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Archive for the ‘Lawsuits’ Category

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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You have to wonder what the Louisiana Ethics Board is trying to conceal.

Back in March, the neutered ethics board sued the Louisiana Legislative Auditor in an effort to prevent state auditors from peeking at information in its case files that the auditors say is necessary to conduct a proper performance review of the board.

Well, there may be a plausible explanation but on the surface of it all, the ethics board’s action screams of some kind of cover-up. Perhaps I’m just being paranoid, but then when you examine some of the board’s actions, that too, is understandable.

You may remember one of the first actions taken by Bobby Jindal soon after taking office back in 2008 was to gut the board in what he deemed at the time reform that produced the “gold standard” of ethics.

What it did, instead, was make then-pending ethics investigations of a couple of legislators go away. One of those legislators is now a college president. Go figure.

When Jindal announced his “reforms,” there were 11 members of the ethics board. Soon after that, there were two. Nine of the 11 members, including the board chairman, vice-chairman and board administrator promptly RESIGNED in protest—or disgust, take your pick.

In its lawsuit, filed in state court in Baton Rouge, the board contends that information contained in the files is confidential and privileged. State Auditor Daryl Purpera countered that his office has not only the right but the obligation to see the information—and to keep it confidential.

It’s most likely that auditors are not interested in any particular case, but it is nevertheless interesting to consider some of the board’s fancy footwork in dodging any responsibility in holding public officials’ feet to the proverbial fire.

Take State Police, for example. Back in April 2018, the board CLEARED —in secret, at that—four State Troopers accused of taking a taxpayer-funded vacation in a state vehicle that took them to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas en route to a convention in San Diego.

The troopers, the board determined, did not take the detour to the tourist spots on their own volition, but upon the instructions of higher-ups in the department. There was only one “higher-up” who could give those instructions and that was then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who ultimately resigned under pressure in the wake of that trip.

But then, 16 months later, in August 2019, the board then managed to twist logic beyond recognition when it also CLEARED Edmonson of wrongdoing, according to his attorney, Gray Sexton. Sexton formerly served as (ahem) head of the State Ethics Commission but apparently had no problem representing clients before the board.

Sexton said he had received a letter from the board that cleared Edmonson but he refused to make a copy of the letter available, claiming that it was “confidential.”

That seems to be the way the Ethics Board operates these days: confidentially, in secret, behind closed doors, out of sight from, and with no accountability to the public.

Auditors are seeking full access to board records from 2013-2018, specifically inclusive of investigative case files, files for cases with waivers/suspensions, and ethics board executive meeting minutes.

The board provided some of the records but has withheld the investigative case files and executive board meeting minutes, justifying the refusal by claiming state law “provides that documents obtained or prepared in connection with an investigation are not only confidential but also privileged.”

The board’s refusal and lawsuit appear to be part of a trend of state boards, commissions and agencies trying to prevent auditors from delving into their operations.

In recent years, the State Board of Medical Examiners, the Louisiana Pharmacy Board, and the Department of Economic Development have taken legal action to protect their records from the prying eyes of auditors. Purpera’s office won against the Medical Examiners and Pharmacy boards but lost a court decision against LED.

Purpera said the effort to obtain records for auditing purpoises is an ongoing battle. “We’ve been fighting for records for the last 25 years,” he said.

 

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Last July I published my book Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption.

Now, it looks as though a book about district attorneys and judges might well be in order.

Somehow, it seems the ones we elect to protect us and to administer justice evenly and fairly are running amok with no regard for the law, ethics, propriety, or for the citizens they are elected to serve.

This is by no means a blanket condemnation of all DAs or judges but the behavior of the few is beginning to take its toll on the public image of the many and there needs to be a cleansing.

DAs have gone to jail, they have initiated frivolous disputes with judges, they bring in hired guns from elsewhere to do jobs they should be doing [if they and their staffs aren’t qualified to perform their jobs, they should get out and leave the work to those who can] and some even are said to use their offices as leverage to obtain property and businesses from defendants in exchange for a dismissal or reduction of pending charges.

