Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

Editor’s note: Last year, LouisianaVoice published a couple of stories about the indictment of Iberia Parish Clerk of Court MIKE THIBODEAUX and the political circus that seems to be the norm for Iberia Parish. The 14-count indictment followed a 2016 investigative AUDIT by the Legislative Auditor’s office. Coming two years after the audit, the indictment would appear to be politically motivated by Thibodeaux’s FIRING of parish Assessor Ricky Huval’s son, Ryan Huval. Ricky Huval’s daughter, Rachael, it turns out, is employed by District Attorney Bofill Duhé, who brought the indictment against Thibodeaux. The excessive bail set by the presiding judge would, in itself, indicate the extent to which favoritism and cheap political theater are very much in play in Iberia Parish.

Bob Mhoon, a native New Iberian now living in Arlington, Texas, penned a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. But the Daily Iberian has appeared somewhat reluctant to publish his letter, so LouisianaVoice is doing so here.

In June of 2018 the headline was “Thibodeaux indicted.” “charges include racketeering, theft, malfeasance in office.”

Most everyone knows Mike Thibodeaux and, for the most part, they are happy with his exemplary accomplishments during twenty-two years in office. I’ve read the charges and studied the detailed audit upon which they are based. The audit and the Clerk of Court’s response to detailed findings were presented to the parish council and accepted without concern.

One of the major responsibilities of the Clerk of Court and his Chief Deputy Clerk of Court is to continually update their knowledge of all applicable laws and policies, including the periodic changes that must be added to internal policy manuals.  Interestingly, all past audits and corrective responses to items flagged were satisfactory.

What happened next? The state auditor requested a State Police investigation and that report was forwarded to the district attorney. His decision was to present to the grand jury which found charges were appropriate and Mike was formally charged.

What was the impetus for criminal charges? According to Louisiana State Auditor records, a formal complaint was made to their office by the ex-Chief Deputy Clerk of Court; someone equally responsible for managing the department during past audits. Retribution?

Not a single penny of parish money was misappropriated by the Clerk of Court or his office. True, funds were moved between accounts; simply because that was how it was always done. These oversights were quickly corrected before the charges were initiated.

The Clerk of Court was shocked when he was indicted and the judge set bail at $200,000. In setting bail the court considers; severity of charges, the likelihood of jail, and defendant’s community ties. The last factor alone should have negated all others. The likelihood of him fleeing charges is infinitesimal.  His entire life has been in New Iberia with a loving family, and a lengthy, exemplary, career in local government. The bond was excessive!

How does favoritism come into play? I reviewed a number of Louisiana Legislative Auditor cases involving functions of the governor’s office. No one involved in these oversights was charged with any crimes!

Here is clear evidence of unfairness and favoritism. Homeland Security Finding. We identified 81 reimbursement requests where $3,309,036 (31.89%) worth of expenses were not supported by sufficient documentation. March 31, 2008, through December 31, 2016, we analyzed expense reimbursements totaling $925,837,580. We noted exceptions totaling $250,074,672 (27.01%). Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness worked with the subgrantees to resolve $134,830,335 (53.92%) of the exception amount. Louisiana Department of Health; did not deposit approximately $2.8 million into the Fraud Fund between fiscal years 2012 and 2017 in accordance with state law. (Amount: $2,797,768), LDH incorrectly deposited $323,570 into the Medicaid Fraud Fund in fiscal year 2012 that should have been deposited into the Nursing Home Residents’ Trust Fund. (Amount: $323,570). Lastly, LDH spent $642,593 from the Medicaid Fraud Fund in fiscal year 2012 on software that could not be implemented due to system compatibility issues. (Amount: $642,593) There are hundreds more similar discrepancies available on the LLA website.

Mike has steadfastly supported the community and now desperately needs your help.  Make a quick phone call to the DA, expressing support for Mike. After seeing the Governor’s disorganization and auditor favoritism, Bo Duhe needs to exercise compassion and immediately drop the charges to free Mike from the unfair burden. Having to defend himself against unwarranted charges while paying an attorney large sums of money is simply wrong.

Why is the governor’s organization exempt from the law?

Bob Mhoon

Arlington, TX

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

On March 27, 1998, barely two years after receiving his cadet appointment to the State Police Academy, Ben Johnson was terminated by State Police Superintendent Col. W.R. “Rut” Whittinton following a long string of disciplinary actions for infractions, including his off-duty altercation with a sheriff’s deputy over a woman Johnson was dating.

