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Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

If you ever decide to step out of your routine and launch a search for the poster child for corruption within the Louisiana justice system, you might wish to begin your search in New Orleans.

It will be a short but successful search. Guaranteed.

Without delving too far into Orleans Parish’s sordid history, there was the removal of U.S. District Judge G. THOMAS PORTEOUS JR. by the U.S. Senate in 2010 and four more judges got themselves caught up in the FBI OPERATION WRINKLED ROBE in adjacent Jefferson Parish back in 2003.

Corrupt judges are bad enough but after three straight administration changes, it appears the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office still can’t get its act together.

The most egregious was the late Harry Connick, Sr., HARRY CONNICK, SR., who earned a well-deserved national reputation for consistently withhold exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated defendants he sent to Angola for extended prison terms—one of whom spent 18 years on death row before the discovery of withheld evidence finally freed him.

He was followed by the derby-wearing Eddie Jordan, who previously served on the federal prosecuting team that won a conviction of former Gov. Edwin Edwards.

The first hint that things were a bit askew was when Jordan, a black, began handing out pink slips to white employees who saw red and sued in federal court, ultimately winning a major reverse discrimination DECISION in 2005. That, along with a somewhat bizarre story of a robbery suspect who showed up at Jordan’s HOME in October 2007, finally forced him to RESIGN from office only a week later.

Then, on July 14, LouisianaVoice received this otherwise benign press release from Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary James M. LeBlanc:

Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame Announces 2017 Honorees

Inductees to be honored today during ceremonies

BATON ROUGE, La. –  Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary James M. Le Blanc, Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Darrell Vannoy, and the Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation are proud to announce the following highly distinguished individuals as 2017 inductees to the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame:

  • The Honorable Dennis R. Bagneris, Sr., 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, Retired, New Orleans
  • The Honorable Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr., District Attorney, New Orleans
  • The Honorable Jimmy N Dimos, 4th Judicial District Judge, Retired, Monroe
  • Sheriff Marlin N. Gusman, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office
  • Major General Bennett C. Landreneau, Retired, Alexandria
  • The Honorable Marc H. Morial, President & CEO of The National Urban League
  • Sheriff Newell Norman, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office
  • Rabbi Arnold S. Task, Alexandria

The new inductees will be honored and inducted into the Hall of Fame today during ceremonies at the Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum and at LSU’s Lod Cook Alumni Center. The Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum is proud home to the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame.

Okay, what’s wrong with that, you ask?

Not much except that the Southern Poverty Law Center has just filed a 61-page official COMPLAINT against Cannizzaro with the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel in Baton Rouge following an excellent series of investigative stories in The Lens, a non-profit New Orleans watchdog online news service.

The basis for the complaint—and of The Lens stories—was the routine issuance of non-legal subpoenas intended to intimidate subjects to report to the district attorney’s office to answer questions by prosecutors. Those subpoenaed were not necessarily suspected of any wrongdoing.

The fake subpoenas were not signed by a judge, a requirement under law to make the subpoena legal and enforceable. Instead, they were issued as ploys to intimidate those served into coming into the DA’s office.

http://thelensnola.org/2017/04/28/woman-who-got-fake-subpoena-from-orleans-parish-da-said-she-was-told-she-could-be-jailed-if-she-ignored-it/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/06/14/new-orleans-prosecutor-used-fake-subpoena-to-seek-arrest-warrant-for-victim-of-alleged-domestic-violence/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/05/03/will-prosecutors-who-sent-fake-subpoenas-face-any-consequences/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/05/05/da-we-cant-say-how-often-fake-subpoenas-are-used-and-its-too-hard-to-look/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/05/12/orleans-parish-da-sued-over-refusal-to-turn-over-witness-subpoenas-real-and-fake/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/05/15/the-lens-is-suing-orleans-parish-da-leon-cannizzaro-to-force-him-to-turn-over-fake-subpoenas/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/05/19/notices-sent-to-witnesses-on-north-shore-werent-called-subpoenas-but-they-looked-real-enough/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/06/14/new-orleans-prosecutor-used-fake-subpoena-to-seek-arrest-warrant-for-victim-of-alleged-domestic-violence/

http://thelensnola.org/2017/05/22/defense-attorney-asks-judge-to-force-orleans-parish-district-attorney-to-disclose-whether-it-used-fake-subpoenas-in-home-invasion-case/

On July 11, an Orleans Parish JUDGE ordered the DA’s office to provide the ACLU complete records related to its use of fake subpoenas.