Louisiana judges have been accused of:

  • Hiring his GIRLFRIEND to review medical records for his office;
  • Presiding over his girlfriend’s DWI case;
  • Molesting TEENAGE GIRLS;
  • Texting RACIST REMARKS in a jealous dispute with a sheriff’s deputy with whom she was having an affair (the judge submitted her resignation today);
  • Engaging in SEXUAL MISCONDUCT which led to his resignation;
  • Interfering in a female friend’s APPEAL which resulted in his suspension from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal and which has thrown the 2nd Circuit’s overturn of a $20 million award into turmoil.
  • Accepting kickbacks which resulted in the impeachment and REMOVAL from the federal bench.
  • Accepting bribes from bail a bail bondsman which resulted in his conviction, along with 13 others convicted in the FBI’s OPERATION WRINKLED ROBE

There are others, of course. But add to that the unique idea that a Baton Rouge attorney who has been SUSPENDED FROM PRACTICE for a year is a candidate for a vacant city.

Donald Dobbins says the law requires only that he hold a law license to qualify for judicial office but not to be a judge because judges cannot practice law. He qualified exactly three weeks before he was suspended by the State Supreme Court for failure “to provide competent representation to clients” and that he “neglected legal matters, failed to communicate with clients, failed to refund unearned fees and unused costs, failed to properly supervise his non-lawyer start, resulting inf false affidavits being filed in the court record, failed to reduce a contingency fee agreement to writing, forged client signatures on settlement checks and failed to place disputed funds in his trust account.” He says he has no intention to withdraw.

One Supreme Court justice called the one-year suspension “overly lenient,” saying he preferred “no less than a three-year actual suspension, if not disbarment.”

And then there are the judges in Terrebonne and St. Tammany parishes who took it upon themselves to issue warrants that were in direct violation of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression.

In the Terrebonne case, Sheriff Jerry Larpenter prevailed upon an obliging JUDGE RANDAL BETHANCOURT to issue a search warrant so he could raid the home of a blogger who hurt Larpenter’s feelings. That ended up costing the sheriff’s office about $250,000 in a federal lawsuit stemming from the illegal raid.

That was in August 2016. Three years later, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith arrested a former deputy who sent an email to the family of a murdered woman in which he was critical of the sheriff’s office for not making an arrest in the 2017 murder of Nanette Krentel.

The warrant was signed by DISTRICT JUDGE RAYMOND CHILDRESS District Judge Raymond Childress. After the local district attorney recused himself and referred the case to the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, the AG’s office promptly washed its hands of the entire affair after noting that the Louisiana Supreme Court had held that criminal defamation (the justification for the warrant) was unconstitutional insofar as statements made in reference to public figures engaged in public affairs.

No story about law enforcement and the judicial system would be complete without a story from Iberia Parish where Louis Ackel turned the word sheriff into a term of fear and dread.

Bo Duhé, 16th JDC District Attorney, crossed swords with Judge Lori Landry by accusing her of making accusatory remarks to the effect that the DA’s office “deliberately incarcerate African Americans more severely and at a higher rate than others” and that the DAs office knew or should have known about misconduct at the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office that eventually led to the convictions of several deputies in a civil rights case.

Her remarks prompted Duhé to seek her honor’s removal from more than 300 criminal cases throughout out the 16th JDC which includes the parishes of Iberia, St. Martin, and St. Mary.

Duhé, of course, claimed that Judge Landry’s remarks were unfounded. He further argued that Landry, the 16th JDC’s first African-American judge, was “biased and prejudiced” against his office to such an extent that “she cannot be fair or impartial.”

After considerable posturing disguised as testimony in court subsequent hearings, Duhé and Landry kissed and made nice, declaring that they were recommitted to working together and the DA’s office rather unceremoniously dismissed the recusal motions.

Just another day in Louisiana’s hallowed halls of justice.

[You may order Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption ($30) by clicking on the yellow DONATE button in the column to the upper right of this post or by sending a check to Tom Aswell, P.O. Box 922, Denham Springs, LA. 70727.]

 

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