Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

A couple of weeks ago, LouisianaVoice revealed that convicted Ponzi scheme operator Steven Hoffenberg had established a super PAC for the benefit of Donald Trump and had pledged $50 million of his own money to the effort to raise $1 billion on behalf of the presumed Republican nominee. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/21/operator-of-1990s-ponzi-scheme-outed-by-ruston-newspaper-re-surfaces-quarter-century-later-as-major-trump-fund-raiser/

Many north Louisiana residents were victimized by his scam before John Hays and his Morning Paper in Ruston outed Hoffenberg for what he was—a snake oil salesman. Now he’s out of jail and his story just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser as we plunge deeper into that rabbit hole.

Hoffenberg, who bilked investors out of about $475 million, the largest Ponzi scheme on record at the time B.B.M. (before Bernie Madoff), appears to have made a strong rebound and the cast of players also has expanded to include his former high-rolling business partner, child trafficking, a “Christian” credit card scheme, movie stars, a prince, and Bill Clinton.

LouisianaVoice has since learned that though he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and ordered to make restitution, he has repaid only about $200 million to investors whose savings he wiped out. He even claimed in 1996 that he was too destitute to post $100,000 bail.

So how is it that after serving 18 years of that sentence, he (a) now has $50 million to toss at Trump and (b) why haven’t authorities ordered that money to go into a pool to repay investors?

As with most questions of a rhetorical nature, there are no clear-cut answers. There is no black or white, only varying shades of gray. Facts, accusations and outright lies become so intertwined that it becomes virtually impossible to separate one from another in trying to make sense of it all.

If you listen to Hoffenberg today, you get the idea he is doing his dead-level best to make his investors whole, a seemingly benevolent gesture to be sure. Incredibly, he still heads Towers Investors, the company through which he ran his Ponzi scheme from the late 1970s until 1993. The corporation’s Web page includes this MESSAGE:

Today, that same Web site attempts to shift the blame for the bilking of 200,000 individuals of their savings to fellow wealthy Wall Street prodigy Jeffrey Epstein who Hoffenberg now says is the one who ran the pyramid scheme through his Towers Investors company.

Typically, Hoffenberg says on his Web page that “authorities figured out what was happening” with his gigantic scam. It seems he still cannot bring himself to admit that a small town newspaper publisher was the one who “figured out” what was going on and ultimately was the one who brought the scheme crashing down, sending Hoffenberg to a federal lockup for 18 years in the process. Hays, as we pointed out in our story last month, won awards for his work on the story and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

So who is Jeffrey Epstein and how does he figure in the Hoffenberg-Trump-Clinton saga? A former school teacher, he worked for six years at the Wall Street banking firm Bear Stearns before launching his own financial investing firm in 1982.

The London Daily Mail on May 29, published an exclusive story that detailed the complicated partnership between Epstein and Hoffenberg, Hoffenberg’s $1 billion lawsuit that accuses Epstein of running the Ponzi scheme through Hoffenberg’s company, Towers Financial Corporation.

When Hoffenberg was first charged, prosecutors tried to offer him a reduced sentence in exchange for information about Epstein and his part in the scam but Hoffenberg refused at the time to cooperate.

Epstein, meanwhile, continued to live large. He owns a luxury townhouse in Manhattan, an $11 million mansion in Pam Beach, Florida, and a private island in the Virgin Islands. He current resides in the Virgin Islands, according to the Florida sex offenders’ registry.

Sex registry? Just when you think this story couldn’t get any more salacious, it does.

In unrelated legal action, two unidentified women are claiming they were sexually abused by Epstein in the early 2000s when they were teens. They said he made them into sex slaves and passed them on to his friends. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/broward/article5342709.html

In 2008, Epstein was accused of sending staff members to recruit underage high school girls in West Pam Beach to travel to his mansion to provide massages and sex. His legal defense team included Alan Derchowitz, Roy Black and Kenneth Starr. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/03/25/jeffrey-epstein-how-the-billionaire-pedophile-got-off-easy.html

Starr became a household name with his report that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Starr would then go on to become head of Baylor University but ironically was forced to step down over his handling of a sex scandal at the Baptist school that also brought down the school’s football coach. Black is best known as the attorney who defended William Kennedy Smith against rape charges in Palm Beach.

The three lawyers negotiated the deal of the century, prompting speculation that Epstein benefitted from his high-level social and political contacts. Those included actors Kevin Spacey, Chris Tucker and Woody Allen, Prince Andrew, and Bill Clinton, who used Epstein’s Boeing 727, The Lolita Express, on at least two dozen occasions. http://www.dailywire.com/news/5749/both-trump-and-clinton-went-jeffrey-epsteins-sex-amanda-prestigiacomo

Not even a prestigious publication like Newsweek could resist the temptation of covering the Epstein-Clinton-Prince Andrew connection in January 2015. http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/06/sex-offender-who-mixes-princes-and-premiers-302877.html

Epstein’s 2008 plea agreement revealed that prosecutors suspected him of abusing up to 40 underage girls but gave him a secret plea bargain in lieu of prosecuting him. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3364381/Notorious-billionaire-pedophile-ex-bestie-Prince-Andrew-Jeffrey-Epstein-hugs-squeezes-bum-one-young-blonde-escapes-New-York-Caribbean-holiday-beauty.html

As a sidebar to all this sleazy mess, Law Newz, an online legal news service, reported on Monday (July 4) that Trump himself is accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Epstein’s presence in 1994.

In the Doe v. Donald J. Trump federal civil case, a witness statement is attached to the lawsuit in which the alleged witness claims to have “personally witnessed the plaintiff being forced to perform various sexual acts with Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were advised that she was 13 years old.”

The witness statement went on to say, “I personally witnessed four sexual encounters that the plaintiff was forced to have with Mr. Trump during this period, including the fourth of these encounters where Mr. Trump forcibly raped her despite her pleas to stop.” http://lawnewz.com/celebrity/why-isnt-anyone-paying-attention-to-the-sexual-assault-lawsuit-against-trump/

Of course, so-called witnesses can—and often do—say things under oath that are far removed from the truth. LouisianaVoice is in no position to authenticate or refute the claims but the fact that they are now part of court record gives them added significance. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3564767/Donald-Trump-furiously-denies-woman-s-claims-raped-tycoon-billionaire-pedophile-Jeffrey-Epstein-s-sex-parties.html

Thrown into the mix of this bizarre story is Hoffenberg’s latest scheme, the “Christ Card,” a special “Christian” credit card being peddled to churches across the U.S. “The Christ Card holders have the benefit of gaining discounts in all of their purchases under the walk in grace serving out Lord Jesus Christ as customers and as our partners in faith, in our Christ Card family,” says Hoffenberg’s pitch on his Towers Investors Group Web page. http://towersinvestors.com/portfolio-view/christ-card/

Hoffenberg claims to have been converted to Christianity while serving time for cheating investors and now he’s pushing an idea that has spawned numerous scams—Christian debt. This, of course, is not say his promotion is another scam but he does have the pedigree as one who preys on others’ and as one ready, willing and able to lighten unsuspecting victims’ wallets.

He claims to have already completed the negotiation phase for the marketing of the card to more than 700,000 registered Christian churches in the U.S., according to another Web page of WHAM, Inc. http://whaminc.us/investor-questions-wham-answers

That number dwarfs the number of investor he bilked with his Ponzi scheme back in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. In WHAM’s post of only three weeks ago, Hoffenberg was quoted as saying, “Towers Investors/ WHAM INC Steven Hoffenberg anticipate completion and delivery of the Christ Credit Card to the end users within the next 90 days. This multi-year endeavor by Steven Hoffenberg will change the entire financial picture for WHAM investors.” http://whaminc.us/

So what is WHAM, Inc. and how does it figure in all of this? Well, according to Globe Newswire’s Web posting of Feb. 8, 2016, WHAM acquired 100 percent of all stock owned by Hoffenberg’s New York Post Publishing (not to be confused with Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, previously run briefly by Hoffenberg—got it?), Christ Credit and the trademarks of Christ Donations, Christ Faith Card com., and a few other enterprises run by Hoffenberg—including the “billions of dollars in the Jeffrey Epstein contract with Towers investor victims.” Epstein, the Globe Newswire post says, was Hoffenberg’s “best friend and former partner.” https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/02/08/808616/0/en/Additional-Details-Regarding-WHAM-INC-Collection-of-Jeffrey-Epstein-s-Billions-for-the-Towers-Investor-Victims.html

But given the Hoffenberg-Epstein relationship, the Epstein-Clinton ties, and the Hoffenberg-Trump connection (Hoffenberg’s latest marriage to his publishing company president was performed just outside Trump Towers where Hoffenberg maintains his offices), we can’t help be intrigued at this sordid story.


The Hoffenberg wedding party outside Trump Towers (from left to right: Associate Publisher of Post Publishing Flo Anthony, Post Publisher and the new Mrs. Hoffenberg, Maria Santiago, Hoffenberg, best man Steven Jude, pastor Copper Cunningham, and video photographer, identity unknown).

And given that Hoffenberg was first ratted out for swindling Louisiana residents by a north Louisiana publisher, we feel it newsworthy to monitor developments in these interconnected stories as they occur.

And whether subsequent events adversely affect any Republicans or Democrats who might be stupid enough to be caught up in this tangled web of deceit is immaterial to us. Any association with Hoffenberg or Epstein—either by Trump or the Clintons—cannot possible be in the best interests of the average American citizen.

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An important legal breakthrough for anyone in Ouachita and Morehouse parishes facing prosecution for drugs and/or weapons charges: your charges will be dismissed if you sweat.

So says no less an authority than 4th Judicial District Attorney Jerry L. Jones.

According to Jones, if you are a grave digger, a landscaper, bricklayer, carpenter, roofer, highway construction worker, or anyone involved in a myriad of occupations and endeavors that result in your exposure to sun and sweat, you are good to go with illegal weapons or the drug of your choice.

Hell, even if you’re a jogger, a tennis player, or an Alabama Crimson Tide football player, you get a free pass on drugs and weapons charges. Like fishing in the hot sun? Grilling out on July 4 is certain to get those sweat pores working overtime. But don’t worry. By the newly defined legal standards of the 4th JDC District Attorney’s office, sweat is like a Get Out of Jail Free card in the real-live game of Monopoly.

Did you break a sweat trying to chase the garbage collector down the street in your robe because you were a little late taking out the trash? Don’t worry about it. Both you and the garbage collector are good to go; you’re both outside, working up a sweat while Jones is in his air-conditioned office. Light up, wave that gun around, do a line. Together. Jones won’t prosecute. He said so himself.

This is the logic Jones himself expressed in dismissing charges against two Alabama football players who happen to call the Monroe area home.

All-Southeastern Conference offensive tackle Cam Robinson of West Monroe and reserve defensive back Laurence “Hootie” Jones of Monroe were arrested after a Monroe police officer smelled marijuana coming from their parked car in a closed public park. The officer spotted a handgun in Jones’ lap. A search of the car produced marijuana and a handgun that had been reported stolen in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Baldwin County is immediately east of Mobile County and includes the cities of Gulf Shores, Foley, Loxley and Orange Beach.

Prosecutor Neal Johnson of the DA’s office first said there was insufficient evidence in court documents to proceed with charges. Hence, there would be no grand jury and no bill of information from the DA’s office. http://sports.yahoo.com/news/somehow–bizarre-and-clumsy-handling-of-alabama-players-could-be-justice-001548496-ncaaf.html

Had Jones let it go at that, the decision not to prosecute probably would have received little attention. After all, who better to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial than prosecutors themselves?

But Jones, inflicted with a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth, just couldn’t shut up when shutting up would have been the prudent path to follow.

“I want to emphasize once again,” he told KNOE-TV in Monroe, “that the main reason I’m doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years working and sweating while we were all in the air conditioning.” (Emphasis added). http://theadvocate.com/news/16165207-65/report-da-drops-drug-weapons-charges-against-alabama-football-players-louisiana-natives-cam-robinson

So there you have it. You work and sweat and Jones will look the other way. Hell, you might even be allowed to rob a bank except that’s a federal offense over which Jones has no authority. So, instead, go knock over a convenience store. Just make sure you’re sweating when you do so.

Unanswered (unasked, actually) was the obvious question: How many persons has Jones prosecuted on similar drugs and weapons charges who did not happen to be members of a big-time collegiate football program?

How many non-football-playing black kids from Monroe’s low-income, unemployed population are housed in the Ouachita Correctional Center for the sin of being caught with a single marijuana cigarette?

Well, an Internet post on the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Web page in August 2012 lists the results of the Ouachita Parish Task Force seizures:

  • 4 ounces of marijuana;
  • 13 marijuana cigarettes;
  • 60 one-eighth-ounce bags of marijuana;
  • Three quarter-ounce bags of marijuana;

Just last week, A West Monroe man (gasp) drove through a private parking lot to avoid a stop sign. He gave officers his consent to search his backpack and a vitamin bottle was found to contain “one to two grams” of marijuana and a marijuana smoking pipe. He was booked into the correctional center.


In 2014, Bernard Noble, 48, was sentenced to 13 years of hard labor for possession of the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes. Neither Noble nor the West Monroe man played football and probably did not sweat until they were arrested. http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2014/04/louisianan-given-13-year-prison-sentence-possession-two-marijuana-cigarettes

We stumbled across an online report that admittedly, is rather dated but interesting nonetheless. In 2007, there were 18,535 arrests for marijuana offenses in Louisiana. That represents an arrest rate of 432 per 100,000, which ranks Louisiana at number 5 in the nation.


(We have to keep those private prisons occupied for their owners somehow.)

While we’re in no position to challenge Johnson’s contention of insufficient evidence, Jones’s justification for not prosecuting the two is certainly sufficient reason for demanding his resignation and disbarment. No one, not even an idiot like Jones, should be able to use sweat as a barometer for deciding whether or not to enforce the law with a blind eye to social status or celebrity.

In the case of Jones and the 4th JDC District Attorney’s office, justice isn’t blind; it’s stoned—stoned on the deranged notion that certain among us are above the law.


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Sometimes you just have to wonder what thought process is employed in the making of incredibly bad decisions.

Take, for example, recent events at the Union Parish Detention Center in Farmerville.

What transpired there in mid-April is incompetence at best and criminal at worst.

The Ruston Daily Leader reported on Tuesday, May 3, that a convicted rapist was admitted into an isolation cell where a 17-year-old girl thought to be high on meth was being held and that he raped the girl twice.

Demarcus Shavez Peyton, 28, of Homer, is being held in the detention center until his scheduled sentencing in Claiborne Parish after his conviction of aggravated rape in that parish.

Union Parish deputies confirmed that the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office had told them that Peyton is known as a serial rapist and that he had been convicted of aggravated rape.

Yet, on April 19, he was allowed inside an isolation cell with the teen after she was booked into the detention center, reportedly high on meth.

An arrest affidavit reported that Peyton admitted to authorities that a detention center staff member opened the isolation cell door for him to enter and again when he was ready to leave. He further admitted to twice having sex with the victim while inside the cell.

A detention center nurse confirmed that the girl was under the influence of meth both at the time of her arrest and when she was raped. And while the victim said she could not remember much of the incident because of the meth influence, she did say that at one time during the encounter, a female guard walked up to the cell and opened the door but did nothing. She said she did not cry out for fear of her life.

As if all that were not egregious enough, Union Parish detectives said that Peyton wrote a letter to the victim following the rape telling her that she could possibly be carrying his child.

The name of the detention center staffer who allowed Peyton into the isolation cell with the girl was not immediately provided.

The Union Parish Detention Center is a public-run facility overseen by an operation committee composed of District Attorney John Belton, Union Parish Sheriff Dusty Gates, the Union Parish Police Jury and the Farmerville Police Chief.

No employee of the sheriff’s office or the district attorney is involved in the day-to-day operations of the jail, the Daily Leader quoted officials as saying.

While this is old news in the strictest terms of current events, this entire episode warrants a thorough investigation—and not just by the local DA and the sheriff’s office. This is an inexcusable tragedy that should be investigated by the Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office.

Normally, the attorney general does not intervene in local matters but because the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s office is one of those charged with oversight of the detention center, Belton’s office should recuse itself from the investigation immediately—as should the sheriff’s office—and an outside investigation initiated.

This is far too serious a screw-up to be left to local officials. It would amount to their investigating themselves.