But apparently, the practice has bled over into adjacent JEFFERSON PARISH, where fake subpoenas are also reportedly being issued.

So while Donald Stumped and his shrinking army of unquestioning loyalists fret and fume over so-called fake news, there is the very real issue of fake subpoenas being used by those charged with upholding the Constitution of the United States to trample on the rights of its citizens.

Leon Cannizzaro attended and graduated from law school. We know that because you must be a licensed attorney to be a district attorney.

By virtue of that law degree (a juris doctorate, we assume), he is fully aware that a subpoena, to be legal, must be issued by a court, i.e., signed by a judge.

He also must be aware that the actions of his office, for which he must take full responsibility, were blatantly illegal, unconstitutional, unethical and immoral—and that the practice casts a long shadow of doubt as to the credibility and legal ethics of yet another Orleans Parish district attorney.

Unless, of course, he was absent on subpoena and/or legal ethics days.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said it best in its complaint in such a succinct manner that it bears repeating:

  • Subpoenas are, by definition, orders issued by a court.
  • By law, district attorneys may only seek to have subpoenas issued with court authorization.
  • The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office routinely lied about individuals’ obligation to speak to district attorneys and the penalties for failing to do so.
  • The District Attorney’s Office now acknowledges ethical violations but continues to resist transparency and the voluntarily (sic) regulation of this practice.

The bogus subpoenas carry a bold-face notice that says, “A fine and imprisonment may be imposed for failure to obey this notice.”

We can’t help but wonder what the penalty for badgering, intimidation, misrepresentation, and lying by an officer of the court might be.

But congratulations for that Justice Hall of Fame thingy.

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“No good deed goes unpunished.”

“Karma’s a bitch.”

“What goes around comes around.”

No matter how you say it, good intentions sometimes bring unjust punishment and sometimes those good intentions result in very bad results.

Just ask Donald Broussard of New Iberia.

Last July 8, Broussard was rear-ended in Lafayette Parish by a hit-and-run driver who minutes later collided head-on with an 18-wheeler in adjacent Iberia Parish and was killed.

Yet it was Broussard who was indicted by an Iberia Parish grand jury last week for NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE.

You are probably thinking about now that there has to be more to this story—and you’re right, there is more to it.

You see, Broussard did the unpardonable: On July 1, a week before the auto accident, Broussard was the impetus behind a RECALL of Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

Broussard was one of the organizers of the Justice for VICTOR WHITE III Foundation which filed a petition last July 1 to force a recall election.

White, you may recall, was the 22-year-old who died of a gunshot wound while in the back seat of a sheriff deputy’s patrol car in March 2014. The official report said the gunshot was self-inflicted. The coroner’s report said he was shot in the front with the bullet entering his right chest and exiting under his left armpit. White’s hands were cuffed behind his back at the time.

Ackal, of course, skated on that issue and was later indicted, tried and acquitted on federal charges involving beating and turning dogs loose on prisoners, proving beyond any lingering doubts that he is a force to be reckoned with. But when you’ve got retired federal judge and family member FRED HAIK helping with the defense, you tend to land on your feet.

All of which brings us to the latest woes to beset Broussard.

The story in Sunday’s Daily Iberian reads, “A New Iberia man who was instrumental in the drive to recall Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal last year has been indicted for manslaughter in the aftermath of an alleged road rage incident that left a Bossier City man dead in July.”

Here’s the chronology of events:

Moments before the fatal crash, Rakeem Blakes, 24, rear-ended a Cadillac driven by Broussard at the corner of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and U.S. 90 in Lafayette Parish which is just up the road apiece from Iberia Parish.

Broussard said he followed Blakes after Blakes fled the scene when Broussard approached his car but denied that he chased Blakes. “The guy hit me,” Broussard said. “I got within 20 feet of him so I could get his license plate number. I gave it (the license number) to the (911) dispatcher and they told me to fall back, so I fell back.” Broussard said reports that he had a gun were ridiculous. “I don’t even own a gun, he said. “I told the State Police they could search my car. They just handed me my license and let me go on my way.”

Broussard said Blakes was driving erratically, causing a hazard for other drivers.

Sixteenth Judicial District Attorney Bo Duhé said the case involving Broussard was turned over to his office for review in November following completion of the LSP investigation.

In what has to be one of the most convoluted reviews of any investigation, Assistant District Attorney Janet Perrodin presented the case and the grand jury last Friday returned a true bill indicting Broussard for manslaughter and “aggravated obstruction of a highway,” which led to Blakes’ death.

