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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Editor’s note: In August 2016, widespread flooding in south Louisiana was particularly devastating to Livingston Parish. Many residents simply abandoned flooded homes and never returned after losing all their possessions and receiving little in the way of recovery efforts from FEMA.

Melissa Thies of St. Tammany, who describes herself as a “taxpayer in the know,” has made a series of public records requests from the St. Tammany Parish School Board which, coincidentally, rather than devote its efforts to reopening schools on schedule following the coronavirus outbreak, did take the time to revise its public records policy by doubling the cost of records from the statewide standard of 25 cents per page to 50 cents.

A number of interesting discoveries was made through her efforts, all of which are supported by official school board records. Today’s story, written by her and posted previously on Facebook, is reprinted here:

By Melissa Thies

Let’s revisit that devastating fall day in 2016……

Livingston Parish was one of the hardest hit areas of a flood.  Thirteen people lost their lives, and property damage was never really able to be solidly calculated, but estimates of $10 – 15 billion have been thrown around.  Hard times for our neighbors down Highway 12, right?  Or an opportunity to grow a school board general fund by several thousand bucks and win an award in the process?

St Tammany Parish School Administration went into full-on fundraising mode, raising over $330,000 in money, gift cards and school supplies for victims.  The media claimed this to be the “most successful fundraiser ever held by the St Tammany Parish Public School System.”  The then-superintendent even “earns” Superintendent of the Year touting this as a major accomplishment.  But wait, isn’t this type of activity by a political subdivision against the Louisiana State Constitution?  There seems to be some confusion within the Louisiana Legislative Auditor agency regarding the constitutionality of this, but it is a valid question.  Does it even make sense for this to be legal to use taxpayer resources (such as the accounting staff of the local school board) to manage such an activity?  Our state laws must protect us somehow against the risk of misappropriation of funds from this type of activity, right?

Review of the school board general ledger indicates that by September 13, 2016, a total of almost $113,000 was deposited into a liability account and deposits were marked “DONATIONS FLOODING STPCARES”.  For those non-accountants, this means the money was put into the bank account and general fund, but was marked as being owed to someone else.  Shortly after, the money starts to be disbursed, with funds going to the “St Helena Parish SB”, “Tangipahoa Parish SB”, “Livingston Parish SB” and many checks directly to individuals.  There were no other disbursements of the cash after October 14, 2016 – that is until January 19, 2017.

Several things happened on January 19, 2017.  Since October 14, 2016, the general ledger had indicated a credit balance in the liability account of $7,753.76.  This means that not all of the donations that had been collected were disbursed, leaving $7,753.76 in the general fund and in cash available in the bank.  (Remember that number; it will be significant a little later.)  Review of the visitor log on January 19, 2017, just might confirm that on this day investigators with Louisiana Legislative Auditor arrived at 321 N. Theard early that morning.

Also, on this date, there is a journal entry numbered 1267 that indicates the amount of $7,753,76 was transferred out of the liability account and the transaction was described as “Correction Move to Donations”.  This left a $0 balance in the liability account – as if to show all of the money collected had been given out.  Then, later in the day as indicated by journal entry number 3981, a transfer back into the liability account for the same amount was made.  Within a short period of time after January 19, 2017, the remaining $7,753.76 was then disbursed to “Livingston Parish SB” and “St Helena Parish SB”.  I will let you draw your own conclusions about what possibly transpired throughout the day on January 19, 2017, to encourage the administration to disburse the remainder of the funds that had been collected.

What would have happened to the funds if Legislative Auditor had not shown up?  If the overage would have remained in the general fund, what would the overage have been used to cover?  I have been told to stay in my lane and not ask any questions, but you should be asking these questions and more at this point, especially if you occupied a seat on the St Tammany Parish School Board during this time period.  Taxpayers, especially those who gave so generously to this activity certainly deserve answers.

You might be asking what is significant about the figure, $7,753.76, that remained in the general fund until the day Legislative Auditor showed up.  Well, let me not keep you in suspense…..

Just FACTS – Let’s visit the proposed general fund budgets from fiscal years 2016 and 2017.  There is a line item in these budgets with an account number “2321-511100 Salary – Superintendent”.  The budget for FY 2016 indicates an amount of $202,732 for this line item, while the budget for FY 2017 indicates a proposed amount of $210,385.  These amounts were the base salary the Superintendent received for FY 2016 and what was being proposed at the time for FY 2017.  The difference between these two would seemingly indicate the “raise” that the superintendent would be getting, $7,653.