One issue not addressed by local media is the existence or non-existence of video surveillance cameras. There should certainly be surveillance cameras in place that might reveal who the detention staff member was who opened the door to the isolation cell to allow Peyton access to the helpless teenager. Surveillance video might even show if that person stood by the door until Peyton was ready to exit. Video, if it exists, should also reveal the identity of the female staffer who opened the cell door during the assault but did nothing. Was it the same person who allowed Peyton into the cell?

Too many questions to be left to the locals. It was a local screw-up of monumental proportions that screams out for an independent investigation.

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As much as we would love to take credit, the three-count federal indictment of Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy was in the works long before our initial story on March 2. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/02/iberia-sheriff-burning-hotter-than-tobasco-on-a-fever-blister-after-beatings-deaths-political-payoffs-fight-with-reporters/

Our story, after all, was about one incident, that god-awful video of the deputy beating a prisoner and then turning a vicious dog loose on the man as he lay on the floor helpless to defend himself.

There were others, in the prison chapel, of all places, because there were no video surveillance there.

If the charges contained in the grand jury indictment are true, Ackal would have to be considered something of a sadist with a penchant for meting out—or at least condoning—particularly harsh punishment to black prisoners. http://www.katc.com/story/31430512/iberia-sheriff-indicted-for-their-parts-i

In a related issue, Roberta Boudreaux has yet to receive a response from the Louisiana Board of Ethics over her official complaint against Ackal. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/03/between-beating-guilty-pleas-sexual-harassment-lawsuit-and-ethics-complaint-iberia-sheriff-louis-ackal-has-his-plate-full/

Ackal defeated Boudreaux in the general election last November after giving a job to the third place finisher who subsequently endorsed him for re-election—the second consecutive election in which he hired the third place finisher in exchange for an endorsement in the general election. Giving anything of value in exchange for a political endorsement is against state law.

Boudreaux, contacted by LouisianaVoice, said it has been 60 days since she lodged the ethics complaint but the commission has been strangely silent in its response. That apparently is the legacy left us in Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard of ethics” about which he was so quick to boast in his ludicrous quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

“This is a sad day for law enforcement and for Iberia Parish,” Boudreaux said, adding that it was her understanding that there will be “more to follow” she said, adding, “I just hope the good guys at the department stick around.”

LouisianaVoice will continue to monitor the Ethics Commission to determine if it is actually staffed by warm bodies or Jindalesque see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkeys.

But back to the INDICTMENT, which brings to 10 current and former Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office (IPSO) employees who have been charged in the federal investigation of the department.

It was the plan and purpose of the conspiracy that Ackal, deputies and supervisors “would punish and retaliate against inmates and pre-trial detainees by taking them to the chapel of the (Iberia Parish Jail), where there were no video surveillance cameras, to unlawfully assault them,” the indictment said. “It was further part of the agreement that the officers and supervisors who witnessed these unlawful assaults would not intervene to stop them.”

The document charged that deputy Byron Lassalle, “understanding that Ackal wanted him to assault the detainee to retaliate against him for (a) lewd comment, Lassalle, in the presence of Ackal and Savoy, asked (Wesley) Hayes where there was a place at the jail without cameras, and Hayes responded, ‘the chapel.’”

The indictment said while the prisoner was being hit “multiple times with a baton, he “was compliant and not posing a threat to anyone” and no officer in the chapel attempted to stop “the unlawful assault.”

It said that up learning another prisoner was in jail for a sex offense, “Lassalle took his baton, held it between his own legs as if it were a penis, and forced it into (the prisoner’s) mouth,” causing him to choke.

As first and then another prisoner, while being beaten, blamed the lewd comment on someone else, deputies would bring the newest accused into the chapel to be beaten, apparently without making any real effort to determine who actually made the comment. In short, punishment, not seeking the truth, seemed to be the top priority.

If convicted, Ackal and Savoy could face up to 10 years in prison, plus fines of $250,000 for each count.

As further evidence of the complete deterioration of law and order in Iberia Parish, LouisianaVoice has obtained additional documents that show unrestrained lawlessness on the part of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

In that case, which will be laid out in greater detail in a future post, LouisianaVoice will chronicle how deputies not only raided the home of an Iberia Parish Teach of the Year on the basis of an informant who was paid $45 by a deputy, but one of the deputies later pleaded guilty to stealing jewelry, a gun, money, and knives from the teacher’s home during the raid.

In perhaps the most implausible thing to come out of that raid was a list of evidence found in the teacher’s home that included “counterfeit five dollar bills,” prompting a retired state police officer to simply shake his head in disbelief. “Who makes counterfeit five dollar bills?” he asked rhetorically. “I’ve never seen counterfeit bills in denominations smaller than twenties.”

There is probably no more interesting sight than seeing the expression on one’s face the moment he realizes he is wrong. That look most surely crossed the face of the district attorney at some point in time.

The raid and the ensuing charges against the teacher, which cost him his job, are so egregious in nature that the district attorney’s office has offered him the opportunity to plea to a misdemeanor with no jail time, no probation, and complete expungement of his record. No such deal would ever be offered if prosecutors weren’t fully aware they had laid an egg.

The significance of that move was not lost on the teacher, Darius Sias, who has a civil lawsuit pending against the sheriff’s office. He rolled the dice in turning down the plea offer so that he could pursue his civil suit. “I want to go to trial on this,” he said.

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Though it is probably far too late, Louis Ackal would be wise to take the advice of an adage steeped in indisputable wisdom of the ages.

The sheriff of Iberia Parish, however, apparently has never heard the expression attributed to a host of well-known politicians, amateur philosophers and gifted writers: “Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

We’ll get to Ackal momentarily, but first a little background on that famous quote.

Mark Twain didn’t say it, though he is often cited as the one who coined the phrase. Neither was the quote original with publicist William Greener, Jr., as quoted in the September 28, 1978, Wall Street Journal.

The phrase of uncertain origin has also been attributed to the late Louisiana Congressman F. Edward Hebert, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1941 to 1977. A former newspaper reporter and editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Hebert, who died in 1979, covered the Louisiana Hayride scandals of 1939 that led to the convictions of Gov. Richard Leche and LSU President James Monroe Smith. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Edward_H%C3%A9bert

Hebert, according to legend, added to the phrase when he said, “I never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the trainload.” (Emphasis added.)

The quote was intended to illustrate just how futile it is to pick a fight with a crusading newspaper. Some clarification is needed here for our younger readers: the term crusading newspaper is passé, long gone from the vernacular used to describe the style of journalism depicted in the classic movies The Front Page (the 1931 original starring Pat O’Brien and Mae Clark or the 1974 remake starring Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Susan Sarandon, Charles Durning, and Carol Burnett); 1940’s His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy; or of course, All the President’s Men, the 1976 movie about Watergate and the fall of Richard Nixon, starring Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards, Jack Warden, Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Ned Beatty and Jane Alexander.

No, sadly, those days are long gone. Newspapers have felt the impact of the perfect storm of shrinking ad revenue and declining circulation along with waning influence as reflected in inverse proportion to the explosion of the Internet and the fourth estate. Once the epitome of independence, newspapers now find themselves subjected more to corporate pressure than to any need to inform its readership. The same gots for television news, of course, only if anything, to an even greater degree.

That famous and once chillingly accurate phrase could now be replaced by any one of several similar but equally relevant versions currently floating around out there in cyberspace:

  • Never pick a fight with someone who buys their bandwidth by the gigabyte.
  • Never pick a fight with someone who has a camera and a Twitter following.
  • Never pick a fight with someone who knows how to use the Internet better than you.
  • Never pick a fight with someone who has access to Google to prove you wrong immediately.
  • Never pick a fight with someone when your own video cameras or those of witnesses may contradict you.

To those might be added another pearl of wisdom: Never underestimate the intelligence of your constituency (the emergence of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz notwithstanding).

Ackal previously served as a Louisiana State Trooper where he served for awhile as a captain and Commander of Troop I. He retired abruptly in 1984 after being placed in charge of the narcotics squad of Region II which covered all of Southwest Louisiana.

He later resurfaced as a private investigator before running for High Sheriff of Iberia Parish in 2007. Now, not even four months from winning re-election sheriff, he seems not to have absorbed an iota of any of that advice about picking quarrels with those possessing generous supplies of ink and paper—and online access.

Even before he beat challenger Roberta Boudreaux last November in a runoff election, Ackal was already fighting a public relations disaster that culminated in his choosing to pick a fight with the Acadiana Advocate, sister publication of the Baton Rouge Advocate.

