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Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

Corruption.

As the March 12 opening day of the critical 2018 regular session approaches, and with the looming possibility of the call of a special session to address fiscal Armageddon, it’s an important word for Louisiana citizens to remember.

Corruption.

In a state where administrators, legislators, and judges all seem to be in it for personal enrichment, it’s a word that has become synonymous with political office—from small town mayors, city councils and police chiefs to the highest levels of state government.

Corruption.

Like a cancer, corruption metastasizes until it adversely affects every aspect of our lives: education, economics, environment, health, and not least, trust in our elected officials.

Michael Johnston and Oguzhan Dincer, both former fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, recently collaborated to conduct their fourth Corruption in America Survey, an undertaking first initiated in 2014 and repeated annually.

Since 2016, the survey has been hosted by the newly-founded Institute for Corruption Studies, an independent research institute within the Illinois State University’s Department of Economics.

More than 1,000 news reporters/journalists covering state politics and issues related to corruption across 50 states participated in the survey. Reporters from every state except North Dakota and New Hampshire participated.

Click HERE to read the complete results.

To no one’s surprise, Louisiana ranks among the worst states in terms of executive, judicial, and legislative sleaze—in both legal and illegal corruption.

What, exactly, it meant by legal and illegal corruption? After all, corruption is corruption, is it not?

Well, yes and no. Illegal corruption was defined by Dincer and Johnston as “the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”

How Gauche. Everyone knows that in Louisiana the preferred method is legal corruption, which the two researchers defined as “the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”

For evidence of that, one need look no further than the LouisianaVoice STORY of Aug. 28, 2016, to see how Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and a gaggle of legislators fell all over themselves in protecting the big oil and gas companies from their responsibilities to clean up after themselves. Here is a more detailed look at .

Who better to serve as director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority than former State Sen. Robert Adley of Bossier Parish, the top recipient of OIL AND GAS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?

And Bobby Jindal handed out appointments to the most influential boards and commissions to his biggest campaign contributors like candy on a Halloween night and even upgraded a major highway in South Louisiana to benefit a company run by another large contributor.

Dincer and Johnston said that official legal corruption is moderately to very common in both the executive and legislative branches of government in a “significant” number of states, “including the usual suspects such as Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York,” but that “Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana are perceived to be the most corrupt states” in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Illegal Corruption

Only 13 states were found to have moderately common to very common illegal corruption in their executive branches. Louisiana was one of those 13.

Only four states had illegal judicial corruption deemed to be moderately common (Alabama and Louisiana) or very common (Arkansas and Kentucky). Dincer and Johnston wrote that even a finding of only slightly common in illegal judicial corruption “is still worrying since it is the judicial branch of the government that is expected to try government officials charged with corruption.”

“State legislators are perceived to be more corrupt than the members of the executive branches in a number of states,” the researchers said.

To illustrate that, the survey found just six states with legislative illegal corruption that was very common (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana) or extremely common (Oklahoma and Pennsylvania).

Legislators were found by LouisianaVoice to have leased luxury vehicles for family members, purchased season tickets to college and professional athletic sports teams, hired family members as campaign staff, paid personal income taxes and state ethics fines—all with campaign funds and all of which were illegal.

One legislator even profited by conveniently investing in Microsoft just as his committee was pushing through approval of one of the company’s software programs at the same time other states were taking similar action. The simultaneous approvals gave Microsoft stock a significant boost.

Legal Corruption

“Legal corruption is perceived to be more common than illegal corruption in all branches of government,” the report said, with Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin scoring highest in legal corruption “in all branches of government.”

Those same three states, along with Arkansas, topped the list in legal corruption in the judicial branch where legal sleaze “is perceived to be ‘very common,’” it said, noting that in all four states, judges are elected as opposed to states where judges are chosen on merit and in which judicial corruption is not as common.

“…We expect our courts to rise above the day-to-day pressures and expectations of politics,” the report said. “That they apparently do not raises serious questions about the ways judges are elected in many states, how their campaigns are financed, and whether conflicts of interest arise as those who contribute to judicial campaigns are allowed to appear before those same judges as cases are tried.”

Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin were joined by Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York as states where legal executive corruption was found to be either “very common” or “extremely common.”

Legal legislative corruption was found to be “extremely common” in 12 states: Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas.

Aggregate Corruption

Across the board, in terms of legal and illegal corruption in all three branches of government, few states do it better than Louisiana, results of the survey reveal, with the state ranking in the upper tier of corruption in all six listings.