He next landed at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pineville as a police officer.

In March 2009, a WARRANT was executed for his ARREST for attempted forcible rape of a woman in Natchitoches. Here is a page from the POLICE REPORT.

And while he was stripped of his position as police officer for the VA, he still is employed there—in the Human Relations Department where he supposedly has access to employee personnel records, including home addresses and telephone numbers.

In October, the attempted forcible rape, a felony charge, was reduced to a misdemeanor by then-10th Judicial District Attorney Van H. Kyzar. Kyzar is now a JUDGE on Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal.

On November 13, 2009, Johnson SIGNED OFF off on an agreement that the charges would be dismissed upon the satisfactory completion of a pre-trial intervention program. (emphasis added.)

Several district attorneys’ offices were consulted and each one that responded said its policy is that those with felony charges are ineligible for pre-trial intervention programs. Click HERE to see the policies of one of those offices.

Of course, having a policy and adhering to that policy may well be two different propositions for some jurisdictions where favors are routinely awarded to friends of or contributors to the local power structure.

The pre-trial intervention (PTI) program must have been fast-tracked like no other in the history of PTIs, because he apparently managed to complete the crash course that same day. According to a DISMISSAL letter from district attorney investigator Danny C. Hall to to Barbara Watkins of the Veterans Medical Center in Pineville, charges against Johnson were dismissed that same day. Hall is no longer employed by the Natchitoches DA’s office.

One former district attorney said it was unheard of to dismiss charges on the same day an individual was assigned to a PTI, especially when the dismissal was contingent upon completion of the program. Moreover, he said, there was no way anyone could have completed such a program in a single day. “The person would have to know somebody,” he said.

A sitting judge said much the same thing. “He knew someone. It usually takes six months or longer for a case to be dismissed that way,” he said. At the same time, he said the district attorney could have seen it as a weak case, particularly in light of the fact the victim waited several days to report the incident. (The victim told police she was “embarrassed and ashamed,” and initially “just wanted to forget about the entire day” but her best friend convinced her to talk to police.)

An undated document signed by Johnson ACKNOWLEDGED that he had been arrested and charged “with the crime of attempted forcible rape, a felony,” that I freely admit my guilt and misconduct” and that the PTI program was established “to divert me from further criminal conduct.” (emphasis added.)

The victim told police that at one point prior their struggle, he told her she was safe with him because he was a POLICE OFFICER.

Johnson was first hired by Louisiana State Police on December 3, 1995 but by March 27, 1998, he was terminated because of repeated disciplinary problems.

Beginning in July 1996, barely seven months into the job, and virtually every month thereafter until his termination, he was reprimanded by his superiors for such things as:

  • Failure to be in his assigned parish for patrol;
  • Altering accident reports with white correction fluid;
  • Sloppy and error-plagued paperwork and accident reports, including incorrect dates, incorrect mileposts and even incorrect parishes and incorrect judicial districts;
  • Unauthorized attendance at a Northwestern State University football game in uniform while off-duty;
  • Altercations with fellow state troopers;
  • Rude treatment of females stopped for traffic violations;
  • Logging incorrect dates he worked on his time sheets;
  • Losing citations that he had written;
  • Allowing his patrol unit to run out of gas and then attempting to claim mechanical problems;
  • Losing his State Police badge and badge/identification card holder;
  • Failure to search and handcuff a prisoner later found to be in possession of a pocket knife;
  • Possession of radar equipment in his patrol car that had been missing and which caused considerable concern in efforts to locate the equipment.
  • Patrolling in the city limits of Alexandria and Pineville against troop regulations;
  • Calling in traffic stops before violations actually occurred;
  • Inability to locate accident he was directed to even though both vehicles were in the roadway;
  • Untimely submission of paperwork;
  • A five-day suspension for leaving his assigned parish to travel nearly 20 miles off his assigned route.
  • On April 27, 1997, barely four months after his designation as a State Police Trooper, he became embroiled in a confrontation with a Rapides Parish sheriff’s deputy after the deputy allegedly made disparaging remarks about him to a woman Johnson was dating. Johnson appeared at England Air Park where the deputy was assigned while off duty but in his state police vehicle and threatened the deputy with physical harm.

