What’s the difference between Evangeline and Terrebonne parishes?
Apparently only about 120 miles, judging from the manner in which the respective sheriffs’ offices ignore and abuse the constitutional rights of their citizens.
Where the U.S. Justice Department recently issued a report highly critical of the practice of “investigative arrests” in Evangeline, the First Circuit Court of Appeal has ruled unconstitutional a raid carried out by the Terrebonne Parish sheriff last summer because he didn’t like what a blogger said about him.
And, LouisianaVoice has learned, the Terrebonne sheriff and others are targets of a federal investigation over other business dealings of the sheriff’s office.
Following the filing a federal lawsuit filed against Sheriff Jerry Larpenter last August, the anticipated second shoe has now fallen on several other leading business and political leaders of Terrebonne Parish.
The fallout stems from an ill-advised—and unconstitutional—warrant and RAID executed against a Houma police officer on Aug. 2 over no greater offense than criticism of the sheriff’s department on a local Internet blog.
It now has spilled over to a general indictment of Gordon Dove and the parish government’s relationship with a local insurance agency.
Wayne Anderson, a former deputy sheriff and currently a Houma police officer, and his wife, Jennifer, filed suit on Aug. 10 against Larpenter over the raid carried out on their home by sheriff’s deputies and now have amended Parish President Dove and others into the lawsuit.
The latest AMENDED PETITION adds as defendants:
- Dove, individually, and in his official capacity as President of the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government;
- Anthony J. Alford, individually, and in his official capacity as President of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District Board of Commissioners;
- The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office;
- The Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, and
- The Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District.
The blog, ExposeDat, began posting critical stories of Dove and Larpenter in early July, prompting the illegal raid on the Andersons’ home. While unconstitutional, the raid did have the apparent effect of successfully causing the blog to be taken down, thus infringing on the First Amendment that protects free speech.
But in the interim, Larpenter, who was quoted as saying, “If you’re gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I’m gonna come after you.” did just that. Executing a warrant signed by State District Judge Randy Bethancourt instead of the “Duty Judge,” who the latest legal filing says should have reviewed and considered the warrant.
Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Glynn Prestenbach Jr., who took the warrant application to Bethancourt for his signature, since said he “just did what (Terrebonne Parish District Attorney) and Jerry (Larpenter) told him to do,” the Andersons’ amended petition says.
Following the raid, law enforcement personnel arrived at the Plaintiffs’ residence, the petition says. Anderson was informed he was being placed on administrative leave indefinitely and was the subject of an internal affairs investigation for failing to uphold the law and for engaging in conduct unbecoming of a law enforcement officer. Anderson was stripped of his badge, his duty weapon, his law enforcement commission card and his marked patrol unit—all in full view of the Andersons’ neighbors, action that they say has caused embarrassment and harm to their reputations.
Bethancourt denied the Plaintiffs’ Motion to Quash, finding the defamation statute to be sufficiently broad to allow him a “look-see” to determine if the evidence wrongfully seized contained defamatory statements. Writs were taken to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals which quashed the search warrant on August 25 and ruled that the search and seizure (were) unconstitutional.
The amended petition accuses the defendants of conspiring together “to initiate unjustified and factually and legally baseless criminal proceedings against the plaintiffs. The Defendants lacked probable cause and/or any viable legal justification to initiate the said proceedings. The Defendants acted maliciously and as a consequence of these actions, the Plaintiffs suffered deprivation of their liberties and have sustained damages,” the petition says.
“Defendants Gordon Dove, Jerry Larpenter and Anthony Alford all met and/or discussed a jointly accepted and agreed upon the illegal plan discussed hereinabove,” it says. “Sometime immediately after a July 11, 2016, article entitled ‘You Scratch Mine & I’ll Scratch Yours’ was published on the website that detailed the business dealings between the Defendants, Defendant Dove allegedly announced to the entire Synergy Bank4 Board of Directors that he was going to shut the Exposedat website down and that he was having subpoenas issued. Defendant Anthony Alford lodged his criminal complaint within three days of the article’s publication.”
Once Alford filed his complaint, Larpenter wasted no time in initiating an investigation by his office by instructing Prestenbach to immediately conduct an investigation, the Andersons claim. “Prestenbach did as instructed and immediately met with and interviewed Alford. Prestenbach also sought by subpoena records from Facebook relating to John Turner (an alias used by Anderson), and within a period of five days obtained information relating to various IP addresses. Prestenbach searched the IP addresses and noticed that they were assigned to a corresponding AT&T account. Prestenbach then subpoenaed records from AT&T to identify the IP addresses that corresponded to the Facebook posts of John Turner.”
On or about August 1, 2016, Prestenbach received and reviewed the documents which had been subpoenaed from AT&T. These records revealed that the computer used to send the various posts was located at the Plaintiffs’ home address. Prestenbach immediately contacted Larpenter and advised him of the results of his investigation including the fact that the address obtained was the residence of Wayne Anderson, who was a police officer for the Houma Police Department. Larpenter allegedly told Prestenbach to stand by for further action. Later,
TPSO Detective Kody Voisin called Prestenbach and advised him that he had spoken to Defendant Larpenter who wanted a search warrant issued, and that he [Larpenter] had spoken to Terrebonne District Attorney Joe Waitz who also agreed to continue the investigation and obtain a search warrant. HERE is Prestenbach’s report as well as threads from Facebook postings.
The question that must be asked and the issue that must be determined at this point is by what authority did Larpenter obtain the Facebook and AT&T records? Who issued the subpoena for that information? If the search warrant was unconstitutional, it would seem that the subpoena seeking the private records would be as well.
The amended petition is seeking actual and punitive damages, court costs and attorney fees.