That finding prompted the authors of the report to say that corruption in state government “is not just a matter of contemporary personalities and events, but is rather a result of deeper and more lasting characteristics and influences.

Nowhere, it would seem, is that truer than in Louisiana. Following is just a partial list of Louisiana public officials who have come face-to-face with corruption charges of varying degrees:

 

Louisiana Executive Corruption

Sherman Bernard: The first Louisiana Insurance Commissioners to be convicted, he served 41 months for extortion and conspiracy.

Doug Green: The second State Insurance Commissioner to go to jail, he was convicted on three counts of money laundering, 27 counts of mail fraud, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jim Brown: The third consecutive Louisiana Insurance Commissioner served six months for lying to the FBI.

Richard Leche: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison for accepting kickbacks on the purchase of 233 state trucks.

Edwin Edwards: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction of extortion in connection with the awarding of state riverboat casino licenses.

Charles Roemer: Commissioner of Administration under Gov. Edwin Edwards, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to violate federal racketeering laws, violating the statute and engaging in wire and mail fraud as a result of the FBI’s Brilab operation which also resulted in the conviction of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. Roemer served 15 months in federal prison.

Jack Gremillion: Louisiana Attorney General of whom it was once said by Gov. Earl K. Long, “If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a law book,” was sentenced to three years in prison for lying to a federal grand jury about his interest in a failed loan and thrift company.

Gil Dozier: Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for extortion and racketeering but had eight years added after presiding federal judge learned Dozier had attempted to tamper with a juror and to hire a hit man for an unidentified target.

George D’Artois: Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner was implicated in the 1976 murder of Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie but he died in surgery before he could be tried.

Cyrus “Bobby” Tardo: former Sheriff of Lafourche Parish sentenced to 29 years, five months after pleading guilty in 1989 to solicitation for murder, conspiracy, possessing an unregistered destructive device and using an explosive to damage a sheriff’s car. His victim? His successor and the man who defeated him for reelection as sheriff, Duffy Breaux.

Duffy Breaux: Lafourche Parish Sheriff sentenced to four years, nine months in prison for conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice in 1995.

Eugene Holland: The first of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to be convicted of a federal crime, sentenced to 16 months in prison for the theft of public funds to cover his utility bills and to pay for renovations to his house and barn. Pleaded guilty in 1996.

Chaney Philips: The second of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to serve prison time after his conviction on nine counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, engaging in illegal monetary transactions, theft involving a federally-funded program, money laundering, and perjury—all related to his time not as sheriff but as parish assessor before being elected sheriff. Sentenced to seven years.

Ronald “Gun” Ficklin: Third consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriff to be convicted of federal criminal charges. Sentenced to five years, three months for trafficking cars with altered vehicle identification numbers, altering VINs, mail fraud, helping convicted felon possess a fun. Pleaded guilty in 2007.

Jiff Hingle: Plaquemines Parish Sheriff pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Bodie Little: Winn Parish Sheriff convicted in 2012 of drug trafficking, sentenced to 13 years, four months in prison.

Royce Toney: Ouachita Parish Sheriff, pleaded guilty in 2012 to hacking a deputy’s email and phone records and then trying to cover up his snooping. Sentenced to four years’ probation.

Walter Reed: St. Tammany Parish District Attorney (22nd JDC) sentenced to four years in prison in April 2017 for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements on tax returns. Sentence on hold during appeals process.

Harry Morel, Jr.: St. Charles Parish District Attorney (29th JDC) pleaded guilty in April 2016 to obstruction of justice in FBI inquiry into whether he used his position to solicit sex from women seeking official help. Sentenced to three years in prison.

Aaron Broussard: Former Jefferson Parish President pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiring to accept bribes from a parish contractor. Sentenced to 46 months in prison. While parish officials other than district attorneys and sheriffs are not generally listed here, Broussard is because of his high national profile following Hurricane Katrina.

Ray Nagin: New Orleans Mayor convicted in 2014, sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, tax evasion for illegal dealings with city vendors. As with the case of Broussard above, mayors not normally included in this list because of the sheer volume. But because of his high profile following Katrina and as mayor of state’s largest city, it was decided to include him.

 

Louisiana Legislative Corruption

Larry Bankston: Former chairman of the Senate Judiciary B. Committee that handled gambling legislation was convicted in 1997 on two counts of interstate communications in the aid of racketeering involving alleged bribes from a Slidell video poker truck stop owner. Sentenced to 41 months in prison. Re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar by State Supreme Court. Currently suing State Attorney General for the cancellation of his contract to represent a state agency.

