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Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

Corruption.

As the March 12 opening day of the critical 2018 regular session approaches, and with the looming possibility of the call of a special session to address fiscal Armageddon, it’s an important word for Louisiana citizens to remember.

Corruption.

In a state where administrators, legislators, and judges all seem to be in it for personal enrichment, it’s a word that has become synonymous with political office—from small town mayors, city councils and police chiefs to the highest levels of state government.

Corruption.

Like a cancer, corruption metastasizes until it adversely affects every aspect of our lives: education, economics, environment, health, and not least, trust in our elected officials.

Michael Johnston and Oguzhan Dincer, both former fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, recently collaborated to conduct their fourth Corruption in America Survey, an undertaking first initiated in 2014 and repeated annually.

Since 2016, the survey has been hosted by the newly-founded Institute for Corruption Studies, an independent research institute within the Illinois State University’s Department of Economics.

More than 1,000 news reporters/journalists covering state politics and issues related to corruption across 50 states participated in the survey. Reporters from every state except North Dakota and New Hampshire participated.

Click HERE to read the complete results.

To no one’s surprise, Louisiana ranks among the worst states in terms of executive, judicial, and legislative sleaze—in both legal and illegal corruption.

What, exactly, it meant by legal and illegal corruption? After all, corruption is corruption, is it not?

Well, yes and no. Illegal corruption was defined by Dincer and Johnston as “the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”

How Gauche. Everyone knows that in Louisiana the preferred method is legal corruption, which the two researchers defined as “the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”

For evidence of that, one need look no further than the LouisianaVoice STORY of Aug. 28, 2016, to see how Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and a gaggle of legislators fell all over themselves in protecting the big oil and gas companies from their responsibilities to clean up after themselves. Here is a more detailed look at .

Who better to serve as director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority than former State Sen. Robert Adley of Bossier Parish, the top recipient of OIL AND GAS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?

And Bobby Jindal handed out appointments to the most influential boards and commissions to his biggest campaign contributors like candy on a Halloween night and even upgraded a major highway in South Louisiana to benefit a company run by another large contributor.

Dincer and Johnston said that official legal corruption is moderately to very common in both the executive and legislative branches of government in a “significant” number of states, “including the usual suspects such as Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York,” but that “Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana are perceived to be the most corrupt states” in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Illegal Corruption

Only 13 states were found to have moderately common to very common illegal corruption in their executive branches. Louisiana was one of those 13.

Only four states had illegal judicial corruption deemed to be moderately common (Alabama and Louisiana) or very common (Arkansas and Kentucky). Dincer and Johnston wrote that even a finding of only slightly common in illegal judicial corruption “is still worrying since it is the judicial branch of the government that is expected to try government officials charged with corruption.”

“State legislators are perceived to be more corrupt than the members of the executive branches in a number of states,” the researchers said.

To illustrate that, the survey found just six states with legislative illegal corruption that was very common (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana) or extremely common (Oklahoma and Pennsylvania).

Legislators were found by LouisianaVoice to have leased luxury vehicles for family members, purchased season tickets to college and professional athletic sports teams, hired family members as campaign staff, paid personal income taxes and state ethics fines—all with campaign funds and all of which were illegal.

One legislator even profited by conveniently investing in Microsoft just as his committee was pushing through approval of one of the company’s software programs at the same time other states were taking similar action. The simultaneous approvals gave Microsoft stock a significant boost.

Legal Corruption

“Legal corruption is perceived to be more common than illegal corruption in all branches of government,” the report said, with Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin scoring highest in legal corruption “in all branches of government.”

Those same three states, along with Arkansas, topped the list in legal corruption in the judicial branch where legal sleaze “is perceived to be ‘very common,’” it said, noting that in all four states, judges are elected as opposed to states where judges are chosen on merit and in which judicial corruption is not as common.

“…We expect our courts to rise above the day-to-day pressures and expectations of politics,” the report said. “That they apparently do not raises serious questions about the ways judges are elected in many states, how their campaigns are financed, and whether conflicts of interest arise as those who contribute to judicial campaigns are allowed to appear before those same judges as cases are tried.”

Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin were joined by Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York as states where legal executive corruption was found to be either “very common” or “extremely common.”

Legal legislative corruption was found to be “extremely common” in 12 states: Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas.