Unexplained in this bizarre episode was how Broussard created an “aggravated obstruction” when it was Blakes who rear-ended him and subsequently fled the scene. Duhé, in some pretty fancy verbal footwork, said state law allows a manslaughter charge to be brought when an offender “is engaged in the perpetration of any intentional misdemeanor directly affecting the person. Aggravated obstruction of a highway is the performance of any act on a highway where human life may be endangered,” he said.

That’s one helluva stretch, Mr. DA. It’s also one of vaguest laws ever cited in bringing an indictment against someone. I mean, go back and read it.

Manslaughter: when one is “engaged in the perpetration of any intentional misdemeanor directly affecting the person.”

Aggravated obstruction of a highway: the “performance of any act on a highway where human life may be endangered.”

And we know that a district attorney can make a grand jury dance a ballet in a septic tank if he so desires. It’s all in what information is provided the grand jury and what is withheld. By those definitions, any one of us could be arrested, jailed, tried and convicted at just about any time for any perceived offense.

But we won’t be. This was tailored just for Mr. Broussard who had the temerity to take on a powerful sheriff who has shown his proclivity to exact revenge against those who would dare stand up to his authority.

Broussard’s bond on the manslaughter charge was set at $75,000 and bond for the aggravated obstruction charge was set at $10,000.

Given any semblance of justice, there’s not a chance in hell of a conviction.

But whoever said there was a semblance of justice in this ludicrous drama being played out in the heart of Acadiana?

Only the most naïve of the naïve would discount a good-ol’-boy, back scratchin’ network within the local power structure, especially if it benefits a powerful sheriff bent on revenge against an adversary. Even if that adversary  is, by all appearances, innocent of any wrongdoing other than making the sheriff angry.

The recall effort eventually failed for a lack of sufficient signatures but that doesn’t mean that Ackal doesn’t have a long memory and the propensity to call in favors from friends in the right places.

And even if the charges are dropped or if Broussard is acquitted, it’s going to cost him plenty in legal fees.

And that’s how you spell revenge when you are a ruthless sheriff who can tweak the so-called justice system to do your bidding.

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There was a popular game about 40 years ago called “Whack-a-mole.” (For all I know, it may well still be around.) Anyway, the object of the game was for a player to “whack” a rodent with a rubber mallet each time it appeared out of one of five holes. The problem was each time a mole was “whacked”, it invariably popped up again from one of the remaining four holes.

So it is with certain news stories that just when you think you’ve written about all there is to say on the subject, up pops another angle to pursue.

This time though, two separate—and seemingly unrelated—stories that have been covered extensively in the past by LouisianaVoice have now converged to warrant a fresh look at old news.

Before I go any further, I should acknowledge the ever-sharp eyes of my bronchitis-infected friend and Ruston High School classmate John Sachs (Class of ’61). It is he, after all, that brought an otherwise routine local news story in the Farmerville Gazette to my attention. (I guess I’m going to have acquiesce and give him that honorary Deputy Ace Reporter badge he’s been clamoring for.)

Eagle-Eye John called me about efforts to hire a private prison management company to take over management of the 380-bed Union Parish Detention Center. You may recall that LouisianaVoice had a couple of stories about the facility last year, on MAY 10 and MAY 31 about a convicted rapist who was allowed out of his cell to rape a female prisoner. Twice.

That incident, deplorable as it certainly was, is not what this is about, however.

The Gazette story recounted the reason for the decision by LaSalle Corrections to decline Union Parish’s offer. Those reasons dealt with the potential shortage of prisoners if Gov. John Bel Edwards is successful in reducing the number of state inmates and the financial impact of such a move.

Another factor, said LaSalle Chief of Operations Johnny Creed, was the size of four other facilities in north Louisiana managed by LaSalle: Richwood Correctional Center (1,129 inmates), Jackson Parish Correctional Center (1,285), LaSalle Correctional Center (785) and Catahoula Correctional Center (835).

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(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

And then Creed said the thing that caught Sach’s eye, prompting him to call me with his croaking voice and rattling cough: “As small as (Union Parish Detention Center) is, we would need to bring our work release inmate that work for Foster Farms from our Richwood facility.”

Wait. What?

Foster Farms has 100 work release inmates working at its cotton-pickin’ chicken-pluckin’ plant in Farmerville?

Isn’t this the same plant that Bobby Jindal, with the support of State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), gave $50 million to in order to get Foster Farms to take over the plant from Pilgrim’s Pride back in 2009?