Gaston Gerald: State Senator convicted in 1979 of extorting $25,000 from a contractor. Sentenced to five years in prison. Re-elected while in prison and put a prison acquaintance on Senate payroll as an aide before he was expelled from the Senate in 1981.

Sebastian “Buster” Guzzardo: State Representative among more than 20 persons, including the leader of the New Orleans Marcello crime family and three reputed New York mobsters, convicted in the Worldwide Gaming investigation. Conviction was for conducting an illegal gambling business and for aiding a mob-controlled video poker company. Sentenced in 1996 to three months in prison.

Girod Jackson, III: State Representative who pleaded guilty in 2013 to tax evasion and tax fraud in connection with his business dealings with the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority. Sentenced to three months in prison, nine months of home detention despite recommendations of 12 to 18 months imprisonment.

William Jefferson: 18-year veteran of U.S. House of Representatives convinced in 2009 on 11 of 16 felony counts for taking bribes in connection with a Nigeria business deal. Seven of the 11 counts on which he was convicted were overturned on appeal. Sentenced to five years, five months after appeals. In 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson interrupted rescue operations by using a Louisiana National Guard detachment to recover personal effects from his home. (His sister, Orleans Parish Assessor, also sentenced to 15 months in prison after admitting to funneling $1 million in public funds to her family’s bogus charities.)

Charles Jones: State Senator from Monroe, convicted in 2010 of filing false tax returns and for tax evasion, sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution. Was re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar on Monday (Jan. 29, 2017).

Harry “Soup” Kember: State Representative was sentenced to five years in prison after his 1986 conviction of mail fraud for pocketing part of a $150,000 state grant he secured for a constituent’s company.

Derrick Shepherd: State Senator sentenced to three years in prison in 2010 after admitting that he laundered money for a corrupt bond broker, netting $65,000 for the scheme.

Rick Tonry: Served only four months as a U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District after pleading guilty in 1977 to receiving illegal campaign contributions, promising favors in return for contributions and for buying votes in the 1976 Democratic primary.

 

Louisiana Judicial Corruption

Ronald Bodenhimer: The 24th Judicial District Judge was among four judges to be caught up in the FBI Wrinkled Robe investigation of Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption and one of two to receive jail time. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2003 to planting drugs on a critic of his New Orleans East marina, for bond splitting, and for attempting to fix a child custody case on behalf of Popeyes Chicken Founder Al Copeland.

Wayne Cresap: The 34th JDC Judge for St. Bernard Parish was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to accepting more than $70,000 in bribes and for letting inmates out of jail without paying their bonds.

Alan Green: Another of the four Judges of the 24th JDC in Jefferson Parish. Sentenced to 51 months in prison after his 2005 conviction of a $10,000 mail fraud scheme to take bribes from a bail bonds company.

William Roe: The 25th JDC Judge for Plaquemines Parish was sentenced in 2010 to three months in prison for unauthorized use of movables for pocketing more than $6,000 in reimbursements for legal seminars that he attended as judge. The money should have been deposited in a public account instead.

Thomas Porteous, Jr.: Only the eighth federal judge to be removed from office by impeachment in the Republic’s history, he was convicted in 2010 by the U.S. Senate on four articles charging him with receiving cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors, and deliberately misled Senators during his confirmation hearings. As if to underscore the gravity of the charges, all 96 senators present voted guilty on the first article which addressed charges during his time as a state court judge and his failure to recuse himself from matters involving a former law partner with whom he was accused of granting favors for cash.

There are scores of other examples, including city and parish elected officials, local police chiefs, and even a legislator who resigned rather than be expelled for spousal abuse. And former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain retired in 2016 under an ethics cloud even though he was official cleared of ethics charges. His son, Nate Cain and Nate’s former wife, Tonia, were indicted in August 2017 on 18 federal fraud charges over purchases he was said to have made with state credit cards during his tenure as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport.

Additionally, LouisianaVoice over the past three years documented numerous instances of abuse of power and outright corruption from troop commanders all the way up to the upper command of Louisiana State Police.

There were dozens more not listed and sadly, there will continue to be corruption in all three branches of state government so long as the people of this state continue to look away and ignore the widespread malfeasance and outright skullduggery.

And by ignoring the problem, we are necessarily condoning it.