Aggregate Corruption

Across the board, in terms of legal and illegal corruption in all three branches of government, few states do it better than Louisiana, results of the survey reveal, with the state ranking in the upper tier of corruption in all six listings.

That finding prompted the authors of the report to say that corruption in state government “is not just a matter of contemporary personalities and events, but is rather a result of deeper and more lasting characteristics and influences.

Nowhere, it would seem, is that truer than in Louisiana. Following is just a partial list of Louisiana public officials who have come face-to-face with corruption charges of varying degrees:

 

Louisiana Executive Corruption

Sherman Bernard: The first Louisiana Insurance Commissioners to be convicted, he served 41 months for extortion and conspiracy.

Doug Green: The second State Insurance Commissioner to go to jail, he was convicted on three counts of money laundering, 27 counts of mail fraud, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jim Brown: The third consecutive Louisiana Insurance Commissioner served six months for lying to the FBI.

Richard Leche: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison for accepting kickbacks on the purchase of 233 state trucks.

Edwin Edwards: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction of extortion in connection with the awarding of state riverboat casino licenses.

Charles Roemer: Commissioner of Administration under Gov. Edwin Edwards, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to violate federal racketeering laws, violating the statute and engaging in wire and mail fraud as a result of the FBI’s Brilab operation which also resulted in the conviction of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. Roemer served 15 months in federal prison.

Jack Gremillion: Louisiana Attorney General of whom it was once said by Gov. Earl K. Long, “If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a law book,” was sentenced to three years in prison for lying to a federal grand jury about his interest in a failed loan and thrift company.

Gil Dozier: Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for extortion and racketeering but had eight years added after presiding federal judge learned Dozier had attempted to tamper with a juror and to hire a hit man for an unidentified target.

George D’Artois: Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner was implicated in the 1976 murder of Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie but he died in surgery before he could be tried.

Cyrus “Bobby” Tardo: former Sheriff of Lafourche Parish sentenced to 29 years, five months after pleading guilty in 1989 to solicitation for murder, conspiracy, possessing an unregistered destructive device and using an explosive to damage a sheriff’s car. His victim? His successor and the man who defeated him for reelection as sheriff, Duffy Breaux.

Duffy Breaux: Lafourche Parish Sheriff sentenced to four years, nine months in prison for conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice in 1995.

Eugene Holland: The first of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to be convicted of a federal crime, sentenced to 16 months in prison for the theft of public funds to cover his utility bills and to pay for renovations to his house and barn. Pleaded guilty in 1996.

Chaney Philips: The second of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to serve prison time after his conviction on nine counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, engaging in illegal monetary transactions, theft involving a federally-funded program, money laundering, and perjury—all related to his time not as sheriff but as parish assessor before being elected sheriff. Sentenced to seven years.

Ronald “Gun” Ficklin: Third consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriff to be convicted of federal criminal charges. Sentenced to five years, three months for trafficking cars with altered vehicle identification numbers, altering VINs, mail fraud, helping convicted felon possess a fun. Pleaded guilty in 2007.

Jiff Hingle: Plaquemines Parish Sheriff pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Bodie Little: Winn Parish Sheriff convicted in 2012 of drug trafficking, sentenced to 13 years, four months in prison.

Royce Toney: Ouachita Parish Sheriff, pleaded guilty in 2012 to hacking a deputy’s email and phone records and then trying to cover up his snooping. Sentenced to four years’ probation.

Walter Reed: St. Tammany Parish District Attorney (22nd JDC) sentenced to four years in prison in April 2017 for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements on tax returns. Sentence on hold during appeals process.

Harry Morel, Jr.: St. Charles Parish District Attorney (29th JDC) pleaded guilty in April 2016 to obstruction of justice in FBI inquiry into whether he used his position to solicit sex from women seeking official help. Sentenced to three years in prison.

Aaron Broussard: Former Jefferson Parish President pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiring to accept bribes from a parish contractor. Sentenced to 46 months in prison. While parish officials other than district attorneys and sheriffs are not generally listed here, Broussard is because of his high national profile following Hurricane Katrina.

Ray Nagin: New Orleans Mayor convicted in 2014, sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, tax evasion for illegal dealings with city vendors. As with the case of Broussard above, mayors not normally included in this list because of the sheer volume. But because of his high profile following Katrina and as mayor of state’s largest city, it was decided to include him.

 

Louisiana Legislative Corruption

Larry Bankston: Former chairman of the Senate Judiciary B. Committee that handled gambling legislation was convicted in 1997 on two counts of interstate communications in the aid of racketeering involving alleged bribes from a Slidell video poker truck stop owner. Sentenced to 41 months in prison. Re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar by State Supreme Court. Currently suing State Attorney General for the cancellation of his contract to represent a state agency.

Gaston Gerald: State Senator convicted in 1979 of extorting $25,000 from a contractor. Sentenced to five years in prison. Re-elected while in prison and put a prison acquaintance on Senate payroll as an aide before he was expelled from the Senate in 1981.

Sebastian “Buster” Guzzardo: State Representative among more than 20 persons, including the leader of the New Orleans Marcello crime family and three reputed New York mobsters, convicted in the Worldwide Gaming investigation. Conviction was for conducting an illegal gambling business and for aiding a mob-controlled video poker company. Sentenced in 1996 to three months in prison.

Girod Jackson, III: State Representative who pleaded guilty in 2013 to tax evasion and tax fraud in connection with his business dealings with the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority. Sentenced to three months in prison, nine months of home detention despite recommendations of 12 to 18 months imprisonment.

William Jefferson: 18-year veteran of U.S. House of Representatives convinced in 2009 on 11 of 16 felony counts for taking bribes in connection with a Nigeria business deal. Seven of the 11 counts on which he was convicted were overturned on appeal. Sentenced to five years, five months after appeals. In 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson interrupted rescue operations by using a Louisiana National Guard detachment to recover personal effects from his home. (His sister, Orleans Parish Assessor, also sentenced to 15 months in prison after admitting to funneling $1 million in public funds to her family’s bogus charities.)

Charles Jones: State Senator from Monroe, convicted in 2010 of filing false tax returns and for tax evasion, sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution. Was re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar on Monday (Jan. 29, 2017).

Harry “Soup” Kember: State Representative was sentenced to five years in prison after his 1986 conviction of mail fraud for pocketing part of a $150,000 state grant he secured for a constituent’s company.

Derrick Shepherd: State Senator sentenced to three years in prison in 2010 after admitting that he laundered money for a corrupt bond broker, netting $65,000 for the scheme.

Rick Tonry: Served only four months as a U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District after pleading guilty in 1977 to receiving illegal campaign contributions, promising favors in return for contributions and for buying votes in the 1976 Democratic primary.

 

Louisiana Judicial Corruption

Ronald Bodenhimer: The 24th Judicial District Judge was among four judges to be caught up in the FBI Wrinkled Robe investigation of Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption and one of two to receive jail time. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2003 to planting drugs on a critic of his New Orleans East marina, for bond splitting, and for attempting to fix a child custody case on behalf of Popeyes Chicken Founder Al Copeland.

Wayne Cresap: The 34th JDC Judge for St. Bernard Parish was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to accepting more than $70,000 in bribes and for letting inmates out of jail without paying their bonds.

Alan Green: Another of the four Judges of the 24th JDC in Jefferson Parish. Sentenced to 51 months in prison after his 2005 conviction of a $10,000 mail fraud scheme to take bribes from a bail bonds company.

William Roe: The 25th JDC Judge for Plaquemines Parish was sentenced in 2010 to three months in prison for unauthorized use of movables for pocketing more than $6,000 in reimbursements for legal seminars that he attended as judge. The money should have been deposited in a public account instead.

Thomas Porteous, Jr.: Only the eighth federal judge to be removed from office by impeachment in the Republic’s history, he was convicted in 2010 by the U.S. Senate on four articles charging him with receiving cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors, and deliberately misled Senators during his confirmation hearings. As if to underscore the gravity of the charges, all 96 senators present voted guilty on the first article which addressed charges during his time as a state court judge and his failure to recuse himself from matters involving a former law partner with whom he was accused of granting favors for cash.

There are scores of other examples, including city and parish elected officials, local police chiefs, and even a legislator who resigned rather than be expelled for spousal abuse. And former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain retired in 2016 under an ethics cloud even though he was official cleared of ethics charges. His son, Nate Cain and Nate’s former wife, Tonia, were indicted in August 2017 on 18 federal fraud charges over purchases he was said to have made with state credit cards during his tenure as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport.

Additionally, LouisianaVoice over the past three years documented numerous instances of abuse of power and outright corruption from troop commanders all the way up to the upper command of Louisiana State Police.

There were dozens more not listed and sadly, there will continue to be corruption in all three branches of state government so long as the people of this state continue to look away and ignore the widespread malfeasance and outright skullduggery.

And by ignoring the problem, we are necessarily condoning it.

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If Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter feels as if he is being squeezed these days, it is for good reason.

He is.

On the one hand, state district judges of the 32nd Judicial District are requiring that Larpenter perform the duties of his job.

On the other hand, federal investigators reportedly are looking into the manner in which Larpenter performs the duties of his job. Reports are the FBI recently completed two days interviewing one of Larpenter’s deputies. The nature of those interviews was not immediately known.

Meanwhile, two private security guards and a Houma police officer have taken over security at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse following the high sheriff’s refusal to do so even though state statutes clearly say:

  • “Court criers are to be provided by the sheriff of each parish to each district judge.”
  • “The crier of a court (notice this is not restricted to Orleans) shall attend all sessions thereof, under the direction of the judge shall open and close court at each session, and maintain order and decorum in the court room, and shall perform such other duties as are assigned to him by law, the court, or the sheriff.” (emphasis added)
  • “Each sheriff or deputy shall attend every court that is held in his parish…”
  • “Security in the courthouse is the responsibility of governing authority (Gordon Dove), but an agreement may be made between the parish officers and the building to share the expenses.”
  • “The principal functions of the criminal sheriff are that of being keeper of parish jail and executive officer of the Criminal District Court.”

Larpenter tried to pull rank on the judges by refusing a request by Judge Randal BETHANCOURT to provide more security details assigned to the courthouse. Larpenter demanded more pay for doing so and the judges said no dice. That standoff more or less backed the judges into a corner by forcing them to retain private security and municipal police officers.

Following the dispute over additional security vs. additional pay, Larpenter took photographs of inmates being transported to court and being held in holding cells until being called for their hearings and arraignments.

Armed with the photographs, Larpenter called the State Fire Marshal down on the court, apparently for the overcrowded conditions in the cells.

A little background is in order here. The State Fire Marshal, like the State Superintendent of Police is a position filled by appointment of the governor but no governor in his right mind would do so independently, i.e. without the blessings of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. Make no mistake, the sheriffs’ association dictates to every governor who shall fill the positions of Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, State Fire Marshal and State Superintendent of Police. Ergo, Larpenter felt sufficiently confident to call in the big boys on the judges—big boys that his association props up.

Down and dirty politics at the local level? Damned right and normally that would be a lethal weapon given the formidable alliance of the sheriffs’ association, Secretary of Public Safety, State Superintendent of Police and State Fire Marshal. In case no one has been paying attention, those are the preeminent law enforcement agencies of the state. You generally don’t cross swords with that kind of power.

Larpenter then goes to the local press with his brainstorm for a great cost-cutting measure: video arraignments.

But that was only a temporary setback as the judges came back with their own “gotcha.”

First, they issue an order banning all video arraignments, thereby forcing Larpenter to bear the costs of transporting more than 150 prisoners for hearings two weeks ago.

Then, Judge David Arceneaux signed an order in which he struck through language requiring the warden of Dixon Correctional Institute in East Feliciana Parish, 120 north of Houma, to transport a prisoner from the facility to Houma and back. Judge Arceneaux then wrote in longhand, “Terrebonne Parish Sheriff to transport from Dixon Correctional Institute,” adding that Larpenter was to deposit $1500 for the cost of transporting the prisoner.

Needless to say, all this has set off a minor war in the 32nd JDC. Larpenter sputtered and fumed but Bethancourt replied it was all Larpenter’s fault, supposedly for balking at providing more security for the courthouse.

Regardless whose fault it is for the situation to have deteriorated so badly, it has morphed into a very interesting little turf war that isn’t like to end soon—or well. And it promises to be a fight worthy of the sordid reputation of Louisiana politics.

The number two spectator sport behind football.

In other words, fun.

 

 

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To little surprise to anyone paying attention, Louisiana is one of the most violent states in the nation, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a digital business news service that releases articles on studies of economic, industry, marketing political, and crime statistics.

Of even more concern than Louisiana’s ranking as the 5th most violent state, was the city of Monroe’s ranking as the most violent metropolitan area in the nation with 1,187 violent crimes for every 100,000 people. That was more than double the state rate of 566 violent crimes per 100,000 population.

While the precise cause of the increase in violent crime was not clear, poverty was given as a possible explanation. While 14 percent of Americans live below the poverty line, seven of the 10 states with the highest violent crime rate have higher poverty rates than the nation as a whole.

Alaska, with 804 violent crimes per 100,000, was the most violent state, according to the news release but that ranking can be misleading because of Alaska’s relatively small population. For example, the 52 murders statewide in 2016 was 12th fewest in the nation but because of the sparse population, the impact on the murder rate was greater than for a heavily populated area. The state’s imprisonment rate of 409 adults per 100,000 was 16th lowest and the state’s poverty rate of 9.9 percent was 6th lowest.

By contrast, Louisiana had 554 murders during 2016, which was 11th highest in the nation and more than 10 times as many as Alaska. Likewise, the state’s imprisonment rate of 1,019 adults per 100,000 was the highest in the nation (the only state whose imprisonment rate exceeds 1,000—a rating the state has held for a number of years. Oklahoma is close behind with 948 per 100,000. Louisiana’s poverty rate of 20.2 percent is 2nd highest in the nation.

Other states that had higher violent crime rates than Louisiana, in order, were:

  • New Mexico: 703 violent crimes per 100,000; 139 murders (22nd fewest), imprisonment rate of 440 adults per 100,000 (20th lowest), and a poverty rate of 19.8 percent (3rd highest).
  • Nevada: 678 violent crimes per 100,000; 224 murders (25th most); imprisonment rate of 577 adults per 100,000 (15th highest), and a poverty rate of 13.8 percent (23rd highest).
  • Tennessee: 633 violent crimes per 100,000; 486 murders (13th highest), imprisonment rate of 549 adults per 100,000 (18th highest), and a poverty rate of 15.8 percent (11th highest).

Right behind Louisiana were:

  • Arkansas, with 551 violent crimes per 100,000 (6th most violent), 216 murders (25th fewest), an imprisonment rate of 774 per 100,000 (6th highest), and a poverty rate of 17.2 percent (also 6th highest).
  • Alabama, with 532 violent crimes per 100,000 (7th most violent), 407 murders (17th most), imprisonment rate of 790 per 100,000 (4th highest), and a poverty rate of 17.1 percent (7th highest).

Mississippi, which is almost always clustered with Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas in such polls, defied the odds on this one, coming in with only 281 violent crimes per 100,000, which was 24th lowest. Its 238 murders, however, were 23rd most. Mississippi’s imprisonment rate of 803 per 100,000 was 3rd highest, and its poverty rate of 20.8 percent was highest in the nation.

Typically, such poll results are met with the “oh, well, this is Louisiana” reaction.

While such comments are, unfortunately, accurate, it is far past the time when we should simply yawn, laugh, and move on to LSU football, crawfish boils or some other distraction.

The only ones who are impacted by these types of results are all of us.

And the only ones who can change these studies are us.

Until we call a screeching halt to allowing LABI, the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies and banks to dictate the agenda for compliant legislators, things are never going to change. We are going to have to hold our elected officials accountable.

As things are now—and as it has been for decades—legislators are outnumbered by lobbyists by more than 10-1. It’s pretty overwhelming when you have more than 1500 lobbyists swarming around the House and Senate and the various committee rooms.

What’s more disheartening is the lobbyists are paid well to do thorough research and can regurgitate impressive sounding statistical data to legislators while members of the public who will be affected by a particular bill—and who do not have the advantage of a paid research staff—generally fall back on emotional arguments that legislators are unable to hear because of campaign cash stuffed in their ears. This creates an uneven playing field.

It is incumbent, therefore, that the citizenry educate itself on the legislative process. In today’s age of the Internet, it’s so very easy to track bills through committee and to even monitor committee meetings in real time through the legislature’s web page.

So, bottom line, we have no one to blame but ourselves for our state’s pathetic standings in areas that affect our quality of life—from income to crime to education to employment to our overall health.

To sit back and trust elected officials is to make a tragic mistake, as history has clearly shown. Many of these officials are power brokers who serve as important committee chairs and as Senate President and House Speaker. We simply cannot trust them as they long ago established a tradition of ignoring the wishes of the people and acting  not in our best interests but in the interests of campaign contributors—and far too often, to their own financial gain.

To continue to ignore the problem is to continue to settle for the status quo. LouisianaVoice has shown through the years that many of these elected officials are there only to build their own political base, to enrich themselves, to award family members with state jobs with little responsibility, and, or course, to collect campaign contributions to perpetuate their own tenure in office. Those were not among the reasons we sent them to Baton Rouge.

Until that mental approach on the part of our citizens is changed, nothing else will. We will always be at the bottom of those lists and we will continue voice our frustration only when LSU loses to Alabama.

 

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It’s funny how a change in bosses can bring about an almost seamless change in philosophy on the part of subordinates who harbor a desire to keep their jobs.

Take Jimmy LeBlanc, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said in May of this year that he didn’t believe it would be worth it in terms of any cost savings to privatize five state PRISONS.

Yet, only five years earlier, on May 8, 2012, LeBlanc was quoted in New Orleans’ GAMBIT magazine as saying he hoped the $8 million per year in savings from the privatization of just a single state prison—Avoyelles Correctional Center (AVC) in Cottonport—could be reinvested into rehabilitative programs. He even said AVC was an ideal candidate for the plan because it was similar to the privately-run facilities in Winn and Allen parishes.

What’s the reason behind LeBlanc’s position change?

Well, for openers, in 2012, he was serving as head of corrections as an appointee of then-Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Today, he is serving in the administration of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who reappointed him in January 2016.

The contrasting positions appear to be classic examples of political hacks swaying with the prevailing winds. Jindal wanted to privatize prisons so he could get an infusion of quick cash to smooth over annual gaping holes in his budget. Edwards, not so much. In fact, Edwards is downright opposed to the idea of privatization, leaning instead toward reducing the state’s prison population by freeing non-violent offenders. Jindal preferred keeping the prison beds full in order to keep a continuous flow of cash to private prison operators who are paid on the basis of head counts.

But the contrast doesn’t end there.

As pointed out in the 2012 Gambit article, LeBlanc said AVC was an ideal candidate for privatization because it was so similar to those private facilities in Winn and Allen. At that time, they had been downgraded to “jail” status, thereby allowing state officials to eliminate education and rehabilitation programs.

Well, guess what?

Last May, LeBlanc was singing a different tune about the attributes of those facilities, saying that he was in favor of restoring the Winn and Allen facilities to “prison” status, a move that would necessarily bring the state back into the picture. Apparently, what was “ideal” under the Jindal administration didn’t quite measure up under Edwards. But LeBlanc is nothing if not flexible.

It’s probably that flexibility that has allowed LeBlanc and others in the Department of Public Safety to survive when appointees in other agencies were shown the door with the ushering in of a new administration.

Survival. It’s a great motivator.

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Vincent Simmons has been imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for 40 years for a crime that he almost certainly did not commit and our vaunted system of justice is largely responsible for his inability to get a fair hearing.

The timeline of events alone should be reason enough to have granted him a new trial decades ago. Yet, he continues to languish at “the farm,” the name bestowed upon Angola in a 1998 documentary about Louisiana’s notorious maximum-security prison.

For openers, the time between public defender Harold Brouillette’s filing of a motion for preliminary hearing and Simmons’s conviction was an astonishingly short interval of only 27 days, hardly sufficient time to put on any semblance of a defense.

Normally, it takes much longer between an accused’s arrest and his trial. This is so defense attorneys can compile a list of witnesses, engage expert testimony, and obtain all evidence possessed by prosecutors. Sexual assault cases typically take SIX MONTHS between indictment and trial, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

It took half that long for the supposed victims to come forward and report that they’d been raped.

Here is the TIMELINE of events:

Monday, May 7, 1977—Twin 14-year-old sisters are riding around with their 18-yeaar-old cousin, Keith Laborde when they allegedly encountered an unknown black man at a 7-Eleven convenience store who asked them to give him a ride to his home. En route, he pulls a gun and forces Laborde to drive down a remote country road to a spot near a lake and there rapes the two girls.

Sunday, May 22, 1977—The two girls report—for the first time—to Sheriff “Potch” Didier, Maj. Fablus Didier, Capt. Floyd Juneau and Deputy Barbara DeCuir at the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office that a “black man” raped them on May 9, 1977.

7 a.m., Monday, May 23, 1977—Shift begins for Juneau and Lt. Robert Laborde (Laborde is a cousin of Keith Laborde).

8 a.m., Monday May 23, 1977—Juneau and Laborde make the decision to arrest Vincent Simmons.

9 a.m., Monday May 23, 1977—Simmons is walking down Waddil Street in Marksville when Juneau and Laborde, passing by on patrol, arrest him—without a warrant—on two counts of aggravated rape. Sheriff Didier orders a lineup. The lineup consists of seven blacks and one white. Of the eight men in the lineup, Simmons is the only one in handcuffs. Keith Laborde and the two girls observe the lineup from behind a mirror and pick out Simmons even though the girls had said all black men looked alike to them. Simmons is taken upstairs but is never interrogated. When Simmons refuses to sign a confession that had already been prepared by Laborde, he is shot in his left chest by Laborde. Laborde and Capt. Melvin Villemarette claim that Simmons took Villemarette’s gun and tried to shoot them, though he is never charged with that offense. Simmons is transferred to Huey P. Long Hospital in Pineville. Judge Earl Edwards now issues the warrant for the arrest of Simmons for the rape of the girls.

Tuesday, May 24, 1977—Coroner F.P. Bordelon, MD, examines both girls and discovers that one of the girl’s hymen is still intact, indicating she is still a virgin. The other girl admits to having had consensual sexual intercourse nine months earlier.

Friday, May 27, 1977—Simmons is released from the hospital and he is transferred back to the Avoyelles Parish jail.

Friday June 30, 1977—An Avoyelles Parish grand jury indicts Simmons on two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of attempted murder. Dr. Bordelon formulates his findings about his medical examination of the two girls and sends report to District Attorney Eddie Knoll. During trial of Simmons, jurors never learn of the existence of this report.

Thursday, June 23, 1977—Public defender Harold Brouillette, later to be elected a state district court judge, files a motion for a preliminary hearing. Judge Edwards orders that a preliminary hearing be held in the case of State of Louisiana vs. Vincent Simmons on the two counts of aggravated rape at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 7, 1977.

Wednesday, June 29, 1977—U.S. Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia that the death penalty is unconstitutional for the crime of rape. This means that pursuant to the decision, the penalty for aggravated rape is only 20 years per count as opposed to attempted aggravated rape, for which no penalties had been set.

Thursday, July 7, 1977—At the 1 p.m. preliminary hearing, Judge Edwards schedules Simmons’s trial for July 18, 1977, giving Brouillette only 11 days to prepare for trial. This is known as a court’s “rocket docket,” whereby certain cases are moved to the top of the court’s list of scheduled cases.

Thursday, July 14, 1977—Assistant District Attorney Jeanette Knoll, wife of District Attorney Eddie Knoll, files a motion to amend the indictment to two counts of attempted aggravated rape. Judge Edwards signs the motion behind closed doors—without a second grand jury hearing. This opens the way for prosecutors to seek penalties of 50 years imprisonment for each count of attempted aggravated rape. Jeanette Knoll would later be elected to the Louisiana State Supreme Court.

Monday, July 18, 1977—Jury selection begins in the trial of Vincent Simmons.

Tuesday, July 19, 1977, and Wednesday, July 20, 1977—Two-day trial of Vincent Simmons is held, concluding in a guilty verdict on each count of attempted aggravated rape.

Thursday, July 28, 1977—Judge Earl Edwards imposes a 100-year sentence (50 years for each count, to run consecutively) on Simmons.

So, there you have it: a delayed report of rape to the suspiciously quick arrest, an equally quick trial that made it impossible for a public defender with no funds to retain expert witnesses or to conduct extensive investigations, to the manipulation of charges so as to obtain the maximum punishment for a crime that Simmons most likely never committed. The fast track his case was put on—with such an obvious lack of supporting evidence—makes it appear that authorities were almost desperate in their haste to run him through the system and get a conviction. To think those charged with protecting our rights and freedoms would stoop to such tactics should send a chill down all our spines for who’s to say we might not be the next to undergo such treatment at the hands of the law and order advocates?

Someone coined the phrase “Justice delayed is justice denied.” This rings especially true in the case of Vincent Simmons. Justice for him has been delayed for 40 years—and counting. His story and sadly, as is true of so many others like him, is the type justice that a defendant might expect to encounter when he doesn’t have:

  • Money;
  • Connections;
  • A name that screams influence;
  • Highly-paid attorneys;
  • The right color skin.

For an example of all the above, see LOUIS ACKEL.

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