Wasn’t Foster Farms supposed to provide up to 1,100 jobs with that $50 million?

Does Foster Farms get a $2,400 tax credit for each inmate it employs in the work release program?

And aren’t work release programs something of a cash cow for sheriffs and private prisons farming out prisoners to work for just a smidgen more than minimum wage?

Yes,

Uh-huh.

Yep.

Hell, yes.

You mean to tell me Foster Farms gets a $240,000 tax credit (that’s credit, not a deduction, meaning that’s $240,000 income on which Foster Farm pays no taxes) for hiring 100 prisoners at $7.75 per hour (about 60 percent of which goes to the local sheriff), jobs that should be going to local folks?

Very perceptive, Grasshopper.

This, folks, is yet another lingering smell that hits our olfactory like a pair of dirty socks but which we affectionately call the Jindal Legacy.

The work release program is such a golden egg that sheriffs all over the state, reading the tea leaves shaped like dollar signs, rushed to build their own programs, complete with barracks and vans for workers. And to make sure the beds stayed filled, which is the only way they can get the maximum state dollars, the accommodating Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association lobbied (read parties, booze, women and campaign contributions) Louisiana’s law and order legislators to be more law and order-oriented and pass stiffer penalties for even the most insignificant crimes.

To see just how lucrative this could be for a small parish like Union, let’s run the numbers.

State law allows the sheriff or operator of the private prison to take up to 62 percent of a prisoner’s earnings. One hundred prisoners working 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year at $7.75 per hour. That comes to $1.55 million earned by the prisoner.

The Union Parish Detention Center is unique in that it is the only such facility in the state in which neither the sheriff nor a private company has operational controls. It is operated by committee comprised of a member of the Union Parish Police Jury, the district attorney and parish police chiefs. Lincoln Parish at one time was run in the same manner but it is now run by the sheriff.

If the parish takes “just” 60 percent, that’s $930,000 per year for the sheriff/operator. And that’s over and above the rate the state pays the sheriff/operator to house the prisoners. More than six years ago, LOUISIANA VOICE published a story that examined some of the housing contracts between the state and several Louisiana parishes.

Despite the money generated by the work release program, the Union Parish Detention Center has continued to lose money. That is the reason for the unsuccessful attempt to lure LaSalle into managing the center.

We followed our December 2010 post with a story in AUGUST 2015 that illustrated the abuses that can occur when someone with the right connections can use that advantage to manipulate a system like work release for his own monetary gain.

Jail operators, be they sheriffs or private corporations, love the money the work release program brings in to augment that paid by the state for housing the prisoners.

And businesses like Foster Farms love being able to hire 100 prisoners at near-minimum wage and receive a $240,000 tax credit in the process.

It’s a win-win for everyone but the taxpayers.

So, bottom line: Thar’s gold in them thar jails.

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After all the negative publicity about former Angola Warden Burl Cain, Thursday’s news release was almost enough to restore your faith in the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

That is, until you peel back the layers and take a deeper look beneath the typical hype that regularly comes out of state agencies in order to put them in the best light.

Like almost everything political, Rule One is follow the money. Rule Two is see Rule One.

The glowing news release trumpeted the news that auditors from the American Correctional Association (ACA) had given “high marks” to three Louisiana correctional facilities.

The release touted the 100 percent grades in mandatory standards attained by Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, David C. Knapps correctional Officer Training Academy, and Raymond Laborde Correctional Center. Knapps also received a 100 percent rating in non-mandatory standards and Angola and Laborde each received 93 percent in non-mandatory standards.

“ACA audits are done every three years. Other Louisiana state prisons not audited during this cycle will be re-audited in future cycles,” the news release concluded.

But what is accreditation from ACA really worth?

And how much did Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc pay for the favorable ratings?

The likely answers to those questions are, in order: not much and plenty.

http://www.prisonpolicy.org/aca.html

LouisianaVoice, almost three years to the day (Oct. 11, 2013) published harsh criticisms of ACA’s methods of accreditation.

In 2010, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) trumpeted the re-accreditation of five of its private prisons by ACA. But what CCA did not reveal was that it had paid ACA more than $22,000 for those five accreditations, that CCA employees serve as ACA auditors, that CCA is a major sponsor of ACA events or worse, and that accredited CCA facilities had experienced major security problems.

The ACA relies heavily on such fees; it reported receiving more than $4.5 million in accreditation fees in 2011 – almost half its total revenue that year. The organization thus has a financial incentive to provide as many accreditations as possible.

Notably, the accreditation process is basically a paper review. The ACA does not provide oversight or ongoing monitoring of correctional facilities, but only verifies whether a facility has policies that comply with the ACA’s self-promulgated standards at the time of accreditation. Following initial accreditation, facilities are re-accredited at three-year intervals.

But how do the courts view ACA accreditation – and comparable accreditation of prison and jail medical services by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) – both in terms of claims alleging violations of accreditation standards and as a defense by prison officials?

The U.S. Supreme Court noted in Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 543 n.27 (1979) that accreditation does not determine constitutionality. With respect to standards established by organizations such as the American Correctional Association, the Court wrote: “[W]hile the recommendations of these various groups may be instructive in certain cases, they simply do not establish the constitutional minima; rather, they establish goals recommended by the organization in question.” https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/oct/10/how-courts-view-aca-accreditation/

The standards are established by the ACA with no oversight by government agencies, and the organization basically sells accreditation by charging fees ranging from $8,100 to $19,500, depending on the number of days and auditors involved and the number of facilities being accredited.

Perhaps it is only coincidence that LeBlanc is a member of the ACA’s Commission on Accreditation for Corrections  (go to the second page of this link) or that Burl Cain is still listed as a member of ACA’s Executive Committee.

One of ACA’s past presidents, Richard Stalder, while serving as Louisiana State Corrections Secretary in 1993, canceled spending on psychiatric counseling for troubled teens so that he could give out $2.7 million in raises to his staff, according to New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Jack Wardlaw.

In 1998, the new Jena Juvenile Center came under fire for widespread problems, including a near-riot, poor teaching and security and physical abuse and in 1999 the juvenile facility in Tallulah was taken under state control after five years of repeated problems with private ownership despite its having received accreditation and a positive report only six months earlier from ACA and Stalder.

By 1995, the ACA accredited all 12 prisons in Louisiana, passing the last two with a 100 scores. That year, more than 125 prisoners sued Stalder for mistreatment within the prisons. Meanwhile, only a month after Angola prison of Louisiana was accredited, it was reported that around $32 million were needed for repairs so the prison could meet safety requirements, according to Baton Rouge Advocate reporter James Minton.

Stalder rejected all the claims, saying that he and his staff deserved “a pat on the back,” but in June of 1995, Federal Judge Frank Polozola criticized Stalder for the way in which he ran the state prison system.

“Louisiana incarcerates a higher proportion of our citizens than almost any other state,” Stalder said in 1995. “Yet we continue to be frustrated by the reality that many violent and dangerous people who should be locked up are not.”

Later that year, a doctor and a nurse reported severe problems with medical treatment at Angola. Prisoners with fractures were splinted, and then not seen for months, leading to bone deformities. Air from a tuberculosis ward was drawn into the main infirmary. A Justice Department report also found the prison’s medical records to be in terrible shape, according to Advocate reporter Fred Kalmbach.

In June of 1995, Judge Frank Polozola was critical of Stalder for his efforts to hold more inmates in the parish and private prisons of Louisiana, suggesting that Stalder was doing so in order to receive more money from the state government, which pays the sheriffs $21 per day per inmate in a private or parish prison, Minton wrote.

Polozola accused Stalder of catering to Louisiana’s sheriffs by refusing to allow state prisoners, who were supposed to be in the private prisons only temporarily, to return to the state prisons.

Just months later, Stalder was in trouble again when he allowed a can relabeling plant to open illegally at the Angola Prison. He was fined $500. Inmate William Kissinger, a legal adviser to other inmates, then sued Stalder for $600,000 after he reported the relabeling plant to authorities and was consequently removed from Angola prison and put on a prison farm.

The prison at Angola, meanwhile, received the same score from the ACA in 1996 as it did when it was first accredited in 1993.

Although the Louisiana state juvenile facilities attracted attention during 1997 for reports of abuse from guards at the facilities, Stalder himself was not in the spotlight until a private investigator found evidence that Stalder had allowed a priest who had been imprisoned for child molestation to receive special treatment at Wade correctional facility while Stalder was a warden there.

Because Jena’s goal was to meet the accreditation standards, The ACA was also criticized and characterized as “not highly respected…they will judge a facility on whether they have policies and procedures in written form,” wrote Times-Picayune reporter Steve Ritea.

http://www.prisonsucks.com/ACA/ACAofficers.html

We can’t wait ACA’s re-audit of the other state prisons.

Any bets on what those scores will be?

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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.

HOFFENBERG WEDDING PARTY

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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