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By now, thanks to the Internet and network TV news, virtually everyone in the U.S.—and apparently some foreign countries—knows about the ham-handed manner in which the Vermilion Parish School Board shut down one of its teacher’s comments during a recent board meeting.

The manner in which Kaplan middle school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave’s was cut off from speaking and subsequently manhandled by a city marshal was carried out with all the tact, consideration, delicacy, and diplomacy of Donald Trump discussing immigrants from $*%#hole countries.

And the fact that the school board employed the CITY MARSHAL who was previously accused of using excessive force against a 62-year-old man in poor health to carry out the handcuffing and arrest of Hargrave certainly didn’t help matters in what overnight brought national and international negative attention to Louisiana.

And the announcement by the city prosecutor that Hargrave would not be prosecuted only enhances her chances of reaping a financial settlement subsequent to the lawsuit she is almost certain to file for her rude treatment and public humiliation.

To provide a little background for anyone who may not have heard, Hargrave was at the board meeting to protest a $30,000-per-year proposed salary increase for School Superintendent Jerome Puyal (from $110,190 to $140,188) while teachers, cafeteria workers and, support staff received no salary increases. School Board President Anthony Fontana, an Abbeville attorney who has been on the board about a quarter-of-a-century, promptly gaveled her into silence, proclaiming her comments were not germane to the board’s agenda.

One report had Fontana referring to Hargrave, parish’s 2015-2016 teacher of the year, as “the poor little lady” in an INTERVIEW subsequent to the meeting. That charitable reference is almost certain to absolve him of any culpability in what has become a public relations nightmare sufficiently grievous to attract the attention of the ACLU and teachers’ unions, not to mention network television news.

But that all could have been avoided had Fontana simply consulted in advance with the good folks at Gravity Drainage District 8 of Calcasieu Parish Ward 1. Not those folks know how to shut a dissident up quietly and efficiently.

The secret is to get an attorney who isn’t afraid to threaten the dissident and a judge who can ignore the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and issue an order that the dissident may not make public records requests nor have any contact with any members or employees of the gravity drainage district.

Or, better yet, have a gaggle of judges file suit against a newspaper to prevent it from seeking public records from the court.

Problem solved.

Never mind that the gravity drainage district hired with Billy Broussard to remove debris from drainage canals following Hurricane Rita under a FEMA contract and then instructed Broussard to remove older pre-storm debris and that he would be paid to do so.

But when FEMA said the older debris was not part of the project, the drainage district flat-out refused to pay Broussard about a million dollars that was due him for the work. Moreover, some of that older debris consisted of large cypress logs—still very much useful in construction—which mysteriously disappeared.

So, when Broussard attempted unsuccessfully to get reimbursed for his work, RUSSELL STUTES, Lake Charles attorney for the drainage district, wrote a testy letter to Broussard in which Stutes, elevating himself to judge status, threatened Broussard with jail time “the next time any Calcasieu Parish employee is contacted by you or any of your representatives with respect to the project…”

Stutes even filed a petition for injunctive relief to bar Broussard from contacting members or employees of the drainage district and from seeking public records. Incredibly, 14th Judicial District Judge David Ritchie signed the order for the INJUNCTION that bars Broussard from his constitutionally-guaranteed right to seek answers from a public body. That right is also guaranteed under Louisiana R.S. 42:4.1 et seq.

Likewise, the judges of the 4th JDC up in Monroe filed SUIT against the Ouachita Citizen newspaper in West Monroe in order to stymie the newspaper’s efforts to obtain public records from the court.

So, you see, Mr. Fontana, it really wasn’t necessary to shoot yourself in the foot by having the city marshal strongarm Ms. Hargrave, your defense that he was authorized to do so notwithstanding. That just brought unwanted attention to a board what was already contentious in its membership makeup—some of that disharmony stemming from the performance of the very superintendent to whom you trying to give an extra $30,000 per year.

All you had to do was have the board attorney (and you are an attorney yourself) to find a judge who would sign an order for injunctive relief which, while questionable in its legality, would nevertheless have shut Ms. Hargrave up.

For a minute, anyway, to borrow a phrase from Ron “Tater Salad” White, one of my favorite stand-up comics, which he tags at the end of this joke but which is deleted from this VIDEO.

 

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It was suspicious enough when Stewart Cathey was arrested and handcuffed for a six-year-old seat belt violation exactly a month before the 2015 primary election for State Senate. But taken with events that have transpired with Louisiana State Police (LSP) and the agency’s former superintendent since that time, it seems less and less likely to have been mere coincidence.

