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Anyone remember Allyson Campbell?

If not, that’s understandable. After all, it’s been a couple of years since we had a STORY about her exploits in the 4th Judicial Court in Monroe. She’s the Monroe News-Star society columnist who showed up occasionally at her supposed full-time job as law clerk for 4th JDC Judge Wilson Rambo (gotta love that name; wonder if they have a judge named Rocky?).

On Wednesday, 12 of the 13 judges of the First Circuit Court of Appeal (only Judge Curtis Calloway did not hear arguments) dealt the self-promoting columnist/clerk a major setback when it ruled in an en banc (full court) decision that she does not enjoy “absolute immunity” from her actions in destroying court files and that a lawsuit against her may go forward.

But it was the dissenting opinion of one of the three judges who gave written opinions that makes for the best reading.

The ruling comes nearly two years after Louisiana Inspector General STEPHEN STREET found there was no “sufficient cause” to bring charges against Campbell for what witnesses said were repeated instances of her destroying or concealing trial briefs. For that matter, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office also declined to pursue the matter, leaving only one state official, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, with the integrity and courage to call Campbell out for her actions.

She was also the central figure in:

  • The controversy that erupted when the Ouachita Citizen made a legal request for public records from the court—and was promptly sued by the judges for seeking those same public records.
  • The filing of a lawsuit by Judge Sharon Marchman against four fellow judges and Campbell over Campbell’s claiming time worked when she was actually absent—including time when she was in restaurants and/or bars for which she claimed time—and the four judges who Judge Marchman said were complicit in covering for her.
  • A complaint by Monroe attorney Cody Rials that Campbell had boasted in a local bar that she had destroyed Rials’ court document in a case he had pending before Judge Carl Sharp so that Sharp could not review it. One witness interviewed by Judges Sharp and Ben Jones quoted Campbell as saying that she had “taken great pleasure I shredding Rials’ judgment” and that she had given Rials a “legal f—ing.”

Now a DECISION by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, in overturning a lower court’s 2015 decision, has held that a lawsuit by Stanley Palowsky, III, against Campbell for damages incurred when she “spoliated, concealed, removed, destroyed, shredded, withheld, and/or improperly handled” his petition for damages against former business partner Brandon Cork may proceed.

At the same time, the First Circuit ruled that the five judges he added as defendants—Stephens Winters, Sharp, Rambo, Frederic Amman and Jones—for allowing Campbell “free rein to do as she pleased and then conspiring to conceal (her) acts” enjoyed “absolute immunity” from being sued and were dismissed as defendants despite their repeated denials that any documents were missing from the Palowsky file.

Palowsky argued that Campbell undertook her acts with malice and to obtain advantages for his opponents in the lawsuit. Moreover, he argued that Campbell’s supervising judges, Amman and Rambo, “did not just sit back quietly and let Campbell commit such acts, they actively worked and schemed to cover up her actions.”

Palowsky also said that Campbell’s wrongdoings “have been reported time and again by different attorneys in different cases and investigated time and again by defendant judges but have nevertheless been allowed to continue. It is now painfully apparent that not only has Campbell been unsupervised and uncontrollable for years, but defendant judges have actively schemed to allow her conduct to continue unabatedly (sic).”

Campbell, who doubles as a society columnist of sorts (if one really stretches the definition of the term) for the News-Star, is obviously her own biggest fan—unless you count her stated infatuation for Cork’s attorney Thomas Haynes, III, about whom she wrote in one of her columns that he…had the “IT” factor, “a somewhat undefinable quality that makes you and everyone else around stand taller when they enter the room, listen a little more closely, encourage you to take fashion or life risks, make each occasion a little more fun and generally inspire you to aim to achieve that ‘IT’ factor for yourself.”

If they taught that method of courtroom coverage in my Louisiana Tech journalism classes, I must have been absent that day.

Needless to say, the First Circuit upheld the lower court in expunging that paragraph from Palowsky’s petition.

In fact, the lower court struck 46 paragraphs from his lawsuit against Campbell and the five judges, but the First Circuit restored 21 paragraphs to the petition. The 25 it allowed to remain removed involved matters not directly related to Campbell’s alleged destruction of files, the judges said.

