in the past three years.

Still, it did happen on a ride called the Zipper. LouisianaVoice was informed earlier this year that a ride called the Zipper was shut down at another fair in Louisiana this year but the same ride was allowed to operate only a couple of weeks later at the recent Baton Rouge State Fair after apparently passing inspection.

In the St. Helena accident, a brother and sister were thrown from the ride when it re-started as they were exiting. They were ejected from the car and fell to the ground. Both were airlifted to a Baton Rouge hospital.

The mother of the teens filed a lawsuit against the fire marshal’s office, claiming the ride was improperly INSPECTED. The state SETTLED that lawsuit for $180,000.

On Oct. 21, 2015, a Shreveport television station did a puff piece about the thoroughness of fire marshal INSPECTIONS of rides at the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport with one deputy fire marshal proclaiming the rides to be “absolutely safe.”

Yet, just four years earlier, four-year-old Sheldon Lewis was critically injured when a ride he was exiting suddenly re-activated and trapped him beneath it. The accident left him confined to a wheelchair. The accident occurred when a child pressed an “on” button on an easily accessible active ride control panel, a hazard risk that had been overlooked by fire marshal inspectors.

An online service on negligence called DENENA POINTS was critical of “an easily-activated piece of heavy ride equipment accessible” that showed “a lack of proper safety precautions.”

Like with the St. Helena accident, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the injured child.

In September 2016, a woman sued the Baton Rouge State Fair and an amusement ride company over her fall on Oct. 29, 2015, from a ride called GEE WHIZ. She claimed in her lawsuit that the ride had been experiencing problems the week of the accident and should have been taken out of service.

Browning, typically, defended his office, saying preliminary and final investigations discovered “no defects or failures” in the ride’s mechanics.

“We were unable to determine how the rider (Andraea Gilmore) was able to free herself from the lap-bar restraint,” Browning said in a statement that left Gilmore’s attorney, Ralph Fletcher, less than impressed—or convinced.

On June 9, 2006, a two-year boy broke his arms and legs after falling from a ride called OVER THE RAINBOW at Baton Rouge’s Dixie Landin’ Amusement Park and four years later, in 2010, a 21-year-old woman who fell from a roller coaster ride known as the XTREME at the same park was killed.

And while Browning parses words in saying things like, “We’ve never had a ride fail—where you have a car come off a ride and that kind of thing,” it’s more than evident that there are failures and that people get hurt—and even die from amusement rides.

But who, exactly, conducts inspections of these rides? And how do inspectors become certified by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials (NAARSO)?

As to the answer of the second question, we’re not at all certain other than to say CERTIFICATION rules were changed in 2015. But the NAARSO CRITERIA for certification senior level might seem to eliminate Louisiana State Fire Marshal inspectors. Senior certification requires 10 years’ experience in the “design, repair, operation or inspection of amusement rides and devices” and that senior applicants “have worked in the amusement ride and device inspection field a minimum of three out of the past 10 years.”

Under the system of cross-training currently required by Browning’s office, the possibility of an inspector’s meeting those criteria would seem remote at best. Boiler inspectors, nursing home inspectors, jail inspectors, and arson investigators are simply not qualified as amusement ride inspectors—and vice-versa.

Yet, that is precisely what deputy Louisiana fire marshals are required to do, which is why one boiler inspector from Texas turned down a job with the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s office upon moving here. He found that he would expected to inspect carnival rides “and I knew I wasn’t qualified to do that.”

What that means, of course, is that by leaving itself exposed to legal risks by having unqualified amusement ride inspectors, the state runs the risk of being hit with a major lawsuit if someone’s child is permanently injured by a defective ride that somehow passed inspection by the fire marshal’s office.

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When I posted the story on LouisianaVoice last Thursday about the Step-N-Strut trail ride on Tunica-Biloxi land in Marksville on Nov. 3-5, I did so in the full knowledge that it would be a controversial story because of the claims by organizers that Tunica-Biloxi Police Chief Harold Pierite, Sr. attempted a $10,000 shakedown under the threat of closing down the last day of the event.

That is why I called Pierite, his Chief Deputy Chico Mose, and attempted without success to speak with Tribal Council Vice Chairman Marshall Ray Sampson, Sr.

Pierite did at least speak with me long enough to deny any shakedown, and I quoted him as saying it “never happened.” I also quoted him as denying that he threatened to shut down the event’s last day of activities.

Mose did not deny or acknowledge anything. Instead, he said he would get back to me.

He never did.

I attempted to call Sampson and left word for him to call. He, like Mose, did not call back. Instead, I received a statement from Sampson but delivered through the Enrhardt Group, a New Orleans corporate communications and marketing firm.

That statement, which did little to shed any light on the events of Sunday, Nov. 5, was included in my story.

But on Saturday, two days after the story was posted, Sampson and Pierite have issued a joint, two-page statement, again through Enrhardt, that purports to dispute the content of Thursday’s story, point-by-point.

“In the interests of accuracy and fairness, we hope you will give this statement of facts the same consideration as you did for the original posting of Nov. 16,” the latest statement says, apparently suggesting that I did not do so with the original story.

But hey, let’s not ever say I’m unfair in giving both sides a chance to have their say. Even though they chose not to elaborate on the charges by Dave and Torry Lemelle of Opelousas, I agree to print their statement—but do so with the caveat that Thursday’s story contained an accurate account of the facts insofar as I was able to obtain them from sincere efforts to contact both sides and to obtain their version of the events.

So, here is the TUNICA BILOXI RESPONSE:

  • Prior to the event, all communication took place between Chief Harold Pierite of the Tunica-Biloxi Police Dept. and Paul Scott of Step-N-Strut. You should note that Mr. Scott has praised the efforts of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe and its relationship with Step-N-Strut.
  • Prior to the event, the Tunica-Biloxi Police Dept. conducted research on the Step-N-Strut event with Natchitoches and St. Landry police departments regarding the type of event and security that should be provided. It was decided that there should be at least one officer per 75 attendees at the event. Original estimates for security were based on these figures.
  • All estimates for security leading to the event were provided to Mr. Scott and Step-N-Strut. The original estimate for $112,000 was based on 50 officers, plus four state troopers covering the event in shifts for three days. When the Step-N-Strut leadership balked at the amount, a revised estimate was developed reflecting fewer officers and a reduction in their hourly rates. (That estimate is attached.) This estimate was initialed by all principals.
  • The Tunica-Biloxi Police Department made every effort to operate within the financial constraints of Step-N-Strut, which led to the revised estimate. In the final analysis, because fewer than 30 officers were available, the total charges were considerably less than the revised estimate. We believe the total charges for security were less than $30,000, even less than the amount the organization says it was charged by other entities. Since each officer was paid separately, Step-N-Strut should have accurate figures on the actual cost of security.
  • No cash was involved in any transaction between the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe or Police Department and Step-N-Strut. Security officers were paid by check and 1099s were issued. The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe’s Economic Development Council received a check for $4,500, which were the only funds that were transferred between Step-N-Strut and the Tribe.
  • The Tribal Council was aware of the event, but it left all security arrangements up to the Police Department and Step-N-Strut leadership. No tribal council member received any remuneration whatsoever from Step-N-Strut or its leadership/membership.
  • Attendance at the event was higher than the original projections and security planned for 2,500 to 3,000 attendees. This resulted in traffic and parking issues, as evidenced by the number of vehicles that were towed because of illegal parking on LA Hwy 1.
  • The gunshot on Saturday evening caused the closure of the event because of security concerns. Officers viewed the shot being fired from the crowd and took reasonable action for the safety of the entire crowd.
  • The confusion over the late start on Sunday was due to a representative of Step-N-Strut who told the officer-in-charge that they would not pay for security. The event was delayed until this matter was resolved. Chief Pierite engaged Mr. Lemelle and was assured that officers would be paid. In fact, the event was opened at 10:30 A.M. Mr. Pierite wanted assurance that they would be paid for the time they worked on Sunday.
  • All communication regarding security for the event occurred between Chief Pierite and Paul Scott. Based on Mr. Scott’s correspondence to you, there do not seem to be problems between those parties. Also, because all transactions were by check and can be documented easily, there should be no confusion about monies paid and parties who received funds. We suggest that anyone quoted other than these principals really didn’t know the facts.

So, there you have it. For the record, Paul Scott, with whom Pierite dealt in negotiations for the event, has also come to the support of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. His statement was posted by LouisianaVoice as one of the comments to the original story.

My final word on this is to express the desire that when contacted by LouisianaVoice on a story, don’t duck the issue. Don’t say you’ll call me back and then go silent. I am happy to publish both sides of a story but too often, one side clams up and won’t talk and then cries foul when the story hits.

 

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Yet another ugly controversy involving a member of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), has surfaced this one involving claims by an Opelousas organization that one of LSPC’s newest members, Harold Pierite, Sr., attempted to shake down the group for thousands of dollars during its annual event held on land owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe in Marksville.

Organizers told LouisianaVoice that Pierite threatened to shut down the Step-N-Strut trail ride on its final day—the most important day of the event—unless they paid him $10,000 in cash. They said they ultimately paid him “about $4,000,” but many attendees pulled out early in the belief that the last day was being shut down.

The reports set off a belated denial by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe and counter-denials by organizers of the event.

Pierite, the Tunica-Biloxi Police Chief, was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards last March to the Louisiana State Police COMMISSION, which was created in 1991 to provide an independent civil service system for Louisiana State Troopers, said the demand for more money or his threat to close the event down “never happened.”

Pierite has served as a member of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council for more than 15 years and as Chief of the Tunica-Biloxi Police Department for more than 20 years. He is a 1992 graduate of the Acadiana Law Enforcement Training Academy.

The Step-N-Strut Trail Ride is held the first week of each November and horse owners from all over the U.S. participate, according to Dave and Torry Lemelle, organizers of the annual three-day event.

The Lemelles have sponsored the event for the past 19 years, moving it from location to location in the state over the years. “We hold our trail ride the first week in November and participants come in from North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, and all over,” Torry Lemelle told LouisianaVoice.

She said trail rides are hosted by different clubs virtually every weekend. “They come to ours and we go to theirs,” she said. Participants pay a fee for attending the trail rides. (Click HERE to see a video of the grand entrance for this year’s event.)

Dave Lemelle said this year’s event was attended by about 3,000 persons and “between 400 and 500 horses.” Torry Lemelle said the trail ride is “like a music festival, only with horses.” She said bands play and participants hold cookouts and camp out on the grounds.

“This year, we held the trail ride on property the Tunica-Biloxi Trust in Marksville,” Dave Lemelle said.

The Lemelles provided copies of correspondence from Pierite in which he agreed to provide security at a flat fee of $30 per reservation officer and $40 per hour per State Trooper. He later tried to inflate the cost by claiming that more officers would be required, including State Police for traffic control on the highway leading to the reservation.

“They (Pierite and his chief deputy, Chico Mose) wanted us to pay for 24-hour security. This was not necessary,” Torry Lemelle said. “Chief Pierite was also going to give me one invoice to pay so that he could pay the officers. In informed him that each officer would be getting paid at the end of each night, according to the hours that we verified. Each officer also had to fill out a W-9 form.”

She said Pierite initially indicated on Oct. 6 that the cost to the organization would be $112,000. “We told Chief Pierite that the event could not afford the security that he wanted to provide (and) if we could not come to an agreement, we would have to cancel the event.

“He told us that he was sure that we would be able to come to an agreement and that he would revise the assignment. On Oct. 19, I received the revised detail assignment totaling $59,150. This revised assignment still had security for 24 hours.

“We spoke to the Louisiana State Police and they informed us that they do not require us to have State Troopers on the highway.”

She said on Oct. 20, the organization presented Pierite with a detailed assignment based on the past five years of security costs to Step-N-Strut’s annual trail ride at other location. She said security for past events totaled about $35,000.

“On Oct. 23, we received a denial letter for our detail assignments,” she said.

Pierite’s letter was addressed to Paul Scott. “Paul is a good friend of ours who has been organizing festivals for about 30 years,” Mrs. Lemelle said. “He also sits on the board of the Festival International De Louisiane. He has been helping us organize this event for the past six years. He is the one who actually met with Harold” on several occasions and was the one who paid Pierite for the security detail.

Dave Lemelle said that Keenan Malveaux, Pierite’s nephew, approached him prior to the event and demanded an additional payment of $35,000 in cash “to make it happen.” “He specifically said he wanted the payment in ‘untraceable’ cash,” Lemelle said.

“I asked what the additional money was for and he said, ‘To take care of some people.’ When I pressed him on who those ‘people’ were, he said it was for members of the Tribal Council.”

Following negotiations, Pierite’s denial, and the Tribal Council’s overturn of that denial, the trail ride finally got underway until the morning of Sunday, Nov. 5, when Pierite appeared to say he was shutting the event down, Lemelle said.

Pierite then left and was gone for five hours, he said. In the meantime, the Lemelles set about contacting Tribal Council members to have Pierite’s actions overturned again. “In the meantime,” Lemelle said, “news of the threatened cancellation spread like wildfire and people started packing up and leaving. There were some who heard about it on the way in and just turned around and left before they even got to the event.”

When Pierite returned five hours later, he demanded a payment of $10,000. “He said State Police and the FBI wanted the trail ride shut down.

Lemelle said Pierite was eventually paid “about $4,000.” But the damage was done.

Torry Lemelle said, “Chief Pierite extorted money from us throughout the whole process, using his authority, threatening to cancel this event if we did not pay him. When he realized that he was not getting any more money, he cancelled our event on Sunday morning, causing us to lose not only money but a large amount of our supporters. (He) used his authority to intimidate people and extort money.”

Pierite, contacted by LouisianaVoice on Monday, denied that he demanded money from the Lemelles, saying it “never happened.” He also denied that he threatened to shut down the event on its last day. Asked if he spoke to Dave Lemelle, he said, “Yes, I spoke with him, but not about that.”

Mose, also contacted by LouisianaVoice, appeared surprised by the claim that there was a threat to shut the event down, but he did not deny the allegation. He said he would check out the story and get back. He never did, however, although we did receive an official statement from a Tribal Council member through the offices of the Enrhardt Group, a New Orleans corporate communications and marketing firm.

Marshall Ray Sampson, Sr., vice chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, issued a statement through Enrhardt several hours after LouisianaVoice‘s inquiries about the dispute over the money:

“The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana was thrilled to be a part of the Step-N-Strut event this year and hope that all who attended had a wonderful experience. The annual event, which draws thousands of participants and their horses to the area, was unfortunately disrupted and subsequently delayed due to the actions of one participant.

“Late Saturday evening the Tribal Police department received reports that an event participant had shot a gun into the air. Thankfully, despite the crowds in the area, no one was hurt. Due to the quick response of the Tunica-Biloxi Police and security teams the area was quickly locked down. After assessing the situation for safety concerns it was determined that the event could not proceed without further security in place. Following the incident Tunica-Biloxi Police were forced to shut down the event late Saturday evening. Tribal leaders participated in consultations between the mayor and event organizers. After considering several options, it was determined the event could continue on Sunday morning, though slightly delayed.

Sampson’s claims that additional security was justified (thereby accounting for more costs) and that the event “was forced to shut down” were at odds with Pierite’s denial that more money was sought from the trail ride or that he had moved to have it shut down, leading to the conclusion that Sampson and Pierite failed to get together after our initial call to coordinate their stories.

“Events like the Step-N-Strut are widely loved and it is unfortunate that the actions of one participant resulted in a disruption. The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe is working with the mayor’s office and event organizers to ensure that measures are in place moving forward to provide the full scope of security needed so the Step-N-Strut can continue on for years to come. We thank the security teams and Tribal Police for their quick response and are grateful no one was hurt and that the event, though slightly delayed on Sunday, was able to continue on to completion.”

Mrs. Lemelle was incensed at what she termed a self-serving statement from Sampson, calling it “a complete lie,” saying Sampson didn’t even know the Sunday schedule was shut down “until we contacted him.”

She said, “First of all, we were told it was a member of the Tunica-Biloxi police department who fired the gun, not one of our participants. Second, if it was shut down, why did the Tunica-Biloxi deputies arrive for security on Sunday morning? They all came on duty as if nothing was wrong because there was no shutdown until Pierite came on the scene and told us he was closing it down unless he got another $10,000. The mayor never even knew about the shutdown,” she said.

There were also unconfirmed reports that the Tribal Council is conducting an investigation of Pierite.

Because whatever did happen occurred on tribal property, state authorities would have no power to investigate or arrest anyone. Any criminal investigation and/or prosecution would have to be conducted by the Tribal Council, the FBI, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The only remedy within the state’s purview would be for Gov. Edwards to remove Pierite from the State Police Commission.

 

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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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If Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter feels as if he is being squeezed these days, it is for good reason.

He is.

On the one hand, state district judges of the 32nd Judicial District are requiring that Larpenter perform the duties of his job.

On the other hand, federal investigators reportedly are looking into the manner in which Larpenter performs the duties of his job. Reports are the FBI recently completed two days interviewing one of Larpenter’s deputies. The nature of those interviews was not immediately known.

Meanwhile, two private security guards and a Houma police officer have taken over security at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse following the high sheriff’s refusal to do so even though state statutes clearly say:

  • “Court criers are to be provided by the sheriff of each parish to each district judge.”
  • “The crier of a court (notice this is not restricted to Orleans) shall attend all sessions thereof, under the direction of the judge shall open and close court at each session, and maintain order and decorum in the court room, and shall perform such other duties as are assigned to him by law, the court, or the sheriff.” (emphasis added)
  • “Each sheriff or deputy shall attend every court that is held in his parish…”
  • “Security in the courthouse is the responsibility of governing authority (Gordon Dove), but an agreement may be made between the parish officers and the building to share the expenses.”
  • “The principal functions of the criminal sheriff are that of being keeper of parish jail and executive officer of the Criminal District Court.”

Larpenter tried to pull rank on the judges by refusing a request by Judge Randal BETHANCOURT to provide more security details assigned to the courthouse. Larpenter demanded more pay for doing so and the judges said no dice. That standoff more or less backed the judges into a corner by forcing them to retain private security and municipal police officers.

Following the dispute over additional security vs. additional pay, Larpenter took photographs of inmates being transported to court and being held in holding cells until being called for their hearings and arraignments.

Armed with the photographs, Larpenter called the State Fire Marshal down on the court, apparently for the overcrowded conditions in the cells.

A little background is in order here. The State Fire Marshal, like the State Superintendent of Police is a position filled by appointment of the governor but no governor in his right mind would do so independently, i.e. without the blessings of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. Make no mistake, the sheriffs’ association dictates to every governor who shall fill the positions of Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, State Fire Marshal and State Superintendent of Police. Ergo, Larpenter felt sufficiently confident to call in the big boys on the judges—big boys that his association props up.

Down and dirty politics at the local level? Damned right and normally that would be a lethal weapon given the formidable alliance of the sheriffs’ association, Secretary of Public Safety, State Superintendent of Police and State Fire Marshal. In case no one has been paying attention, those are the preeminent law enforcement agencies of the state. You generally don’t cross swords with that kind of power.

Larpenter then goes to the local press with his brainstorm for a great cost-cutting measure: video arraignments.

But that was only a temporary setback as the judges came back with their own “gotcha.”

First, they issue an order banning all video arraignments, thereby forcing Larpenter to bear the costs of transporting more than 150 prisoners for hearings two weeks ago.

Then, Judge David Arceneaux signed an order in which he struck through language requiring the warden of Dixon Correctional Institute in East Feliciana Parish, 120 north of Houma, to transport a prisoner from the facility to Houma and back. Judge Arceneaux then wrote in longhand, “Terrebonne Parish Sheriff to transport from Dixon Correctional Institute,” adding that Larpenter was to deposit $1500 for the cost of transporting the prisoner.

Needless to say, all this has set off a minor war in the 32nd JDC. Larpenter sputtered and fumed but Bethancourt replied it was all Larpenter’s fault, supposedly for balking at providing more security for the courthouse.

Regardless whose fault it is for the situation to have deteriorated so badly, it has morphed into a very interesting little turf war that isn’t like to end soon—or well. And it promises to be a fight worthy of the sordid reputation of Louisiana politics.

The number two spectator sport behind football.

In other words, fun.

 

 

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