Normally, a State Trooper who resigns in lieu of dismissal can land a job with another law enforcement agency. But Johnson did not resign, he was fired, which makes it difficult to understand how he wound up as a police officer for the VA unless the VA did a rather slipshod of vetting his qualifications—or, a more likely bet, he had connections there.

And it’s equally difficult to understand how he retained his employment, his demotion notwithstanding, after such a serious offense as attempted forcible rape.

Even more baffling is why such a serious felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and then how did he manage the “satisfactory completion” of a pre-trial intervention on the same day he was assigned to the program, allowing the charges go away instantly?

 

Read Full Post »

When comparing the exorbitant fines meted out by the State Board of Dentistry and the State Board of Medical Examiners with the manner in which the Louisiana Supreme Court disciplines wayward attorneys, one comes away wondering if there are two sets of standards of justice in Louisiana—one for attorneys and another for everyone else.

For that matter, it sometimes seems as though there are two standards for attorneys—or at least a good argument for glaring inconsistencies.

Take, for example, the cases of Arthur Gilmore, Jr. of Monroe and E. Eric Guirard of Baton Rouge.

Gilmore, a former Monroe city council member, was convicted of violations of the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in 2013 and subsequently served a 24-month prison sentence in South Dakota. A co-defendant, fellow council member Robert “Red” Stevens pleaded guilty in May 2013 to accepting cash bribe payments and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

The sentence was below sentencing guidelines. The presiding judge wrote that the government’s main witness “engaged in an ongoing program of planned enticement to provoke (Gilmore) into agreeing to bribes in exchange for perceived favors from his position with the Monroe City Council. Because of that, the guidelines, in my opinion, may overstate the relative seriousness of (Gilmore’s) actions and the application of an equitable sentence.”

In other words, because he was tempted to take the bribe, the gravity of the acceptance of same and the violation of his oath of office and the betrayal of the trust bestowed upon him by voters is somehow mitigated.

The two were accused of accepting bribe payments from an FBI informant in exchange for their assistance with matters pending before the city council in 2008 and 2009.

The Louisiana Supreme Court finally got around to DISBARRING Gilmore in 2016—three years after his conviction. The disbarment was made retroactive to 2013.

Though Gilmore expressed remorse for his actions, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board found that permanent disbarment was the appropriate action.

But “permanent” is a somewhat relative term, it seems.

Last month Gilmore petitioned the Supreme Court for readmission to the practice of law and “permanent” became temporary when the court’s disciplinary board recommended that he be readmitted to practice, subject to a three-year probationary period.

The Office of Disciplinary Council (ODC) objected to his readmission and three board members dissented, recommended that readmission be denied.

The objection and dissensions notwithstanding, the hearing committee approved Gilmore’s immediate READMISSION to practice law.

Justice Scott J. Crichton wrote in his dissent that Gilmore, “as an official elected government official, committed a serious felony crime involving racketeering and extracting bribes. In my view, he has not proven in his application for readmission that he has the requisite honesty and integrity to practice law, and I would deny readmission.”

GUIRARD received the same punishment in 2009 for what would appear to most to be a far less serious infraction—paying bonuses to non-lawyer case managers employed by his firm to help settle cases, a practice he discontinued five years before his disbarment.

The Supreme Court ruled that by paying two case workers to settle nearly 500 cases, Guirard “harmed their clients” by depriving them of individualized and professional case analysis while somehow overlooking larger firms who seemed to operate on an assembly-line basis—trying to sign up as many clients as possible as quickly as possible.

“We recognize a dishonest or selfish motive, a pattern of misconduct…in the practice of law,” the court wrote in its unanimous opinion.

Six years after he was disbarred, in March 2015, a year before Gilmore’s disbarment, Guirard was READMITTED to the bar.

Identical punishment for a far less egregious transgression.

Read Full Post »

Is it a mere coincidence that Louisiana has the FIFTH-WORST dental health in the nation? Or that our state has the eighth-worst oral health or the worst dental habits and care?

Could the fact that we rank dead last in the percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the past year somehow correlate with the fact that Louisiana is also dead last in the number of dentists per capita? Or second-worst in the percentage of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition?

Or could it be that the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry is just more interested in assessing fines and penalties as a means of amassing funds to perpetuate its existence than it is in promoting good dental health?