In addition, in a recent response to a public record request, I received this copy of the check that the then-Superintendent donated to the flood fundraiser personally.

I am not sure that you need to be an accountant, auditor, investigator, investigative reporter, Inspector General, Legislative Auditor, or Attorney General to know what is coming next.  The increase in the base salary ($7,653) plus the personal DONATION to the fundraiser ($100) is…..

Did you guess it correctly?  $7,753!

Voila!  And that is how we roll at the St Tammany Parish School Board, but taxpayers can’t have an Inspector General in the parish, much less one internal auditor that doesn’t report to or is directed by the people they are auditing.  It really is a shame, or a sham, not sure which.  Lots more to come on this same topic and many, many other issues.  Ms. Rester’s history lessons are much more interesting than mine.  I invite you to contact her (email above) or any school board member for her lessons.

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The real injustice in the July 2015 death of Michael Sabbie at the hands of LaSalle Corrections personnel at Texarkana’s Bi-State Jail, in addition to the death itself, lies in the fact that the SETTLEMENT of the family’s lawsuit against LaSalle was allowed to be sealed, thereby forever shielding from public view the punishment imposed on the private prison for its gruesomely abusive treatment of Jones during his short time in custody leading up to his death.

Were it not for a 169-page March 6, 2019, ruling from FEDERAL MAGISTRATE CAROLINE CRAVEN denying defense motions for a dismissal of Teresa Sabbie’s lawsuit, some of those unimaginable acts by guards and nurses employed by LaSalle might never have been known. To read her lawsuit, click HERE.

That ruling also revealed that LaSalle routinely took shortcuts in falsifying certifications that employees had required training and experience when in fact, they did not.

Sabbie, 34, was arrested by Texarkana City Police on July 19, 2015, for a domestic disturbance and taken to Bi-State. Three or four days later (the exact date is uncertain because of the haphazard manner in which prison guards checked on Sabbie in his cell), he was dead after:

  • He was denied medication even though nurses knew he suffered from hypertension, diabetes, asthma and heart problems;
  • He was beaten by guards even though they later admitted he had made no hostile motions and offered no resistance to them;
  • Was pepper-sprayed despite his known respiratory condition and was subsequently inadequately decontaminated;
  • With his hands cuffed behind him, video showed that his hands were forced up and over his head until his hands ended up in front of him while still cuffed, actions that a doctor testified would have caused severe damage to his joints, muscles, tendons and shoulders – stress that should have triggered an immediate medical evaluation, though none was ever done.
  • Guards falsified reports indicating they checked on him every half-hour – even though one of the times logged in was 15 minutes after the guard had already ended his shift and gone home.

Judge Craven noted in her ruling that officers employed by LaSalle at the facility “testified (that) LaSalle gave them no training on recognizing potential signs of medical distress or signs that an inmate may need medical care.”

Guard Stuart Boozer, she said, testified that LaSalle provided no training on when to summon medical care for inmates and guard Robert Derrick added that “LaSalle did not train them they had an ‘obligation to secure medical care for inmates with series medical needs.’”

Officer Simone Nash “had only been working at the jail for about three weeks on July 21,” Judge Cravens said, quoting from Nash’s own deposition in which she testified that she had received only five days (40 hours) of classroom training even though she was required to receive a minimum of five days of on-the-job training before working alone but in fact had only two days’ experience working alone.

But the most damning testimony showed LaSalle’s willingness, even its insistence on having employees sign documentation attesting they had completed all necessary training when they had not. In fact, testimony showed, the employees were instructed to sign the documentation that they had completed training classes when such classes had not even begun.

Correctional Practices expert Capt. Kenny Sanders testified that his review of data revealed that LaSalle did not conduct training, training was being falsified, employees were given credit for training they did not attend and the training program “was not property supervised.”

And when all else fails, it seems that LaSalle is not above employing a bit of subterfuge – except it didn’t work.

Besides the individual guards and nurses named in Teresa Sabbie’s lawsuit, other defendants included Bowie County, Texas, the City of Texarkana, Arkansas, Southwestern Corrections, dba LaSalle Corrections, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and LaSalle Management Co.