Incumbent State Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) was term-limited in 2015. Three-term Rep. Jim Fannin, a Jonesboro Democrat-turned-Republican, then serving as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was also term-limited and looking to move to the upper chamber.

Cathey, a Monroe native, a graduate of the University of Louisiana Monroe, and managing partner of the Cathey Group, an information technology management consulting firm in Monroe, also had his eye on the District 35 Senate seat. The district includes all or parts of the parishes of Rapides, Grant, Winn, Ouachita, Lincoln, and Jackson.

A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, the Republican Cathey had received a ticket for a seat belt violation in 2009 but soon after was deployed to Afghanistan where he managed more than $250 million in infrastructure development projects and, he says, he forgot about the ticket.

Fast forward to the 2015 campaign. Fannin, endorsed by Kostelka and a heavy favorite for the Senate, is pressed by the upstart Cathey. They are only a few percentage points apart when Cathey was arrested and HANDCUFFED on a bench warrant issued by Monroe City Judge Tammy D. Lee.

His arrest was on Sept. 24, exactly one month before the primary election. Cathey said he attempted to pay the ticket, if belatedly, but was denied the opportunity. He said he was told he would have to turn himself in, be arrested and bonded out. Quite naturally, considering the timing and all, Cathey quite naturally suspected that mischief was afoot.

“This is the ugly side of politics,” he said. “Career politicians will stop at nothing to get back to the good old boys’ club in Baton Rouge. This is nothing new to Jim Fannin and Bob Kostelka and their team. I’ve seen them do it in the past.”

But Kostelka, who retired as a state district judge before his own election to the District 35 seat back in 2007, was quick with a sincere “Who, me?” denial, saying he had “no control over Monroe City Court or Judge Lee.”

Fannin subsequently defeated Cathey by 6 percentage points to take the election.

Granted, all that has been written here to this point is old news that got plenty of ink at the time. The story might well have ended there had not Cathey gone one step further with something called a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, better known in Louisiana simply as the garden variety public records request.

And that’s where the questions regarding actions by LSP, certain other unknown municipal and/or parish law enforcement agencies, and former LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson come in.

On October 12, 2015, just 12 days before the primary election, Cathey submitted a public records request to State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton in which he requested:

  • Any and all emails with regards to the account: stacey.barrett@la.gov from September 28, 2015 through October 10, 2015.
  • Any and all emails, memos, or other writings discussing the findings from a Background Audit performed between September 28, 2015 and October 10, 2015 into the searches of Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s driving record as well as searches into the NCIC system for Stewart Cathey, Jr.’s record.

(LouisianaVoice has copies of Cathey’s request and the LSP response but because some of Cathey’s personal information is included on both documents, it was decided not to display copies of either.)

On Oct. 21, three days before the primary, LSP attorney Adrienne E. Aucoin responded—somewhat.

After recapping his request, Aucoin said any such searches on the Louisiana Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (LLETS) are privileged, “which exempts from the public view” records collected and maintained by the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information (LBCII).

A spokesperson for the LSP Legal Department explained to LouisianaVoice that it was LSP policy not to release information on searches. She implied there was usually a good reason for someone checking to see if they were being investigated. She said releasing such information could alert a suspect to an otherwise confidential ongoing investigation of criminal activity. “We would thank them for the tip, though,” she said.

Aucoin’s letter went on to say, “Attached hereto, please find emails that are responsive to your request. Please note that a section of these emails has been redacted. The redacted information pertains to records maintained by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information.”

(NOTE: The email chain below begins with the most recent communication and reads backward to the earliest. The text of the messages also makes it obvious that Cathey initiated his inquiries about the background checks almost a month before his formal FOIA request.)

 

The email chain started with a message at 9:59 a.m. on Sept. 28 to criminal records analyst Shelley Scott from Capt. Stacey Barrett of LSP Technical Support Services:

“Stewart Cathey, Jr. is running for a Senate seat in north Louisiana. He was arrested on 09/24/15 on a 6-year-old seat belt warrant. It was a highly publicized event. He called because he suspects the S.O. (sheriff’s office) is running his record without cause. Please run an off-line search from 1.1.15 through today.

“I told Mr. Cathey that we would not release any results to him. If we find what may be inappropriate use of LLETS, we would deal with the agency and the officer directly. Let me know what you find.”