In 2014, Campbell published a column entitled, “A Modern Guide to Handle Your Scandal,” in which she wrote, “Half the fun is getting there, and the other half is in the fix.” She then went on to advise her readers to “keep the crowd guessing. Send it out—lies, half-truths, gorilla dust, whatever you’ve got.” She told readers, “You’re no one until someone is out to get you.”

(There’s a line in there somewhere about Trump, but it’s just too easy.)

In July 2015, she wrote in her column, “It’s not cheating if it’s in our favor.”

That paragraph was removed from Palowsky’s petition as was one that noted that on one occasion, 52 writ applications went missing for more than a year before it was discovered that Campbell had used the applications as an end table in her office.

Say what?!!?

One paragraph left in the petition was one in which Palowsky pointed out that the five judges might not be out of the woods yet, if the Louisiana Judiciary Commission does its job. The Louisiana State Constitution provides as follows: “On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the (Louisiana) Supreme Court may censure, suspend with or without salary, remove from office, or retire involuntarily a judge for willful misconduct relating to his official duty, willful and persistent failure to perform his duty, persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, conduct while in office which could constitute a felony, or conviction of a felony.”

It would appear in consideration of the judicial protection of Campbell, a case could be made that the judges are guilty at least of slipshod management at best and criminal malfeasance at worst.

All the judges in the 4th JDC recused themselves when Palowsky sued and his case was heard by Ad Hoc Judge Jerome Barbera, III, who cited in his Dec. 11, 2015, ruling dismissing the five judges as defendants an 1871 ruling that said, “It is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”

Even though Palowsky was claiming that the judges protected Campbell despite their full knowledge of what she had done, Barbera said, “Allegations of bad faith or malice are not sufficient to overcome judicial immunity.”

Another way of putting it is that the judges are untouchable and that their edicts, like those of the Pope, are infallible, divinely inspired.

Barbera extended the immunity to Campbell but the First Circuit opinion, written by  Judge Page McClendon, overturned Barbera on that point. While two of the Appeal Court judges, Vanessa Whipple and Guy Holdridge upheld immunity for the five district court judges in their written opinions, all three rejected the idea of immunity for Campbell and all three voted to reinstate 21 of the paragraphs in Palowsky’s petition.

But it was that third judge, William Crain, who wrote that none of the defendants deserved immunity from events in the 4th JDC.

“Judicial immunity is of the highest order of importance in maintaining an independent judiciary, free of threats or intimidation. But it is a judge-created doctrine policed by judges.” (emphasis mine)

He also said that when judicial actors “perform non-judicial acts, they are not protected by this otherwise sweeping immunity doctrine.

“The duty to maintain records in cases involves many non-judicial actors and can only be considered a ministerial, not judicial act,” he wrote.

“For the same reasons (that) the law clerk is not immunized for her non-judicial acts related to maintaining court records, the judges are not immunized for allegedly aiding, abetting, then concealing those acts. Failing to supervise a law clerk relative to a non-judicial act is not a judicial act for purposes of immunity.

“The doctrine of judicial immunity does not shield judicial actors from civil liability for criminal acts (and) while later cases suggest judicial immunity extends even to judicial acts performed with malice, those cases do not immunize judicial actors from criminal conduct grounded in malice or corruption.

“Extending the doctrine of judicial immunity to include civil liability for alleged criminal conduct, as in this case, risks undermining the public’s trust in the judiciary, which I cannot countenance.”

So, how, you might ask, has Campbell managed to withstand the barrage of charges of payroll fraud, absenteeism, records destruction, and critical audit reports and still keep her job?

And continue to flaunt her actions in a newspaper column?

That can be explained in one word: Connections.

Campbell’s father is George Campbell, an executive with Regions Bank. George Campbell is married to the daughter of influential attorney Billy Boles who was instrumental in the growth of Century Telephone and who is a major contributor to various political campaigns.

Allyson Campbell is also the sister of Catherine Creed of the Monroe personal injury law firm of Creed and Creed. Christian Creed, Campbell’s brother-in-law, contributed $5,000 to Attorney General Jeff Landry’s 2015 campaign, which could explain, in part, why the AG backed off its investigation of Campbell the following year.

In a town the size of Monroe, those connections are sufficient, apparently.

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What do Louis Ackal and Jerry Larpenter have in common?

Well, among other things:

They’re both sheriffs of parishes they run with dictatorial methods—Ackal in Iberia Parish and Larpenter in Terrebonne;

Neither will hesitate to take whatever actions they deem necessary to silence any voice of dissent—from pulling off a RAID of a critic’s home in Terrebonne to turning DOGS loose on defenseless inmates of the Iberia Parish jail;

And both reportedly have the same legal counsel.

But the similarities go even further.

An Ackal critic who had the audacity to initiate a recall effort against the sheriff found himself ARRESTED for manslaughter after a single-vehicle accident in which he was not even involved. (Those bogus charges, brought by a cooperative district attorney, were very quietly dropped after LouisianaVoice’s story of the heavy-handed techniques.)

Larpenter, meanwhile, has taken a step to make it very costly for his critic (the one whose home he raided) to obtain what anywhere else would be routine public records—records that he or anyone else is legally entitled to see.

Wayne Anderson’s home was raided and his computers seized by Larpenter after Anderson posted internet blogs critical of Larpenter. That raid was quickly ruled unconstitutional by the federal courts and the Andersons sued and won a substantial monetary settlement from Larpenter believed to be in the neighborhood of $250,000.

Anderson submitted his request that included, among other things, all invoices and copies of checks paid to the Dood Law Firm, Seth Dodd, William Dodd, Bill Dodd, “or any Dodd,” from Jan. 1, 2016 through the present date.

Dodd is the legal counsel for Larpenter and, according to unconfirmed reports, also represents Ackal.

Soon after submitted his request, Anderson received an electronic communication from Richard McCormack, an attorney with the New Orleans firm of Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore. McCormack informed Anderson that his firm had been “retained by the sheriff to coordinate the sheriff’s response to your public records request.”

 

As one with considerable experience in requesting and obtaining public records on behalf of LouisianaVoice, I can say that I find it quite unusual that the good sheriff would find it necessary to retain a high-priced legal team not to ascertain what is and what is not public record, but simply to “coordinate the sheriff’s response” when a clerical employee would be fully capable of performing such duties.

I’m just guessing here, but I would estimate their rate to be in the neighborhood of $300 per hour—and don’t think for one scintilla of a nano-second that they will put just one attorney on this project when they could put two or three and really run up the tab. From what we hear, the firm has two of its attorneys working on a way to make a routine public records request punitive.

And just what is Bill Dodd’s function, anyway? (Every time I hear that name, I think of Earl Long’s reference to another Bill Dodd during his 1959 gubernatorial campaign, the current Bill Dodd’s father, as “Big, bad, bald Bill Dodd.”)

As near as I can make out, his job was harassment, if reports coming out of Terrebonne are true. Dodd says emphatically that they are not.

When the Andersons asked the sheriff’s insurance company who issued their settlement check, things went south in a hurry. The Andersons say no one from the insurance company ever appeared on the court record on the sheriff’s behalf, leading them to believe Larpenter may have misled the insurance company about their claim.

Soon after they made their inquiry, they said Dodd called one of the couple’s supervisor and threatened to sue for tortuous interference and damage to his reputation.

Dodd, contacted by LouisianaVoice adamantly denied that. “I haven’t threatened to sue anybody,” he said. “I’ve been practicing law long enough that I don’t have to threaten to sue anyone, I just sue ‘em.”

C’mon, Dodd, you ain’t talking to someone who just fell off a turnip truck. There’s not a lawyer alive who won’t “threaten” to sue if a threat can achieve his purpose. The “threat” to sue is one of the most dependable arrows in an attorney’s quiver. I only wish I knew the number of times I’ve been “threatened” with a lawsuit if I published a story. Only twice have they followed through with an actual lawsuit and on both occasions, I prevailed.

Another big factor in both sheriffs’ success in maintaining a death grip on their jobs is a local press that seems reluctant to take them on. The Daily Iberian has denied that is less than aggressive in covering the exploits of Ackal but readers have expressed a general lack of in-depth coverage by the paper.

Unfortunately, the threads linking Ackal and Larpenter are the rule, not the exception. Those threads are strong, they link more than just these two sheriffs and that link runs straight through the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

I have just completed the manuscript for what I feel is a revealing book about Louisiana’s sheriffs and the muscle they flex in Louisiana politics.

The working title of the book is Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption.

It will probably be about a year before the book is actually published. I will keep you abreast of the schedule as I know more.

 

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This post is almost certain to earn me an invitation to never enter Iberia Parish as long as Louis Ackal is sheriff. That’s okay. I’ve received similar invitations from other sheriffs down through the years.

But the truth is, Ackal is a menace and is quite probably the last person in Iberia Parish who should be permitted to wear a badge and to carry a gun.

He not only presides over a department that abuses inmates, but when a local citizen, an African-American, initiated a recall effort against Ackal, he ended up arrested for manslaughter in connection with a one-car accident in which he was not even involved.

On July 8, 2016, Donald Broussard was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver In Lafayette Parish who minutes later collided head-on with an 18-wheeler and was killed in adjacent Iberia Parish. Yet it was Broussard who was indicted on a charge of manslaughter by an Iberia Parish grand jury on March 19, 2017.

And more recently, Ackal has settled two lawsuits against his department—one involving the deliberate shooting of a dog, a family pet, and the other involving the death of a prisoner while handcuffed in a sheriff’s department squad car.

Four years ago, on March 3, 2014, 22-year-old Victor White III was stopped by Iberia Parish deputies. The deputies said marijuana and cocaine were found on White but who really knows? Evidence planted by unscrupulous law enforcement authorities is certainly not unprecedented. I’m not saying drugs were planted in this White’s case. He was placed in a sheriff’s department patrol car, his hands cuffed behind his back. While cuffed, deputies said, he somehow managed to get a gun and “committed suicide” by shooting himself in the back.

A coroner’s report released five months later, however, said White shot himself in the chest, a feat that would seem to defy all laws of physics. That White’s hands were never tested for gunpowder residue only served to cast further doubt on the official version of events. Still, the parish coroner, Dr. Carl Ditch, insisted White’s death was a suicide.

Lloyd Grafton, an expert retained by White family, weighed in on the evidence. Grafton, of Ruston, is a veteran of twenty-one years as a special agent for the Justice Department’s U.S. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and with the U.S. Treasury as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He also served on the Louisiana State Police Commission. Today, he serves as an expert witness in cases involving alleged excessive force by law enforcement.

He said the entry wound was more to the right side than frontal area and that the bullet exited from White’s left side. “There is no way he could have shot himself the way they (officials) described it, with his hands cuffed behind his back,” Grafton said.

On May 19, 2015, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana’s Second Congressional District, wrote a gut-wrenching three-page letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in which he requested an investigation into mistreatment to the deaths of eight people who were in the custody of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office. In his letter, he cited several suspicious incidents that occurred at the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office during Ackal’s tenure:

  • In 2008, a man alleged that a deputy beat him so badly during an arrest that he coughed up blood and then a muzzle was put over his mouth. The man later settled a suit with the Sheriff’s Office for $50,000.
  • In 2009, Michael Jones, a 43-year-old man who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died in the jail after an altercation with then-Warden Frank Ellis and then-lieutenant Wesley Hayes. This year, a judge ruled that two Sheriff’s Office employees were responsible for Jones’ death. The judgment in the case totaled $61,000.
  • In 2009, former inmate Curtis Ozenne alleged that officers began a contraband sweep by forcing him to remain in the “Muslim praying position” for nearly three hours. Mr. Ozenne alleged he was kicked in the mouth multiple times, threatened with police dogs and then his head was shaved. In his complaint, Mr. Ozenne also alleged that Sheriff Ackal threatened him with a dog and watched as an officer struck him with a baton for smiling. Mr. Ozenne’s suit against the Sheriff’s Office was later settled for $15,000.
  • In 2009, Robert Sonnier, a 62-year-old mentally ill man, died as the result of a fatal blow delivered by an IPSO Deputy in the course of a physical altercation. After Mr. Sonnier was unable to receive a psychological evaluation authorized by his wife, he was left in a wheelchair to stew in his own waste for several hours. He eventually became agitated which led to altercations with Deputies that resulted in Sonnier being pepper sprayed twice and eventually leading to the fatal blow.
  • In 2012, Marcus Robicheaux, an inmate at Iberia Parish Jail, was pulled from a wall and thrown to the ground as IPSO correctional officers ran a contraband sweep. A deputy’s dog then attacked Mr. Robicheaux, biting his legs, arms and torso, as the deputy stomped and kicked the prone inmate. The whole three-minute incident was captured on video from the jail’s surveillance cameras.

Ackal and several deputies were eventually indicted but when the judge showed up in federal court in Lafayette impaired, the case was transferred to Shreveport where, with the help of high-priced legal counsel, he was a acquitted, though several of his deputies were either convicted or copped pleas.

Federal Judge Donald E. Walter, who said he never liked sentencing those who appeared before him in court, told the deputies that they were “the worst.”

“So many law enforcement officials are out there risking their lives for little pay. All I can say is you had lousy leadership,” he said. “How sad this is for all concerned.”

Interestingly enough, the local newspaper, The Daily Iberian, reports precious little of the sheriff’s travails. Whether that is because of fear of reprisals on Ackal’s part or for other, less noble reasons is unclear. Either way, it’s a sad commentary when the local press can be cowed into submission by any politician—even one with a gun.

Take that settlement with the family of Victor White last month, for instance. As has become a disturbing trend in recent years, the terms of the settlement were sealed so the taxpayers of Iberia Parish who paid the tab will never know how much that monumental screw-up has cost them in terms not only of the settlement itself but the legal defense of Ackal and his deputies, as well.

And The Daily Iberian certainly isn’t going out of its way to learn how much the settlement was. In fact, search though you might, you won’t even find a story in The Daily Iberian about the settlement at all. Nothing. Nada. Nil. Zip. Zilch. Nary a word. Way to uphold the integrity of the Fourth Estate, guys. But if you want to do something on this story, you can check out this Lafayette television station’s WEBSITE. At least they have some inkling of what a real news story looks like.

And then there is this April 4 STORY about Ackal settling yet another lawsuit last month, this one for $75,000 after one of Ackal’s deputies shot a two-year-old Presa Canario dog after deputy Lucas Plauche’s body cam recorded him saying to the animal, “Dog, you’re about to die, you understand me? You’re about to die.” Plauche could be heard chuckling but the video ended just before he shot the dog in its owner’s yard.

Oh, and that story, by the way, ran in The Shreveport Times, nearly 200 miles north of New Iberia. Nary a word in The Daily Iberian, however.

In most cases, public bodies are insured against such liability. Not the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, however. Its liability insurance premiums increased dramatically in recent years with the increasing number of complaints that were settled and its coverage was eventually dropped.

The citizens of Iberia Parish have a right to know the total cost of suits and settlements that Ackal is responsible for. The fact that The Daily Iberian, for whatever reason, makes no effort to perform even a scintilla of investigative reporting is irrelevant. Ackal owes Iberia Parish residents an explanation.

And then he owes it to them to resign.

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Physicians Health Foundation (PHF), which for years has abetted the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners in targeting vulnerable medical practitioners in a manner reminiscent of the tactics employed by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, now finds itself in the crosshairs of State Sen. John Milkovich (D-Shreveport).

Both boards have for years flown under the radar of governors, legislators and the media but more and more, attention is being given to their near-autonomous rule by intimidation and extortion.

PHF, also known as the Healthcare Professionals’ Foundation of Louisiana (HPFL), is located on Bluebonnet Boulevard in Baton Rouge and it currently is about halfway through a three-year, $1.35 million contract with the Board of Medical Examiners to run a “Statewide Operations of Physicians Health Program.”

And, since the Board of Dentistry has been mentioned, it might be worth noting that PHF also is just over a year into a three-year, $287,000 contract with that board to “develop, create and administer the Dental Health Professional Monitoring Program.”

By its own admission in a lawsuit to be discussed later in this post, it is not a treatment facility. So, just what does PHF (or HPFL) do to earn its money?

Well, for the Board of Medical Examiners, it appears to extract huge fees from medical professionals (which includes doctors, physician assistants, podiatrists, medical psychologists, dentists and dental hygienists) who are found to have addiction problems or who the board deems to have committed other transgressions.

And since its contract with the Board of Medical Examiners includes dentists, it is unclear why there is a need for a separate $287,000 contract with the Dentistry Board.

But like the Dental Board, the Board of Medical Examiners has set itself up as accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury in investigating complaints and handing down its decisions. Again, like the Dental Board, the Board of Medical Examiners even conducts its own hearings whenever a doctor appeals one of its decisions.

And the board remains a stellar undefeated record in 20 years of reviews of its decisions that are appealed.

Which probably is the reason Sen. Milkovich feels the need for his SB 286, which would establish a Physicians’ Bill of Rights designed to protect their rights whenever they are brought under the scrutiny of the board. More about that shortly.

In addition to its ability to suspend licenses of medical professionals, the board wields a big stick in its ability to coerce licensees into signing consent agreements to enter into rehab.

And those consent agreements often come with large price tags in the form of fees and penalties. Many state regulatory boards, the Board of Medical Examiners and the Dentistry Board included, receive their budgets not from legislative appropriations but from membership fees and financial penalties assessed against members accused and convicted of violations, some of which, though minor, still carry large fines.

Doctors and other medical practitioners apparently are referred to the rehab centers by PHF (or HPFL) whose spokesperson indicated to LouisianaVoice that it has a list of approved facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, among others.

PHF’s $1.35 million contract with the Medical Board runs from Aug. 1, 2016 through July 31, 2019.

One of those rehab centers is PALMETTO Addiction Recovery Center in Rayville.

That facility became involved in a lawsuit in 2009 after one of its staff members. Dr. Douglas Wayne Cook became sexually involved with one of the center’s patients. The husband of the victim sued Cook, who is no longer with Palmetto but who does continue to have a private practice in Richland Parish.

 

Milkovich’s bill, already reported out of committee favorably, is scheduled to be brought before the entire Senate on Monday.

“Under Louisiana’s current board system, physicians often face an uneven playing field, rigged proceedings, and a stacked deck,” Milkovich said. “Licensed, dedicated and highly qualified professionals may have their licenses threatened, suspended, or revoked, based on false accusations, anonymous complaints, and spurious charges. Doctors are often administratively charged by the board without even being informed of the identity of their accusers, the evidence against them, or even the substance of the accusations brought against them. This injustice is compounded by the heavy-handed and inequitable tactics employed by some Board staff.

“We understand that there must be a fair and sound disciplinary process for physicians, to protect the public. However, the goal of board proceedings for physicians should be impartiality, fairness, and integrity—not intimidation, falsification, and inequity.

“The aim of SB 286 is to level the playing field, un-stack the deck and render the Board’s adjudication of doctors more transparent. Everyone deserves Due Process. And that includes doctors.”

The bill, according to the BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE, would require stricter communication requirements during board investigations and would require that the board provide physicians under investigation written notice of complaints within 10 days or receipt. Moreover, the bill would require that the board reveal the identity of the complainant and would prohibit ex parte communications by board members prior to a hearing on the pending investigation.

One critic of the board, Dr. Greg Stephens said criminals and terrorists receive “more due process than we give doctors.” He and his former boss, Dr. John Gianforte, said they were coerced into consenting to voluntary license suspensions and mandated substance abuse treatment without either being allowed to give their side of the story.

They were suspended following claims that Stephens allowed unqualified staff members to write and sign prescriptions in his name while serving as medical director at a clinic in Shreveport when in fact, the prescription pad was stolen by two employees and Stephens’ name forged. Gianforte said the two employees were fired and one was later charged by law enforcement authorities.

Milkovich even cited a case where a New Orleans physician practicing at Tulane Medical Center committed suicide last November. His license was summarily suspended in June following an investigation but was reinstated in October. By then, however, the doctor had lost privileges, positions and future opportunities as a result of the investigation, the senator said.

In another case, the family of another doctor filed suit against PFL when the doctor, informed that he had had tested positive for drug use, committed suicide a few hours later. The doctor’s family was told by PFL that its programs and personnel had statutorily qualified immunity from legal liability regarding their activities and that they were further protected by a release and a hold-harmless agreement with the Physicians Health Program.

RAMEY V. DECAIRE

PHF was successful in getting the Louisiana Supreme Court to rule that it was exempt under the peremptory exception of no cause of action and the family’s lawsuit was dismissed. PHF, apparently not satisfied with merely winning, then went after the family for legal sanctions, claiming their suit was frivolous and without reasonable good faith. The trial court denied PHF’s motion and PHF appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the trial court and assessed costs against PHF.

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That’s right folks.

Almost two years after being asked to investigate the rape of a 17-year-old girl in the Union Parish jail by a man already convicted of aggravated rape and awaiting sentencing, Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office finally took its case before a Union Parish grand jury.

And guess what?

The grand jury, after reviewing all the evidence provided by Landry’s office, declined to indict Demarcus Shavez Peyton of Homer.

Te refresh you memory, Peyton was awaiting sentencing after being convicted of aggravated rape in a separate case in nearby Claiborne Parish. He was allowed to leave his jail cell and to enter the cell of the 17-year-old, who was being detained after being picked up on meth charges. Peyton was said to have raped the girl not once, but twice

Because the Union Parish Detention Center is run by a commission comprised of the sheriff, the district attorney and several area mayors, the district attorney, rightly claiming a conflict of interest, asked Landry to investigate the matter.

So Landry’s office was handed an investigation of:

  • A rape that occurred at a time, date and location known to investigators;
  • Allegedly committed by a person known to investigators;
  • Committed against a victim also known to investigators.

Yet, the attorney general somehow was unable to build a case against Peyton despite the presence of a witness who said he also was allowed into the victim’s cell with the intent of sexually assaulting her but departed without doing so.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see how the civil suit filed by the victim plays out. While criminal convictions call for proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, a civil suit need only show a preponderance of the evidence. An illustration of that is the exoneration of O.J. Simpson on the criminal charges of murdering his wife and Ron Goldman but Goldman’s parents then sued Simpson in civil court and won.

Meanwhile, several questions immediately come to mind regarding the AG’s investigation and the presentation of evidence to the grand jury:

  • Was a rape kit was used by investigators?
  • Was the rape victim interviewed?
  • Was the witness interviewed? Apparently he was, since he admitted that he initially intended to participate.
  • Were DNA samples collected?

We probably will never know the answers to these questions because contrary to Landry’s penchant for issuing glowing press releases to trumpet his wonderful work on behalf of law and order and the American way, his press office was strangely mute on this matter. No press releases this time, thank you very much.

Oh, there was one email response to the Farmerville newspaper editor’s inquiry from Landry’s press secretary that said, “…at a hearing on March 15, members of a grand jury in the 3rd Judicial District were given an opportunity to review all the evidence we had in this matter. After our presentation, the grand jury determined that no formal charges should be filed. While we must respect the grand jury’s decision, it is important to note that our office stands ready to act should new credible evidence arise.”

Well, that’s certainly reassuring.

No effort was made to so inform LouisianaVoice  which, for 18 months, has dogged Landry’s office for updates on the investigation. We were always told that the investigation was ongoing and that no details could be released.

Of course, when details could be released, the attorney general’s office was strangely quiet. But then, we never really expected Landry to go out of his way to keep us in the loop.

But now that the investigation is over and the matter is closed, there’s no reason for Landry’s office to continue to withhold details of his office’s investigation. Accordingly, LouisianaVoice will be making an official public records request for the AG’s file on the investigation.

And now we can turn our attention to another “ongoing investigation” by Landry’s office—one that a lot of people in Baton Rouge will be watching and one which has a much higher profile.

More than 10 months ago Landry’s office was asked to investigate the shooting of a Baton Rouge black man, Alton Sterling, by Baton Rouge police. Landry appears to be dragging his heels on that probe as well and there is growing pressure from the black community to announce his findings. Their voices are considerably louder than that of a young girl raped in a lonely north Louisiana jail cell.

If that Union Parish “investigation” is any indication….

 

 

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