LaSalle Management in its motion for summary judgment (dismissal), did so on the assertion that it had no involvement in the suit because it “merely provides accounting and payroll services for the other LaSalle entities.”

That claim relied on an affidavit of Rodney Cooper and a February 2013 Facility Operation and Management Services Agreement between Southwestern Correctional, LLC, dba LaSalle Corrections, and Bouie County, Texas for the operation of the Bi-State jail.

It turned out, however, that LaSalle Management’s motion was a tad incomplete in that it somehow neglected to include a “highly-relevant final page (or addendum) to that agreement,” Judge Craven wrote. That omitted page contained an acknowledgement that LaSalle Management was the “Parent Company” of Southwestern Correctional and as such, “LaSalle Management itself explicitly and ‘unconditionally’ guarantees ‘performance of all obligations and duties under and pursuant to’ the jail operations contract with Bowie County.”

After 168 pages of reviewing facts surrounding the incarceration, abuse and death of Michael Sabbie, Judge Craven wrote on the final page that LaSalle Management’s motion for summary judgment was denied.

LaSalle has managed to fly under the radar of the news media preoccupied with the spoiled brat behavior of the Trump administration, a drawn-out fight for the Democrat nomination of a candidate to oppose him, impeachment, claims and denials of Russian interference in our election process and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic.

But recent revelations about a whistleblower complaint of unsolicited HYSTERECTOMIES of female illegal immigrants at one of its facilities in Georgia has brought renewed attention to the Ruston-based company said to be worth upwards of $300 million and which operates several facilities in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia.

LouisianaVoice will continue its series about the company in the coming days.

 

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When the news broke last week about the widespread performance of HYSTERECTOMIES on Latino detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, it sparked outrage and disgust, as it well should have.

But it might come as a surprise to some that this wasn’t the first rodeo for the Ruston, Louisiana, company that operates the detention center in Ocilla, Georgia.

Between May 2015 and June 2019, no fewer than six prisoners have died while incarcerated at the LaSalle-run Bi-State Jail and Annex operated in Texarkana, Texas, according to a federal LAWSUIT filed as a result of the most recent, the particularly gruesome June 17, 2019 death of Holly Barlow Austin, 46, was arrested on April 5, 2019, for probation violation and taken to Bi-State.

Bowie County in February 2013 contracted Southwestern Corrections, LLC, dba LaSalle Corrections to operate all aspects of the Bi-State Jail and the Annex, including the provision of medical care to inmates, pretrial detainees and post-conviction prisoners.

Texarkana attorney David Carter told LouisianaVoice that the lawsuit, filed in the Texarkana Division of U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, of behalf of Barlow-Austin’s mother and husband, is his fourth lawsuit filed against LaSalle and his third wrongful death case.

The one non-death case was that of William Jones was “released” to his sister by LaSalle after being beaten so severely at LaSalle’s Bi-State facility that he was near death when she had him transported to a hospital by ambulance. He was placed on a ventilator and remained hospitalized for nearly a month.

His crime? Jaywalking. But rather than addressing the constitutional deficiencies in Jones’s case, LaSalle sought to conceal facts “by destroying surveillance footage and other relevant information,” Carter said. We’ll have more on Jones’s case and others in the coming days. To do a single story on all of them together would be far too long and convoluted, so LaSalle is going to be treated to extended coverage much as we did Louisiana State Police under Mike Edmonson.

But as an example of one of the most glaring cases of neglect, cruelty and dereliction of duty, this post will dwell on the two and one-half months of Barlow-Austin’s pre-trial detention leading up to her last pitifully tragic 48 hours. To see a video of what torment and torture she experienced during those hours, click HERE. (WARNING: BECAUSE OF ITS GRAPHIC NATURE, THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT VIDEO TO WATCH.)

During those two and one-half months of incarceration, her physical condition deteriorated markedly though she was not released to an area hospital until it was too late.

And releasing critically ill prisoners to relatives or a hospital, is a tactic of subterfuge favored by LaSalle, says attorney Carter, because if the prisoner dies at home or in a hospital LaSalle is relieved of the responsibility of reporting an in-custody death to state corrections officials.

At the time she was admitted to Bi-State, she was living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and suffered from depression and bipolar disorder and was undergoing treatment for substance abuse. She was taking Triumeq for her HIV condition, Fluconazole for the treatment of potentially deadly fungal infections (including cryptococcal meningitis), and Quetiapine for her bipolar disorder and Citalopram for depression.

Despite that, on the morning of April 6, 2019, when she was admitted to Bi-State, her blood pressure was 118/73, which Carter described as “ideal” in his petition. The following day, the intake nurse faxed a request for information on her medical conditions to her outside medical provider. The LaSalle medical staff did not receive a response until May 13, however, five weeks after making the initial request. No follow-up request was ever made.

On April 8, Barlow-Austin’s husband brought her medications to Bi-State and later that same day, blood tests performed on her showed her white blood cell count (CD4) was 87, far below the normal range of 500-1,500, an indication that her immune system was compromised. She didn’t receive any of her medications, however, until April 17.

Her husband visited her several times and by April 30, it was apparent to him that her physical condition was in sharp decline. Her blood pressure had risen to 154/92 but she was given only a Tylenol by LaSalle staff.

When she complained of headaches and numbness in her legs, Michelle Arnold a registered nurse and the Health Services Administrator (HAS) employed by LaSalle (and one of the defendants in the lawsuit), told an outside mental health provider that Barlow-Austin “pretends to be weak” and “knows how to play the sickly role,” according to the lawsuit filed by Carter last Wednesday (Sept. 16).

Another check showed her blood pressure to be 160/90 and by now she had a urinary tract infection but again, LaSalle ignored her worsening condition, Carter said.

Michael Austin continued to visit his wife over the ensuing weeks and observed that her condition was becoming more severe. She was placed on medical observation on May 21, but no medical treatments were administered, the lawsuit alleges.

Over the next 10 days, the petition says, no LaSalle medical provider evaluated her nor were her vital signs taken. By June 1, she lost all strength and feeling in her legs and her eyesight worsened until she was finally totally blind and had to feel her way as she crawled around her room. “The ongoing failure to take her to the hospital was cruel and inhumane,” the lawsuit says.

A week later, an LPN “looked in Ms. Barlow-Austin’s cell. She wrote in her progress notes that the inmate remained in ‘med obs,’ meaning a medical observation cell.” The nurse wrote, “0 needs voiced at this time,” and “0 distress noted.” That would become a recurring notation on all the LaSalle reports, Carter said, adding that records and state-mandated logs of visual checks were routinely falsified by LaSalle staff.

“For the next 48 hours,” he said, “Ms. Barlow-Austin remained in this medical observation cell, which contains an in-house surveillance camera. The video footage is broken down into nearly two thousand video clips, most of which are between 30 seconds and two minutes long. In nearly all the clips…Ms. Barlow-Austin’s serious medical needs are plainly evident.

“It’s also plainly evident from the footage that Ms. Barlow-Austin has gone blind.” He said video footage “shows her crawling and blindly feeling her way around the cell. As the hours went by, guards would place a cup of water on the floor only to have her accidentally knock the cup over because she couldn’t see it. Meanwhile, guards would observe her as she unsuccessfully tried to reach for the water and then walk away. On another occasion, water is placed inside her cell but soon taken away before she can feel around for it. When she finally was able to get a drink, it was only because a fellow inmate held the cup and guided her hand to it. “After handing her the cup of water, the inmate sets the second cup on the floor and backs out of the cell, covering his nose with his shirt to protect himself from the stench emanating from her cell,” the petition says.

After 36 hours in the observation cell, Barlow-Austin had drunk only two small cups of water and it had been 18 hours since her last drink.

Even after she began displaying symptoms of mental confusion and delirium, none of LaSalle’s health care providers took action in response to her ongoing medical crisis.

At 7:22 p.m. on June 10, a guard opened a food tray slot and placed two paper cups of water on it. Barlow-Austin, however, had no idea that the water was there, only a few feet in front of her. She was lying on a mat soaked with her own urine and excrement, but was too week to flip the mat over and ended up lying back on it. By 9:30 p.m., it had been 21 hours since her last drink even though the two cups of water had been in her cell door’s food tray slot for two hours.

An hour later, at 10:22 p.m., a nurse entered the cell for the first time in the past 38 hours that Barlow-Austin had been in the medical observation cell. For the first time in more than two weeks, her vital signs were taken and her heart rate was 130 beats per second and her blood pressure 177/123, indicative of a hypertensive crisis. Still, no decision to call 911 was made, nor is there any entry in LaSalle’s records to indicate that those findings were reported to a higher-level medical provider.

Shortly before 8 a.m., she was moved to the facility’s medical lab where her heart rate was now 148 beats per minute, more than twice the rate when she was admitted. Her pupils were not reactive to light and it was only at that point that 911 was finally summoned.

Ms. Barlow-Austin didn’t suddenly take a turn for the worse on the morning of June 11, 2019,” Carter says in his petition. “Her medical condition warranted hospitalization long before then. (emphasis Carter’s). By the time LaSalle finally arranged for her to be transported to the hospital, she’d been complaining about increasingly severe symptoms for nearly two months. Despite her alarming and progressively worsening symptoms, LaSalle never arranged to have her evaluated by a medical doctor.”

“During the final 48 hours of her confinement, only one nurse entered her cell to check her vitals. This occurred on the night of June 10, 2019. LaSalle guard routinely walked by her medical observation cell window – either without looking in at all, or looking in and ignoring her filthy conditions, obvious pain, physical disability and blindness. Multiple guard violated their state-mandated obligation to conduct face-to-face checks every 30 minutes.

“No one from LaSalle informed Ms. Barlow-Austin’s family that she had been hospitalized – not her husband who frequently visited her in jail, and not her parents. Between June 11 and June 14, her family had no idea that she was in the local hospital, in critical condition, barely clinging to life.

“On June 15, 2019, Ms. Barlow-Austin’s husband went to visit her. When he arrived, LaSalle guards told him that his wife was no longer in the unit. When he asked why, LaSalle wouldn’t tell him.” The lawsuit said he didn’t learn where she was until the Bowie County sheriff told him. “When the family arrived at the hospital, the LaSalle guard wouldn’t let them visit her. Again, it required a call to the local sheriff for the family to get in to visit her.

Two days later, on June 17, she was dead.

“In the years leading up to 2019, (LaSalle) engaged in a patter, practice and custom of unconstitutional conduct toward inmates with serious medical need,” Carter said.

“In the years leading up to the death of Holly Barlow-Austin, LaSalle-run facilities in Texas routinely failed inspections. LaSalle has had ‘continual noncompliance issues in Texas, more than other jail operators in the state. LaSalle-run jails in Texas have been on the state’s noncompliance list every year between 2015 and 2019.

“LaSalle facilities have also come under scrutiny by state lawmakers for hiring a disproportionate number of ‘temporarily licensed’ corrections officers – taking advantage of a loophole that allowed correctional facilities to hire and staff their jails for up to one year with guards who hadn’t gone through the basic corrections training academy. LaSalle did this purely for monetary reasons and without regard for inmate health and welfare. Hiring these untrained guards was cheaper than hiring experienced guards or paying to send them to the corrections academy for basic training.”

Carter said LaSalle also failed to give guards state-mandated one-the-job training and that guards have engaged in a “persistent pattern” of falsifying training records. He said guards have testified that LaSalle literally instructed corrections officers to fill out training records attesting that their one-the-job training had been completed when in fact, it had not even begun.

“In addition to its inadequate training, the practice of insufficient staffing has been a well-documented and persistent problem at LaSalle-run Texas jails,” leading to several of the constitutionally-deficient practices for which LaSalle has been cited, Carter said.

“When LaSalle places an inmate on medical observation, zero medical monitoring takes place,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, corrections officers with no medical training or experience are put in charge of monitoring them and their so-called monitoring consists of guards quickly peeking in the calls – often while walking by without stopping.”

Additionally, the suit claims, LaSalle-run facilities have a “longstanding practice of poor medical record-keeping and miscommunication among jail medical providers. This has been a major problem at Bi-State Jail where medical records are routinely lost, and communication breakdowns are commonplace.”

The lawsuit then leveled a devastating charge when it said, “…the failure to secure needed medical care for Ms. Barlow-Austin was motivated, in part, by constitutionally impermissible profit-driven reasons. The corporate defendants (LaSalle) had a practice of submitting unrealistically low bids to get jail contracts. After securing the contracts, they would then cut costs, or keep their budgets unrealistically low to make money. This included hiring inexperienced jail guards and lower-level nurses and failing to invest in adequate training. It also included spending inadequate amounts on correctional medical care and habitually understaffing its facilities. It was foreseeable that LaSalle’s inadequate training, insufficient medical spending and understaffing would cause harm to inmates and detainees in need of medical care. In fact, these reckless profit-driven practices resulted in substantial harm to multiple inmates in the years leading up to Ms. Barlow-Austin’s confinement. And these same unconstitutional practices caused her unnecessary suffering and death.

“LaSalle attempted to circumvent the state-mandated in-custody death reporting requirement by releasing Ms. Barlow-Austin from custody at the hospital when death was imminent – later claiming that it didn’t have to report her death because she technically wasn’t ‘in custody’ when she died. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards later learned of her death from a third-party source and requested information from LaSalle. LaSalle only provided the commission a limited amount of information and failed to provide it with the shocking video footage. Still, on October 15, 2019, the TCJS found LaSalle to be out of compliance with jail standards for not following the instructions of designated physicians, not dispensing prescription medications, and not verifying the medication that Ms. Barlow-Austin’s husband delivered to the jail…”

 

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Question: How long should it take to complete an investigation of an “in custody death” involving Louisiana State Troopers LSP) and a deputy from the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office?

Well, in the words of one retired state trooper, such investigations are normally carried out “quick, fast, and in a hurry.”

So, why has the death of Ronald Greene at the hands of six troopers and deputy Christopher Harpin of Union Parish taken 16 months and counting?

Because “they’re circling the wagons,” says the retired trooper (I’ll call him Bob, though that’s not his real name. He prefers not to be quoted by name, but he did admit he viewed part of the body cam video of Greene’s take-down and describes it every bit as bad as the GEORGE FLOYD (the man who died as a Minneapolis Officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck) death. The infamous photo that showed Derek Chauvin calmly holding Floyd down with his knee until he died has sparked more than three months of protests.

Bob told LouisianaVoice that he “saw part of the video” and “overheard part of the conversation” of LSP investigators as they reviewed the video. “There were several troopers in the room as I walked past. Any time there’s lethal-force death, it’s pushed up the chain of command. They were talking about something being wrong.

He said he paused at the door and observed officers holding Greene on the ground. “I’ve never recalled holding anybody on the ground once he’s cuffed. We’re not trained to do that. We’re trained to get them cuffed and into our unit (patrol car). I asked if he (Greene) was cuffed and they (the investigators) said yeah.

“That really gets to me,” he said. “It’s no different than it’s ever been. A simple solution is to be honest, but they’re not doing that.”

LouisianaVoice made a public records request for the investigation report, disciplinary records stemming from Green’s death and all text messages between deputy sheriffs in Union and Ouachita parishes and any of the six troopers involved.

The request for text messages was based on reports LouisianaVoice received that such exchanges pertaining to the Greene death did, in fact exist, though the content of the messages is unknown.

We first received the stock answer that records would be reviewed and redacted as necessary and if deemed public, the records would be ready in 45 days – an abnormally long time to respond to a public records request.

I emailed a response from Faye Morrison’s administrative assistant expressing my displeasure at such a long wait:

From: Tom Aswell
Sent: Friday, September 4, 2020 3:40 PM
Subject: RE: PRR – Ronald Greene

Please convey to Ms. Morrison that 45 days in unacceptable. You can redact an entire book in fewer than 45 days. Please have the requested documents prepared and ready for examination by close of business on September 17. That’s 10 working days. This is not negotiable.

LSP attorney Faye Morrison also informed me that an investigative report (and all related documents) “is pending review with the Lincoln/Union District Attorney’s Office (both parishes are in the 3rd Judicial District).”

 

Following is the latest communication LouisianaVoice received from attorney Morrison:

From: Faye Morrison <Faye.Morrison@la.gov>
Sent: Thursday, September 10, 2020 2:05 PM
To: ‘louisianavoice@outlook.com’ <louisianavoice@outlook.com>
Cc: Nick Manale <Nick.Manale@la.gov>; Chavez Cammon <Chavez.Cammon@la.gov>
Subject: PRR to LSP for documents related to the “pursuit, arrest and death of Ronald Greene”

Dear Mr. Aswell:  Please be advised that the information you seek in your public records request for:

All audio and/or video recordings taken during the pursuit, arrest and death of Ronald Greene in Ouachita and Union Parishes on the night of May 09/May 10, 2019;
·           All investigative reports conducted by Louisiana State Police of said incident;
·           All records of disciplinary actions taken against any and/or all Louisiana State Troopers involved in the incident, including but not limited to Trooper Dakota DeMoss, Master Troopers Chris Hollingsworth and Kory York, Sgt. Floyd McElroy, Lt. John Clary and Capt. John Peters;
·           All text messages between any deputy sheriffs from Union or Ouachita Parishes, particularly Union Parish Deputy Christopher Harpin, and any and all of the aforementioned members of LSP, in reference to Ronald Greene
,

is not considered public at this time pursuant to La. R.S. 44:3(A)(1).  LSP conducted a criminal investigation into the incident and that investigative report (and all related documents) is pending review with the Lincoln/Union Parish District Attorney’s Office.  Our administrative investigation into the same is ongoing. (Emphasis mine) As you know, this office does not maintain standing requests due to the volume of requests we receive.  That being said, please feel free to request an update at any time.  fdm

To date, only one trooper, Chris Hollingsworth, was placed on LEAVE – but not until last month, 15 months after Greene’s death.

A lawsuit has been filed by attorneys Ronald Haley of Baton Rouge and Mark Maguire of Philadelphia against the six troopers, Harpin and a “John Doe” corporation that manufactures Electronic Control Weapons (tasers allegedly used on Greene). Troopers’ statements given about the incident are conflicting and inconsistent, giving us sufficient doubt about events leading up to Greene’s death. Text messages, if they exist, could give insight into officers’ attempts get their stories straight. (Haley also represents the family of Trayford Pellerin, who was killed by Lafayette police on Aug. 21. About 100 persons gathered at the State Capitol on Friday to protest that and other police shootings of Black people.)

That possibility, by itself, casts yet another cloud on LSP, which has experienced several negative news stories over the past six years, beginning with attempts by former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson and then-Sen. (not State Rep.) Neil Riser to circumvent regulations that, if successful, would have given Edmonson more than $100,000 per year in additional retirement benefits.

Greene initially fled from State Police in Ouachita Parish and did not stop until he sideswiped a tree in Union Parish, doing minor damage to the rear driver’s side of the vehicle. He exited his car under his own power and began apologizing for not stopping initially

Among the discrepancies:

  • Greene’s family was initially told by police that Greene had died after hitting a tree;
  • A call for Emergency Medical Services concealed the face that lethal force had been used;
  • The police report failed to indicate the use of force;
  • Officers claimed that Greene was intoxicated before leaning that a toxicology exam found no alcohol or drugs in Greene’s system;
  • Greene’s body was transported out of state for an autopsy, thereby denying the family’s right to have a representative observe the autopsy;
  • An emergency room physician at Glenwood Hospital in West Monroe said, “Upon obtaining more history from different law enforcement, personnel, history seems to be disjointed and does not add up. Different versions are present…family states they were told by law enforcement that patient died on impact with tree immediately after motor vehicle accident, but law enforcement state(ed) to me that patient far out of the car and running and involved in a fight and struggle where…he was tased three times.”

 

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Quickly. What do these 27 Louisianans have in common, other than having been elected to political office?

  • Paul Hollis
  • John Alario
  • Jack Donahue
  • Gerald Long
  • Fred Mills
  • Barrow Peacock
  • John Smith
  • Steve Carter
  • Greg Cromer
  • Cameron Henry
  • Dorothy Hill
  • Valarie Hodges
  • Sam Jones
  • Dee Richard
  • Alan Seabaugh
  • Scott Simon
  • John Schroder
  • Kirk Talbot
  • Conrad Appel
  • Barry Milligan
  • Jeff Landry
  • John Kennedy
  • Bill Cassidy
  • Clay Higgins
  • Steve Scalise
  • Ralph Abraham
  • Mike Johnson

Give up?

Well, to make it more interesting, I’ll throw in these names:

  • Jeff Sessions
  • Tommy Tuberville
  • Tom Cotton
  • Mike Huckabee
  • Devin Nunes
  • Kevin McCarthy
  • Marco Rubio
  • Matt Gaetz
  • Ron Desantis
  • Rick Scott
  • Doug Collins
  • David Perdue
  • Brian Kemp
  • Mitch McConnell
  • Rand Paul
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith
  • Michael Guest
  • Tate Reeves
  • Roy Blunt
  • Ben Sasse
  • Christopher Sununu
  • Chris Christie
  • Chris Collins
  • Jim Jordan
  • Rick Santorum
  • Pat Toomey
  • Lindsey Graham
  • Tim Scott
  • Kristi Noem
  • Lamar Alexander
  • John Cornyn
  • Ted Cruz
  • Mitt Romney
  • Liz Cheney

Each of the aforementioned is among the 172 members of the U.S. House of Representative, 48 U.S. senators 12 governors and 27 Louisianans who signed Grover Norquist’s no-new-tax pledge, which reads simply enough:

I, ______, pledge to the taxpayers of the ______ district of the state of ______ and to the American people that I will: One, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and Two, to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates

Of the 20 Louisiana legislators who signed the pledge, seven are still in office. They are Hollis, Mills, Peacock, Henry, Hodges, Seabaugh and Schroder. Schroder is no longer in the legislature, having moved up to State Treasurer.

Landry, a former member of the U.S. House, is now Louisiana’s attorney general with an eye on the governor’s office just up the street. Kennedy and Cassidy, of course are Louisiana’s two U.S. senators while Higgins, Scalise, Abraham and Johnson are in the House. Abraham, an unsuccessful candidate for governor last year, is a lame duck and will exit Congress next Jan. 20.

Norquist, who founded the organization Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) wears his capitalist idealism on his sleeve. He’s been widely quoted saying thing like:

“Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”

He advocates standing on one’s own two feet:

“We want to reduce the number of people depending on government so there is more autonomy and more free citizens.”

Norquist feels that such reliance on government weakens one’s character:

“The welfare state creates its own victim/client constituency. By making individuals free and independent, we reduce the need for ‘charity’ to those truly needy citizens what we can certainly afford to help through real charity.”

Moreover, he is convinced that government spending, fueled by entitlements, is harmful to the U.S. economy:

“What’s hurting the U.S. economy is total government spending. The deficit is an indicator that the government is spending so much money that it can’t even get around to stealing all of the money that it wants to spend.”

The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown unquestionably crippled the US—the world—economy, necessitating Congress to pass a $350 billion paycheck protection bill to bail out companies with forgivable SBA loans of up to $10 million which, of course, caused Norquist to pitch a hissy fit even before another $330 billion was added to the relief package. He wrote a letter urging lawmakers not to approve a second stimulus bill, saying:

“Government spending is inhibiting the fast recovery we want in jobs and incomes, not stimulating it.”

But what Norquist neglected to point out is his Americans for Tax Reform had just received up to $350,000 in stimulus money from the first bill. In other words, he got his and now he doesn’t want anyone else to get theirs because it’s wasteful government spending, it kills incentive, creating victimhood.

Oops. Maybe all those members of congress, legislators, and governors listed above might like to reconsider signing off on Norquist’s “Don’t do as I do, do as I say do” pledge..

Perhaps Norquist should “funnel” that guvmint money to the CHOCTAW INDIANS of Mississippi, the tribe he helped Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Ralph Reed and JACK ABRAMOFF funnel more than $1 million away from the Choctaw back in 1999.

Of course, when it came time to put up or shut up, Norquist chose to shut up by REFUSING TO TESTIFY before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee’s hearing on lobbying abuses.

But perhaps the best illustration with the fewest words to describe Norquist’s role in the sordid affairs with Abramoff, DeLay, Reed, and Rove can be seen HERE. If all this doesn’t leave you needing a shower, I just don’t know what could.

Unless it’s this:

Others that received PPP funding included the Ayn Rand Institute (between $350,000 and $1 million), Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller ($350,000 to $1 million), Newsmax, the conservative TV network owned by Trump ally Christopher Ruddy ($2 million to $5 million), and (wait for it), the shipping business owned by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s family ($350 to $1 million). Chao just happens to be the wife of (ahem) Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. They’re all right HERE.

(Ayn Rand, for those who may not know, was a Russian émigré who fled the communist revolution, became an actress in the US and who wrote The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged has become something of a capitalism bible to her followers.)

To borrow from Charles Dickens, we seem to have the ghosts of capitalism past and the ghosts of capitalism present in one tidy little story. I can’t wait for the ghost of capitalism future to make its appearance.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t include one last Norquist quote because it’s really a gem:

“Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.”

 

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