Maj. Jason Starnes and LSP Lt. Chris Eskew were also copied on that email.

At 4:06 p.m. that same day, Scott emailed Barrett, Starnes, and Eskew:

“Attached are the requested LLETS off-line results on Stewart. The below table shows the Cliff’s (sic) Notes version.”

What followed was the “section” alluded to by Aucoin as redacted. The redacted portion was a transaction history for a six-month period comprising about three-quarters of a page and containing 20 redacted lines which appeared to represent background searches or requests for same.

At 12:45 p.m. on Sept. 30, Barrett wrote to Scott, Starnes, and Eskew:

“As discussed, we will wait for further direction from the chain of command before taking any action. Please hold on to (sic) all of the documentation you ran for this search.”

At 3:19 p.m., Starnes responded to Barrett:

“Please proceed with following our policy and protocol regarding the LLETS search inquiries and send the letters we discussed.”

Finally, at 3:45 p.m., also on Sept. 30, Barrett emailed Scott and Eskew:

“Please prepare the standard letters seeking justification for the (redacted) transactions. Please keep us posted and let us know if you need assistance or guidance.”

The cryptic nature of the email communications is curious since routine public records requests do not normally attract such attention up and down the chain of command.

The timing of Cathey’s arrest, the reported discipline of an Alexandria municipal police officer for running a background check on Cathey, and the LSP emails and redacted reports, taken together, would seem to indicate there was some legitimacy to Cathey’s suspicions that someone deliberately sought to undermine his election campaign by initiating widespread background checks and even his arrest—complete with handcuffs—for an otherwise minor offense.

To add icing on the proverbial cake, Cathey said on Monday, Oct. 26, just two days after the Oct. 24 election, he was contacted by Monroe City Court and informed the charges against him for the seat belt violation were being dropped. He also said an investigation begun by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was abruptly shut down with no explanation given.

No disrespect to the late Gertrude Stein, but there certainly appears to be a there there.

Edmonson had a reputation during his nine years at the helm of LSP as one who would dole out favors to legislators in efforts to ingratiate himself to lawmakers. A relay by state troopers to deliver football tickets to a legislator in New Orleans for an LSU national championship football game when she accidentally left her tickets in Shreveport is one example of that mindset.

Ordering background checks by LSP and/or requesting checks by other law enforcement agencies could be another example.

When contacted by LouisianaVoice about the possibility of an investigation into whether or not Edmonson had taken such action, Public Information Officer Doug Cain said unless a formal complaint was lodged by Cathey, LSP would not initiate an investigation.

After the OIG investigation was suddenly terminated, Cathey did not follow up with a formal complaint to LSP.

He is currently deployed to Puerto Rico where his unit is working on hurricane relief.

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When Judge Robert James moved to senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on May 31, 2016, State Judge Terry Doughty of the 5th Judicial District Court (Franklin, Richland and West Carroll parishes) made one call.

That call, to U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a fellow member of the First Baptist Church of Rayville, to express his interest in a federal judgeship, proved productive, but not right away. He was interviewed by U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and David Vitter but his nomination was not taken up by the Obama Administration.

But following the elections of Vitter’s successor John Neely Kennedy to the Senate and Donald Trump to the presidency, things changed. Follow up interviews took place, this time with Cassidy and Kennedy, and upon the recommendation of Cassidy and Abraham, Doughty was interviewed by the White House in April 2017 and officially nominated on Aug. 3.

If one follows the connections between Doughty, Abraham, and former 5th JDC Judge James “Jimbo” Stephens (since elected to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal) back far enough, some old familiar names start to pop up.

Names like former State Legislator (both the House and Senate) and now Legislative Director for Gov. John Bel Edwards NOBLE ELLINGTON, Bobby Jindal and Vantage Health Plan.

(Major League Baseball, which once held franchise rights on recycling coaches and managers, has nothing on Louisiana politicians. Edwards, when in the legislature, was a thorn in the side of Jindal but when he became governor, he couldn’t resist reappointing many of Jindal’s foot soldiers—people like like Jimmy LeBlanc, Burl Cain, Mike Edmonson, Butch Browning and Ellington.)

Now Ellington’s son, Noble Ellington, III, whose own home health care BUSINESS failed, now works as Director of Shared Savings for Vantage Healthcare in Monroe. Could politics have played a part in his hiring? We will probably never know, but the pieces were certainly in place.

AFFINITY HEALTHCARE, an affiliate of Vantage Health Plan, Inc. and which shares the same address at 130 DeSiard Street in Monroe, purchased the medical practice of Abraham’s MEDICAL CLINIC, formerly of 261 Hwy. 132 in Mangham (now the address of Affinity Health Group).

So, what’s the big deal about Vantage Healthcare?

Nothing much except back in October 2014, LouisianaVoice did a fairly comprehensive STORY about how the Jindal administration and Sens. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), Rick Gallot (D-Ruston), Neil Riser (R-Columbia), and Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) conspired to circumvent the state’s bid laws in order to allow Vantage to purchase a state office building in downtown Monroe on the cheap even though there was another serious buyer interested in the property.

That building, the old Virginia Hotel, constructed in 1935, is a six-story, 100,750-square-foot building that cost $1.6 million when built. It underwent extensive renovations in 1969 and again in 1984 and was being used as a state office building when it was sold to Vantage for $881,000, a little more than half its cost when it was built more than eight decades ago. One might have expected the building, if properly maintained, to appreciate in value over the years, not depreciate by 45 percent.

The state could afford to unload the building because it owns another six-story office building containing nearly 250,000-square-feet of floor space a couple of blocks away, at 122 St. John Street in Monroe, but that seems little justification for selling the Virginia at fire sale prices.

But even with 109,000 square-feet of vacant office space available in the building on St. John, where do you think Judge Stephens and fellow Appeal Court Judge Milton Moore chose to locate their offices?

In the Vantage Healthcare building, of course.

NELASOB REPORT

LouisianaVoice has made public records requests to determine the cost to the state of housing the judges in the Vantage building instead of the state-owned building with all that available space but those records have not been forthcoming yet.

Regardless, someone in Baton Rouge needs to explain why the state is paying rent to a private entity for office space in a building which that entity received at bargain basement prices—from the state—as some sort of underhanded political favor—orchestrated by the Jindal administration’s circumvention of the state bid laws, aided and abetted by four North Louisiana legislators.

But the minor issue of where his office is housed doesn’t seem to be the type of thing that would bother Stephens anyway. After all, there is a photo, apparently posted on his Facebook page that shows him holding up the antlers of a deer he shot—at night? One person commented, “Illegal to hunt at night, ain’t it?” to which Stephens replied, “It’s illegal to get caught.”

And when he was running for the appellate court in 2016, there were more than 160 people who signed onto a newspaper ad endorsing his candidacy. Among them was one Donna Remides.

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

In December 2013, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans said Ms. Remides was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment for lying in order to secure loans to hide more than $600,000 in thefts from the federally-funded non-profit Northeast Delta Resource Conservation and Development Council (NDRC&DC).

She was employed as a project coordinator by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to work for the council in Winnsboro. From January 2001 to December 2010, she used the NDRC&DC accounts to pay herself $640,000 without authorization. She wrote herself and her private business checks during the 10-year period and obtained loans in the name of the council to cover the thefts.

Granted, Stephens has no control over who purchases a newspaper advertisement to endorse his candidacy. But that, coupled with the controversy over his refusal to recuse his pal Doughty from a trial involving a LAWSUIT against a bank with some questionable links to Doughty, the flippant remark about illegal night hunting, the office space at Vantage, the same personalities tying both judges to Vantage, Abraham and Ellington…

But then again, maybe that’s what qualifies both judges for their positions in the political climate in which we currently find ourselves.

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When U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy went on record before the Senate Judiciary Committee as supporting the nomination of 5th Judicial District Court Judge Terry Doughty to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, they put themselves, by extension, squarely at odds with the doctrine of separation of church and state.

That doctrine, Alabama’s Judge Roy Moore notwithstanding, is a cornerstone of American democracy but one which Doughty, like Moore, has chosen to ignore when dealing with defendants who come before him in his drug court.

While many of the DECISIONS dealing with the separation of church and state handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court border on the ridiculous, there is one that stands out. In the 1971 decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, the court established a three-part test for determining if an action of government violates the First Amendment’s separation of church and state provision:

  • The government action must have a secular purpose.
  • Its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion.
  • There must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.

It’s important to note that in his confirmation hearings, Doughty boasted of the work of his drug court and that if confirmed, he would be interested in developing a drug court PROGRAM at the federal level patterned on the one he established in the 5th JDC, which is comprised of the parishes of Franklin, Richland, and West Carroll.

So, what’s so wrong about the district’s drug court?

Only that Doughty mandates that defendants enter into either Alcoholics Anonymous or CELEBRATE RECOVERY, both of which are faith-based recovery programs.

In September 2007, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was unconstitutional to order a parolee to attend AA or affiliated programs because requiring attendance at a religion-based treatment program violated the First Amendment.

In handing down its RULING, the court said what while it “in no way denigrate(s) the fine work of (AA and Narcotics Anonymous), attendance in their programs may not be coerced by the state.”

While LouisianaVoice takes no position as to the merits of AA or Celebrate Recovery, we do recognize that the Bill of Rights calls for the separation of church and state. By that, it simply means the State shall neither establish a specific religion nor prohibit the practice of such. And the only way to ensure that is for the government to take a hands-off approach to the observance of any religious practice, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, or any other belief.

Doughty doesn’t seem to get that and it is his close association with Celebrate Recovery that gives us pause.

In his questionnaire he completed for submission to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Doughty falls woefully short of any published writings, reports, or policy statements but does include numerous references to his affiliation with Celebrate Recovery. Those references include:

  • August 11, 2011: Guest Speaker, “Inventory, Lesson 10,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville, Louisiana.
  • January 11, 2012: Guest Speaker, Richland Celebrate Recovery Program, Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center, Rayville, Louisiana.
  • September 9, 2012: Speaker, Richland Celebrate Recovery Program, Delhi United Methodist Church, Delhi, Louisiana. “I discussed how the Richland Celebrate Recovery program works with the church.”
  • January 3, 2013: Presenter, “What to Do When You Get Out,” Celebrate Recovery Inside, Richland Parish Detention Center, Rayville, Louisiana.
  • January 27, 2014: Speaker, “Starting a Celebrate Recovery Program,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Olanchito, Honduras.
  • February 14, 2014: Guest Speaker, Celebrate Recovery Graduation, Richland Parish Detention Center, Rayville.
  • June 10, 2014: Guest Speaker, Celebrate Recovery Graduation, Richland Parish Detention Center, Rayville.
  • August 5, 2014: Presenter, “Starting a Celebrate Recovery Program,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Olanchito, Honduras.
  • September 17, 2015: Speaker, Welcome Address, Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • December 3, 2015: Speaker, “Lesson 10—Spiritual Inventory Part I,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • June 27, 2016: Presenter, “Maintaining a Celebrate Recovery Program,” Honduras Celebrate Recovery, Olanchito, Honduras.
  • July 28, 2016: Speaker, “Spiritual Inventory Part I,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • August 14, 2016, Presenter, Report on Celebrate Recovery Honduras Mission Trip, Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • August 28, 2016: Presenter, Report on Celebrate Recovery Honduras Mission, Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville.
  • March 16, 2017: Speaker, “Lesson 10—Spiritual Inventory Part I,” Richland Celebrate Recovery, Rayville, Louisiana. I discussed the benefits of making a spiritual inventory.

So, exactly what is Doughty’s affiliation with Celebrate Recovery? Why Honduras? And who paid for his trips to that country? Why is there nothing in his questionnaire responses to indicate that he ever spoke at an AA event? There are, after all, AA MEETINGS in all three parishes in the 5th JDC.

There was no immediate information available as to who paid for his three trips to Honduras in 2014 and 2016 to speak on behalf of Celebrate Recovery but if Celebrate Recovery paid for his trip and/or his lodging and meals, it could present a potential ETHICS violation for Doughty.

Under General Prohibitions as set out in Louisiana R.S. 42:1111-1121, the Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits the “receipt of a thing of economic value by a public servant for services rendered to or for the following:

  • Persons who have or are seeking to obtain a contractual or other business or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency;
  • Persons who are regulated by the public employee’s agency;
  • Persons who have substantial economic interests which may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the public employee’s official duties.

Celebrate Recovery would obviously have a “substantial economic interest” in the performance of Doughty’s official duties as a judge mandating that defendants in his court enter into programs offered by Celebrate Recovery.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham may have been a bit premature in pushing for Doughty’s nomination and Sens. Cassidy and Kennedy might have been wise to vet the judge a little better before testifying on his behalf before the Judiciary Committee. Kennedy was dogged in his questioning of Matthew Spencer Peterson, whose nomination was subsequently withdrawn. Peterson, of course, is not from Louisiana, so Kennedy could afford to pepper Peterson with embarrassing questions without any risks to his political future.

But Kennedy might have served his Louisiana constituents better if he had been a little more thorough in his examination of Doughty’s qualifications.

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