In March of 2014, a 22-year-old black man, Victor White, III, died after being shot while handcuffed in a sheriff’s department patrol car. Deputies said he pulled the gun and fired one round, striking himself in the back. The Iberia Parish coroner, however, ruled he was shot in the chest, immediately raising the question of how he could shoot himself in the chest with his hands handcuffed behind his back. The Iberia Parish district attorney, following a State Police report that the wound was self-inflicted, has declined to pursue criminal charges against deputies. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/da-charges-handcuffed-man-police-car-shooting_us_56b8f75de4b08069c7a8548b

The U.S. Attorney’s office likewise concluded an investigation of more than a year with the announcement that it would not pursue charges against the sheriff’s office. http://www.iberianet.com/news/feds-no-charges/article_087eda70-9e8f-11e5-a1e6-03aa54a2fd19.html

None of those findings, however, kept the Advocate group from publishing a May 6, 2015, story revealing that eight prisoners had died in Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office custody over a 10-year period. http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/12248374-123/8-die-in-custody-of

The family of one of the victims, Robert Sonnier, settled its resulting lawsuit with the sheriff for $450,900 and the family of Michael Jones was awarded $61,000 in his wrongful death. There were other incidents, all of which prompted U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond’s May 19, 2015 LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL LORETTA LYNCH requesting an investigation “into alleged civil rights violations of members of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.”

Moreover, incriminating video of beatings of and dog attacks on prisoners were reported on by the Acadiana Advocate https://photographyisnotacrime.com/2015/05/04/disturbing-video-surfaces-highlighting-pattern-of-abuse-and-death-in-louisiana-jail/

Easy to see why Ackal may not be too enamored with the Acadiana Advocate, but to declare the paper and its reporters as “persona non grata” is foolish at best. http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/13886833-37/iberia-sheriff-mum-on-salary

It’s a war he can’t possibly win. As much adverse publicity as LouisianaVoice has given to the Louisiana State Police administration, Superintendent Mike Edmonson has never gone that far.

But, as those cheesy late-night TV commercials say: wait, there’s more.

First, there was his re-election campaign last fall.

He nearly won in the first primary, pulling in 47 percent of the vote. Parish Jail Warden Roberta Boudreaux got 25 percent and Spike Boudoin received 18 percent. Joe LeBlanc and Bobby Jackson won 7 and 3 percent, respectively.

That was on Oct. 24. On Oct 30, just six days later, Ackal hired Boudoin as something called director of community relations at a salary of $50,658 a year. http://theadvocate.com/news/14013818-123/iberia-sheriff-to-pay-defeated

Coincidentally, Boudoin announced at the same time his endorsement of Ackal in the runoff against Boudreaux. But other than the distribution of a news release announcing Boudoin’s hiring, Ackal said he would not entertain questions about the newly-created position.

Ackal won the runoff election on Nov. 21, receiving 56 percent of the vote against Boudreaux’s 44 percent.

To Jackson, it was déjà vu all over again. In 2007, he finished third with 11 percent of the vote behind Ackal and David Landry, both of whom got 42 percent. LeBlanc, who also ran in 2007, got the remaining 5 percent. After that primary, Jackson endorsed Ackal and was rewarded with a job as intelligence analyst, a role he had held in the U.S. Army. The difference with the sheriff’s department was he was denied working space, equipment and any direction as to his duties, all while being paid. He quit in disgust after little more than two months walking around “with my thumb in my rear,” he said, adding that he now sees “history repeating itself.”

Public servants are prohibited from using their positions to “compel or coerce any person or other public servant to engage in political activity,” according to the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics. Political activity is defined, in part, as “an effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office in an election.”

It is also illegal for anyone to give money or anything of value “to any person who has withdrawn or who was eliminated prior or subsequent to the primary election as a candidate for public office, for the purpose of securing or giving his political support to any remaining candidate or candidates for public office in the primary or general election.” (Emphasis added.)

Robert Travis Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, told the Acadiana Advocate that Ackal’s simultaneous hiring and endorsement raises questions of whether taxpayer money, i.e. Boudoin’s salary, was used to secure an endorsement.

Tomorrow: ethics complaint, sexual harassment lawsuit and guilty pleas over beatings and dog attacks are beginning to clutter embattled Louis Ackal’s desk.

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