In 2010, the Louisiana Board of Dentistry revoked the license of Dr. Ryan Haygood of Shreveport. He was forced to endure a four-day hearing he describes as a “kangaroo court,” during which he had no rights and no due process.

“While this sounds unbelievable and extreme,” he told the Senate Commerce Committee last April, “the courts have agreed.”

A three-dentist panel found him guilty on eight specifics under two separate charges. In addition to taking his license to practice, the panel assessed him with more than $173,000 in fines and legal and investigative fees.

Incredibly, the conviction included several charges that the board had already dismissed and on the other charges, the board produced no evidence against him.

It took years, but the revocation was overturned by a unanimous ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. The court, in a strongly-worded rebuke of the dental board, said, “We hold this conduct is violative of the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act and Dr. Haygood’s due process right to a neutral adjudicator and a fair hearing.

In 2011, Haygood filed suit against the board attorney, its investigator (who has since has his own private investigator’s license revoked), two unlicensed investigators and several local dentists who he said conspired with the board to take his license

Haygood, in his Senate testimony, said that in November 2013, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal cited the aforementioned Fourth Circuit ruling which suggested the potential of a corrupted investigation and a strong inference that members of the board engaged in the conduct attributed to Dr. Ross Dies (a local competitor of Haygood). If some of the allegations regarding Dies’ behavior are proved, the court added, they “would strongly suggest that Dies’ conduct was motivated less by altruistic concern for the public than animus to suppress a competitor. They would also prove that other board members agreed with Dr. Dies to engage in conduct to accomplish those objectives.

In December 2017, Caddo district court Judge Michael Pitman said:

This court reviewed many e-mails and correspondence between members of the board and the investigation team and the attorneys handling the matter before the board. I did so in-camera. Those matters are under seal because of the confidential nature of the investigation. But the things in those correspondence(s) were rather shocking with the unprofessionalism that was shown during this investigation, and I won’t go into specifics because those matters are under seal, but I was shocked at some of the things I read, some of the unprofessionalism that took place during this investigation by the board members, attorneys, so on and so forth…

The bottom line is there were—the proceedings that too place in this investigation were shocking. I just can’t think of another word to describe it. It was absolutely shocking.

Yet, despite overwhelming evidence of the board’s employment of a private investigator whose license was under threat of revocation (and eventually was revoked), despite testimony of destruction of records by the board, and despite former board employee Diana Chenevert’s meeting with investigators from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on four different occasions during which she provided details of these, as well as citing examples of threats, extortion, and anti-competitive activities of the board, and despite having been told by OIG personnel that arrests were eminent, nothing happened.

In fact, in a January 25, 2018, letter to State Sen. Barrow Peacock, State Inspector General Steven Street said, among other things, “the evidence did not support criminal charges against any current or former Dental Board employees, board members or contractors.”

To read the full text of Street’s incredulous letter, go HERE.

Apparently, Street saw nothing wrong with the manner in which the board extorts money from dentists or the manner in which it conspired with the LSU School of Dentistry to ruin the career of one Dr. Randall Schaffer. To read his story, go HERE.

It’s not much of a stretch to say that Street has become something of a caricature of the clueless Sgt. Schultz character on Hogan’s Heroes who was best-known for his oft-repeated line, “I see nothing, I see nothing.”

Schaffer is the one who, back in 1989, realized that a joint replacement device for temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) sufferers developed at the LSU Dental School and being marketed by a Houston company named Vitek, was defective.

When Schaffer, then a resident at LSU, became aware of the 100 percent failure rate of the device, he informed Dr. John Kent, head of LSU’s School of Dentistry’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, who had developed the device.

But Kent had been given stock in Vitek and was earning royalties of 2 percent to 4 percent on the sale of Vitek products, so the word of disfigurement, excruciating pain and at least eight suicides was unwelcome news. The obvious solution was to get rid of Schaffer and shut him up.

Today, Schaffer lives in Iowa, driven out of Louisiana by the Dentistry Board which joined with LSU to persecute the messenger even as 675 patients combined as a class for discovery purposes, leaving the state exposed to about $1 billion in legal liability.

Schaffer, you see, was named as a witness and consultant in the class action case and the Board of Dentistry retaliated by launching its investigation of Schaffer

In 1992, the first case was settled for $1 million.

