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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

LouisianaVoice may have to move its operations to Iberia Parish just to keep up with the shenanigans of Sheriff Louis Ackal, District attorney Bofill Duhé and Assessor Ricky Huval.

We might as well for any information we might pry out of the office of Attorney General Jeff Landry about his investigation of a criminal case in Iberia involving the son of a supporter of both Landry and Duhé.

Landry is so preoccupied with his dual role as Donald Trump’s leading Louisiana lackey and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ primary adversary, it’s going to be interesting to see how he manages to do his job as attorney general.

Meanwhile, there’s the question of Duhé’s First Assistant District Attorney Robert C. Vines and his part in the investigation of the illegal manipulation of the Cypress Bayou Casino’s employee and payroll databases.

The Cypress Bayou Casino is run by the Chitimacha Indian Tribe in St. Mary Parish and in June 2016, the tribe’s chairman, O’Neil Darden, Jr., was ARRESTED by State Police on charges of felony theft, accused of stealing from the tribe by tinkering with the casino’s data bases that resulted in his receiving and “annual bonus” of several thousand dollars to which he was not entitled.

Duhé’s office is handling the prosecution and Vines was named lead prosecutor.

The problem with that is Vines is also the prosecutor for the Chitimacha Tribal Court. He was appointed to the post in January 2016 by….(wait for it)….Darden.

That case was originally set for trial last January but was removed from the docket and continued to May 1. But that trial date also was continued and the matter is now set for trial August 29.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has received a non-response response to our public records request into the status of its investigation of Taylor Richard, accused of sexually molesting toddler siblings, daughters of his girlfriend.

Taylor Richard’s father, James Richard is a political supporter of both Duhé, having contributed $2600 to his campaign in 2014 and 2015, and Landry.

Landry got the case because Renee Louivere, who had previously worked as an assistant district attorney for the 16th Judicial District which includes the parishes of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary. She left the DA’s office and enrolled as Taylor Richard’s legal counsel while in private practice.

But then she returned to the DA’s office and currently works in the St. Martinville office. That created a conflict which allowed Duhé to punt the case to Landry and the AG’s office in Baton Rouge.

Last Thursday, we received the following email from Landry’s office:

From: LADOJ – Public Records Center <louisianaag@mycusthelp.net>
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2018 2:21 PM
To:
Cc: wisherr@ag.louisiana.gov
Subject: [Records Center] Public Records Request :: R000178-070918

RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of July 09, 2018, Reference # – R000178-070918

Dear Mr. Tom Aswell,

In response to your public records request pursuant to La. R.S. 44:1 et seq, which our office received on July 09, 2018, the information you requested has been processed. You sought records related to the following:

“The AG’s investigative file for Taylor Richard of Iberia Parish.”

Louisiana’s Public Records Law, 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…”

As the matter of Taylor Richard is pending criminal litigation, the file you seek is not subject to disclosure and our office must respectfully decline to produce these records at this time.

Louisiana Revised Statutes 44:3(A)(4), however, allows release of the initial report for this matter. Copies of these records are invoiced below.

After a diligent search, our staff have (sic) identified three (3 ) pages of records which are responsive to your request. The records are not electronic. If you wish to receive physical copies of these records, pursuant to La. R.S. 39:241 and La. Admin. Code Title 4, Part 1, Section 301, there is a charge of .25 per page. The billing is as follows:

3 pages @ .25 per page = $0.75 

TOTAL:  $0.75

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact our office. 

Best regards,

Luke Donovan
Assistant Attorney General

Besides brushing up on grammar, Landry’s office could also stand a remedial course in math.

What we got was two, not three, pages of a heavily-redacted report (a third page was blank) that confirmed that the AG’s office was indeed investigating a complaint of the sexual battery (redacted) against a female of (redacted) age in a New Iberia home by Taylor Richard.

The only way it could be determined that the battery was against a child was that the complaint was made by an employee of the “Department of Child Services” (actually, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services).

The report had one other grisly revelation. It noted that the sexual battery was “completed” and not simply attempted and after the words Criminal Activity on the complaint form was the word “Other.”

We can hope it won’t take Landry two years to complete this investigation the way it did for him to finish up the probe of the Union Parish jailhouse rape. But this is Jeff Landry and if he can’t see a political advantage, he just doesn’t give a rat’s behind.

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The Louisiana Supreme court maintains an attractive WEB PAGE that provides all sorts of information. Among other things, there are these handy features:

BIOGRAPHIES of JUSTICES;

BAR EXAM RESULTS;

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT the COURT;

POLICY for MEDIA;

There’s even a link to the ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY BOARD, the board that hears complaints about attorneys’ professional and private practices and metes out punishment ranging from required counseling to disbarment.

That can be a good thing in case you’re looking for an attorney to represent you. You wouldn’t want to hire legal counsel who has a nasty habit of showing up drunk in court or who doesn’t ever get around to dispensing monetary awards to clients or worse, someone who neglects a case until it prescribes.

And the court’s DECISION and RULES link can be especially brutal. It lists each individual case and goes into minute detail in laying out every charge against an attorney, no matter how personal, and then announces to the world what the Supreme Court deems to be an appropriate punishment.

Woe unto any attorney who gets caught DRIVING UNDER the INFLUENCE or who forgets to PAY HIS TAXES.

Of course, the same goes for judges found guilty of judicial misconduct, right?

Well, to borrow a phrase from an old Hertz car rental commercial: not exactly.

There is a JUDICIARY COMMISSION and it does investigate and resolve complaints against judges—or so it says.

There’s even a handy-dandy JUDICIAL COMPLAINT FORM for anyone with a beef against a judge.

But try as you might, there doesn’t seem to be a link that lists actual complaints and actions taken against judges by the Judiciary Commission. An oversight, we were sure.

So, we placed a call to the Supreme Court. Surely, there was someone there who could direct us to the proper link so that we might know the status of say, one JEFF PERILLOUX, Judge of the 40th Judicial District in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Perilloux, 51, was suspended by the State Supreme Court following his indictment on charges he sexually assaulted three teenaged girls, friends of his daughter, while on a family vacation in Florida.

This is the same Judge Perilloux who, while a parish prosecutor in 2010, was arrested for DWI. In that incident, he threatened a State Trooper, falling back on the time-honored “Do you know who I am?” ploy, advising the trooper that, “I am the parish attorney. I’m not some lowlife.” Good to know, sir. Here’s your ticket.

Then there are the two judges from IBERVILLE PARISH who were suspended in 2016.

And who can forget the judges caught up in the OPERATION WRINKLED ROBE federal investigation?

Well, apparently, the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Judiciary Commission has no problem forgetting those cases. Or at least ignoring them. Try finding any mention of those on the Supreme Court’s information-laden web page.

So, we made a call to the Supreme Court.

But, alas, we encountered the old familiar stone wall when we inquired into the status of investigations into judicial misconduct. The person to whom we spoke did offer to direct us to the judicial complaint form so we had to explain a second time that we did not wish to file a complaint but instead, wanted to find information about action taken against wayward judges.

“We don’t release that information,” we were told. “The only way that gets publicized is if the media finds out about it.”

“But, but, but, you list attorney disciplinary action…It seems the public has as much right to know about judicial discipline as about attorney discipline—maybe even more of a right.”

“We don’t release information on judges.”

Here is the relevant rule applicable to records:

Rule XXIII, Section 23(a) of the Rules of this Court be and is hereby amended to read as follows:

Section 23.

(a) All documents filed with, and evidence and proceedings before the judiciary commission are confidential. The commission may provide documents, evidence and information from proceedings to the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board in appropriate cases when approved by this court. In such cases, the confidentiality provisions of La. S. Ct. Rule XIX, Section 16A shall be maintained. The record filed by the commission with this court and proceedings before this court are not confidential.

In the event a judge who has received notice of an anticipated judiciary commission filing in accordance with Rule XV of the rules of the judiciary commission, moves in advance of the filing to place any or all of the anticipated judiciary commission filing under seal, the judiciary commission shall file under seal its recommendations, findings of fact and conclusions of law, the transcript of the proceedings, and exhibits. The filing shall remain under seal until such time as the court has acted upon the judge’s motion.

Which, I guess, is just another way of saying, “We take care of our own.”

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Attorney General Jeff Landry, that staunch opponent of all things indecent and relentless publicity hound, just doesn’t seem to have much of a stomach for prosecuting rape cases.

Remember the jailhouse rape of that 17-year-old girl in Union Parish a couple of years ago? Because the jail is run by a consortium of public officials that included the local district attorney, the case was turned over to Landry’s office for prosecution.

Nothing came of it. After two years of “investigation,” no indictment, even though someone (we don’t know who, exactly) allowed a convicted rapist into her cell where she was assaulted not once, but twice. The criminal part of the case may be over, but the civil lawsuit against the parish remains active.

And now an even more repulsive rape case has landed in Landry’s lap and it’s going to be interesting to see how his office handles this one. The accused, after all, is the son of a Landry supporter who also just happens to be a campaign contributor to the local district attorney.

And that local district attorney is none other than Bo Duhé over in the 16th Judicial District that includes Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.

Back in November 2015, it was learned that one Taylor Richard may have sexually assaulted the 3- and 5-year-old daughters of his 34-year-old girlfriend. He was finally arrested and charged in April 2016.

Renee Louivere, who had previously worked as an assistant district attorney but who was by then in private practice, enrolled as Taylor Richard’s attorney. Shortly after then, she returned to the district attorney’s office where she is currently employed in the DA’s St. Martinville office.

Obviously, her connections to Richard created a conflict of interest for Duhé, so he punted the matter to Landry’s office in Baton Rouge.

But then there is also the matter of James Richard, Taylor Richard’s father who (a) contributed $2600 to Duhé’s campaign in 2014 and 2015 through his company, Angel Rentals, Inc., and who (b) posted several pro-Landry messages on Facebook, along with photos of cookouts for Landry’s campaign. One unconfirmed report said that three weeks after Landry got the Taylor Richard case, James Richard worked on Landry’s campaign.

 

 

 

Moreover, James Richard is said to have attended school with Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal’ son which, of course, would not be unusual for a small town like New Iberia. Still, it would seem to complete the Ackal-Duhé-Richard connection rather conveniently.

Taylor Richard’s trial, meanwhile, has been continued on five different occasions. The most recent, scheduled for June, has been rescheduled for September.

In the meantime, efforts have been made on Taylor Richard’s behalf to plea bargain the matter down to counseling—for sexual assault of two toddlers.

LouisianaVoice made a public records request of Landry’s office on July 9 as to the status of the case. We received the following response that same date:

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

Thirty days? Really?

Why don’t you try matching Landry’s efficiency in ginning out self-serving press releases?

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Lest you think of your local sheriff’s office’s protective actions as a form of insurance, it might do well to remember that unlike State Farm, they’re not always a good neighbor and as opposed to what the Allstate folks might say, you’re not always in good hands.

Louisiana sheriffs have paid out a combined minimum of $6.1 million in settlements and judgments since 2015, according to records provided LouisianaVoice by The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Law Enforcement Program (LSLEP), the risk management arm of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal has paid out at least $2.35 million of that, or 38.5 percent of the total for all sheriffs. That’s just from 2015. Ackal has been in office for 10 years and his office has paid out more than $2.8 million in judgments and settlements, or an average of $23,000 for every month he has been in office.

Two other parish sheriffs’ departments, Jackson ($650,000) and Morehouse ($503,000) were a distant second and third, respectively, behind Iberia. Together, the three parishes were responsible for $3.5 million in payouts for damages and wrongful deaths, or 57.4 percent of the total for all 64 parishes.

Besides the $6.1 million in judgments that were paid out, seven law firms also ran up another $1.2 million in legal fees defending the various lawsuits against sheriffs. That amount represent 83.2 percent of the total legal fees paid to all firms.

Pursuant to a public records request by LouisianaVoice, LSLEP, through its legal counsel, Usry & Weeks of New Orleans, provided reports that showed file names, claimant names, attorneys who handled the files, the amounts paid in attorney fees, and settlement/judgment amounts. The amounts paid out were divided BY PARISH into “corridor” (deductible), indemnity, and excess carrier payments. Excess payments are generally paid out by a second insurance company that covers claims in excess of a certain amount covered by LSLEP’s primary insurer.

There were seven payments made by the LSLEP excess carrier, records show. They range from a low of $15,000 in a case involving two payouts to a plaintiff by the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office (the other payment was for $100,000 and was listed as an “indemnity” payment) to what is believed to be a payment of at least $600,000 in Iberia Parish in the case of the shooting death of a handcuffed prisoner.

The actual amount of that payment is unclear because in the case of Shandell Bradley v. the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, the amounts of the settlement payments were ordered sealed by the presiding judge—the only payments among the records provided that were redacted.

That was the case in which 22-year-old VICTOR WHITE, III was shot in the chest while in custody of sheriff’s deputies. The coroner somehow managed to rule that White had gotten hold of a weapon and somehow managed to shoot himself in the chest—while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

In an interview with LouisianaVoice, White’s father, Victor White, Jr., said he was unhappy with the judge’s order that terms of the settlement not be disclosed. “The judge says we can’t talk about the settlement amount, but I believe the people of Iberia Parish have a right to know how much the sheriff department’s actions cost them,” he said.

The Victor White case was not the only case in which Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal had to make substantial payouts.

CHRISTOPHER BUTLER sued after he was beaten while handcuffed by a deputy Cody Laperouse in 2013. Ackal fired Laperouse who promptly went to work as an officer for the St. Martinville Police Department. Ackal’s office paid out $350,000 in that case.

Ackal also paid out $175,000 to the family of 16-year-old DAQUENTIN THOMPSON who hanged himself while being held in Iberia Parish’s adult jail in 2014.

In a case that displayed the ugly side of Ackal’s idea of justice, the sheriff instructed two of his deputies to “take care of” HOWARD TROSCLAIR after Ackal had been told assaulted one of his (Ackal’s) relatives, according to appeal documents filed by deputy David Hines with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. When Trosclair was arrested, the court records say he was “compliant and followed the officers’ commands.” Hines nevertheless used his knee to strike Trosclair “several times in the side” and struck him “two to three times” with his baton in the back of his legs. Hines continued to knee Trosclair in the abdomen or groin even after he was restrained. Hines then filed a false police report to cover up the wrongful assault, the appeal record says.

That episode cost LSLEP $275,000.

LSLEP paid out $500,000 on behalf of the Morehouse Parish Sheriff’s Office in connection with the death of 18-year-old EDWIN BATTAGLIA while he was in a holding cell.

Perhaps the strangest judgment was the $600,000 payout to VACUUM CLEANER sales representatives in Jackson Parish in 2013.

It seems that a group of door-to-door salespeople had close encounters with Jackson Parish sheriff’s deputies despite their having a permit to solicit door-to-door. Deputy GERALD PALMER told the sales reps, “We’re not too keen on door-to-door salesmen in this parish, so you probably gonna run into a lot of problems. You’re probably better off to go to another parish, according to my sheriff (Andy Brown),” according to court documents.

Court documents quoted other examples of intimidation by deputies in efforts to discourage the sales reps.

The Alexandria law firm of Provosty, Sadler & Delaunay billed $247,000 for defending 33 lawsuits against sheriffs’ offices in Allen, Grant, Iberia and Rapides parishes, records of payments BY LAW FIRM show.

The Chalmette law firm of Gutierrez & Hand was a close second with $237,500 in billings for defending 20 lawsuits against the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Other top-billing firms included:

  • Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway of Shreveport—$191,390 for defending 26 cases in the parishes of Claiborne, Desoto, and Webster;
  • Hall, Lestage & Landreneau of Deridder—$149,745 for representing Allen, Beauregard, Rapides, and Vernon parishes in 36 litigation cases;
  • Homer Ed Barousse of Crowley—$135,400 for representation in the defense of litigation in 11 cases in Acadia Parish;
  • The Dodd Law Firm of Houma—$132,000 for the defense of 10 cases in East Feliciana and Iberia parishes;
  • Borne, Wilkes & Rabalais—$112,800 for defending 10 cases in Acadia and Iberia parishes.

Not all lawsuits were filed against Ackal by prisoners. LAURIE SEGURA was an administrative assistant for the sheriff’s office who obtained a settlement of $409,000 for sexual harassment by Bert Berry, chief of the Criminal Department whose action included rubbing his hands and crotch against her body, sneaking up behind her and kissing her, making inappropriate inquiries about her sex life, discussed fantasies of having sex with her, simulating sex in her presence and trying to get her to engage in phone sex. She said in her lawsuit that he ignored her repeated requests to leave her alone and when she complain, she experience retaliation.

Besides having to settle her claim, Ackal got an added bonus when Segura TESTIFIED against him in federal criminal charges brought against him for a multitude of offenses.

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Justin DeWitt is the only challenger to 6th District U.S. Rep. Garret (one “t”) Graves to meet the July 8 Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadline for financial reporting and unlike the incumbent he is challenging, you won’t fine any PAC contributions in his report.

Democrat DeWitt, the only openly LGBTQ candidate to ever seek a congressional office in Louisiana, has raised a little more than $23,000 in a grassroots effort to dislodge Republican Graves, whose federal campaign finance report reads like a Who’s Who of Political Action Committees:

Airlines for America PAC, Allied Pilots Association PAC, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association PAC, Ally Financial, Inc. Advocacy PAC, Amazon PAC, the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s SKINPAC, American Academy of Physician Assistants PAC, American Airlines Inc. PAC, American Bankers Association PAC, American Air Liquide Holdings PAC, the American Cable Association PAC, American Chemistry Council PAC, American Commercial Lines PAC, Acadian Ambulance Service Employee PAC, Action Committee for Rural Electrification, AECOM PAC, Agricultural Retailers Association PAC, Airline Pilots Association PAC, Airbus Group PAC.

And those are just the first three pages. The entire list of PAC contributors is 38 pages long.

That $23,000 isn’t nearly enough to mount any kind of campaign and DeWitt is keenly aware of that fact but he says he’s running “because I flooded in ’16. I lost everything and got nothing but TAPs (thoughts and prayers) from Graves.”

Thousands of people lost everything in that flood, so what inspired him when no one else is running for that reason?

“I’m running because I’m pissed. Graves wants to take FEMA appropriations for victims and funnel that money into the Amite Diversion Canal. Those victims need help now.

“I want to change the entire flood insurance program,” he said. “We need an overall disaster insurance program. Instead, we have a national flood insurance program that has rates that are impossible for the average family to afford. It’s evil to profit off people who are suffering.

“I’m a political newcomer,” the 30-year-old member of a surveying crew says. One news report identified him as a surveyor—he’s not—and to show how those with power work to protect each other, the Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board threatened DeWitt with disciplinary action. “I never described myself as a surveyor because I’m not,” he said, “but that didn’t deter the board from trying to take action.”

He describes himself as “a working man from a working-class background” as opposed to Graves, who, like his mentor Bobby Jindal, never worked in the private sector.

He said if he is elected, “I will continue to work hard for all the people of the 6th Congressional District, Louisiana, and the nation—not for the corporations and special interest groups. I will work to protect our environment and the rights of all people, and to protect the vital program that ensure a good quality of life for working and middle-class people. That includes healthcare for all who need it and, importantly, Medicare and Social Security for our seniors who have paid into those programs for a lifetime and who should not have to fear a future without the financial resources to live comfortably.”

He said one of the biggest problems with congress and any other elective office is the influence of money from special interests. “The PACs have drowned out the voice of the people to the point the average person cannot be heard over the lobbyists and special interests,” he said. “That’s why you won’t see any PAC contributions in my finance reports. And it’s not because they haven’t offered—they have. We turned them down. We’re depending on social media to get our message out.”

Candidate qualifying runs from July 18 to July 20.

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