Meanwhile, the board continued with its unique method of imposing its own brand of justice on dentists who it deemed troublesome or a threat. And of course, the board took no corrective actions regarding Dr. Kent and his joint replacement device.

 

Read Full Post »

Just the good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born

                                  —Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard by Waylon Jennings

The recent actions of State Rep. STEVE PYLANT (R-Winnsboro) most probably were not the intended consequences of the CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2017.

Pylant represents House District 20 which includes all or parts of the parishes of Caldwell, Catahoula, LaSalle, Tensas and Franklin.

In 2013, Pylant was one of only two members to vote against a bill to give special consideration to veterans of the armed forces who are arrested or convicted of a crime: “I support veterans 110 percent,” he sniffed at the time, “but when someone violates the law, we should be fair and impartial, no matter who they are. Everyone has problems … I don’t think it’s fair to be more lenient on some than others because of their military background.”

He currently serves a vice chair of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice and in 2015, he voted against reducing the penalties for the possession of marijuana.

The following year—and again in 2017—he voted against Senate Bill 180 (Act 343) which provided exemptions from prosecution for anyone lawfully possessing medical marijuana.

In 2017, he voted in favor of Senate Bill 70 (Act 108) that make misbranding or adulteration of drugs under certain circumstances a felony.

He also supported drug testing of welfare recipients and the right of concealed carry in restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages;

That seems about right for the man who, before entered the Louisiana Legislature in 2012, served for 16 years (1996-2012) as the high sheriff of Franklin Parish.

So, with all those law and order credentials, how did it come to be that Rep. (formerly Sheriff) Pylant would come galloping in on his white horse to secure a property bond of $90,000 to spring four convicted felons from jail in Catahoula Parish in December 2018?

Perhaps they weren’t members of the military, thus earning them greater consideration for leniency.

Or perhaps one of those arrested is the brother of a member of the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office and the judge, a tad more adherent to the law than those seeking to exert political influence, noted that he could not grant bail to one and not the others.

All or none, in other words, so Rep. Pylant obligingly ponied up the $90,000 property bond for all four defendants, each of whom had prior drug convictions as well as other assorted convictions spread among them.

The four were said to have been hunting on private property in Tensas Parish and were originally booked on promises to appear in Catahoula court on bonds of $5,000 each as set by Judge John Reeves. But Seventh Judicial District Attorney Brad Burget said when he reviewed the clerk’s file that showed the four were all convicted felons, he determined that “an appropriate bond” had not been set.

Booked on Dec. 8 were Jamie Dewayne Roberts, 45, Michael S. Linder, 49, and Trampas Barton, 43, all of Wisner, and Steve Drane, 50, of Gilbert.

Roberts, at the time of the arrests, was armed with a CVA Elite Stalker 35 Whelen rifle and in addition, had a concealed .22 magnum North American Arms revolver in his front pocket. Barton had a Model 7400 Remington 30.06 rifle. Linder had in his possession of CVA Elite Stalker 35 Whelen rifle, and Drane had a Browning A bold 325 WSM rifle.

Convicted felons are prohibited by law from possessing firearms.

Catahoula Parish Sheriff Toney Edwards said that after the four were booked, he received a call from Bryan Linder who asked that his brother, Michael Linder, be released on a PTA—promise to appear in court.

Bryan Linder works for the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office, the office once headed by Rep. Pylant, so it’s pretty easy to connect the dots on how things went down from that point.

But, for the moment, let us examine those felony conviction records of the four.

  • Jamie Dewayne Roberts: possession of methamphetamine in 2010; theft of anhydrous ammonia (used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, or meth) in 2016, an indication he didn’t learn much from his first conviction.
  • Trampas Barton: Distribution of methamphetamine in 2016, five additional convictions for burglaries and two more for drugs.
  • Michael S. Linder: Manufacture of methamphetamines.
  • Steve Drane: Manufacturing meth and on parole until 2021.

At least they weren’t involved in the possession or distribution of marijuana. That’s something Pylant, as your basic law and order representative, just couldn’t abide.

So thank your lucky stars you’ve got protection
Walk the line and never mind the cost
And don’t wonder who them lawmen was protecting
When they nailed the savior to the cross

                            —The Law is for Protection of the People, Kris Kristofferson

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »