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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then he owes it to them to resign.

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So, now Sen. John Kennedy is officially opposed to strengthening firearms BACKGROUND CHECKS.

His newest proclamation (which really isn’t new at all) raises the obvious question of whether there is any level to which he will not stoop to kiss the ring of Donald Trump and the rest of the NRA-purchased Republicans who insist that it is never the time to discuss ways to curb the number of MASS SHOOTINGS that have plagued this country for the past 35 years.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Sen. John Kennedy to join fellow Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy in voting for the so-called tax “reform” bill that is so heavily weighted in favor of the very rich but now he has underscored that Gawd-awful CAMPAIGN AD in which he said, “…love is the answer but you oughta own a hand gun, just in case.”

He even repeated the phrase during a Senate committee hearing, saying it was an old saying from back in Louisiana though, to be honest, I don’t ever recall anyone but Kennedy uttering such an inane statement.

So, obviously, while it is never the time to discuss a solution, it’s always the time to ensure that the mentally ill will have unfettered access to weapons.

Kennedy clashed with Bobby Jindal—and later with Gov. John Bel Edwards—over the budget, repeating his mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” That, it turns out, was the most intelligent thing he had to say as State Treasurer. But the fact of the matter was—and is—that it was a combination of the two.

The problem is in the giveaways, as in tax credits, tax exemptions, tax incentives, and all the other breaks given away to industry that promised big jobs in exchange for keeping off the tax rolls but who failed to deliver. That spending problem created a critical revenue problem that was only partially alleviated by a 43 percent increase in college tuition.

Kennedy also proposed an across-the-board cut in state contracts. That was far too simplistic. A better solution would have been—and remains—to take a long, hard look at the multitude of contracts awarded by the sate to determine if they are really necessary.

Just as one example, the various studies of restoration of Louisiana’s coastline, like the bevy of studies awarded by the City of Baton Rouge to study traffic congestion, have brought the state no closer to resolving the problem than before tens of millions of dollars were spent on those studies.

But I digress. Kennedy, in constant search of a TV camera and microphone, has now gone beyond absurdity in opposing more stringent background checks. Does he not remember:

  • Sandy Hook?
  • Columbine?
  • Aurora?
  • Orlando?
  • Las Vegas?
  • San Bernardino?
  • Chattanooga?
  • Charleston?
  • Oakland?
  • Tucson?
  • Blacksburg?

I could go on, but what’s the point? People like Kennedy are imprisoned by their own closed minds and political calculations about how to best play to the emotions of the gun enthusiasts and to how best to go about assuring the continued flow of NRA campaign contributions. The KILLING FIELDS of America are without comparison anywhere else in the civilized world, according to statistics published by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Oops, I forgot. That should be the failing New York Times, according to Donald Trump, on whose coattails Kennedy so shamelessly ran in his senatorial campaign. So, it must be fake news, right?

Well, those figures quoted by the failing New York Times were provided by the FBI, which keeps meticulous records on such things.

Oh, I forgot again. The FBI is no longer credible, according to Grump, who arbitrarily decides who is and who is not trustworthy and who sets such a shining example for the likes of Kennedy, Bill Cassidy and the other Repugnacans in Congress who apparently are unable to make as simple a decision as when to go to the bathroom without a directive from Thumper.

Yes, I know the NRA gun-totin’ flag-waving zealots are going to have me pilloried by sundown but I can live with that and I have this to say to them:

I would rather stand for what is right for all the victims who were so needlessly slaughtered by obviously mentally disturbed people who should never have had access to weapons than to have all the campaign money the NRA dumps into the campaigns of the likes of John Kennedy.

Those are my principles, Mr. Kennedy, what, pray tell, are yours?

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Controversy surrounding that preliminary default judgment levied against a Baton Rouge television station just won’t go away and now a second lawsuit has been filed naming the plaintiff in the first lawsuit and his employer, Louisiana State Police (LSP), as defendants.

And just to make matters a bit more confusing, the name of that defendant (and the plaintiff in the litigation against WBRZ-TV) is the same name—but not the same person—as an occasional writer for LouisianaVoice.

Throw in illegal background searches and claims of violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a police officer posing as a police officer, and a nasty divorce, and you’ve got the ingredients for a salacious story that would send a counsellor scrambling for the cabinet where the hard liquor is stashed.

Got it? Didn’t think so. Okay then, let’s review:

Back in October, 21st Judicial District Court Judge Doug Hughes signed a $2.5 million preliminary default judgment against WBRZ after the TV station failed to answer a defamation LAWSUIT against it and its investigative reporter Chris Nakamoto filed by State Trooper Robert Burns of Livingston Parish—a different person altogether than the Robert Burns who periodically writes for LouisianaVoice.

Nakamoto had reported a story about a 64-hour suspension imposed on Burns by LSP following an Internal Affairs investigation into his conducting 52 illegal computer searches on his ex-wife, one Carmen Hawkins, her current fiancé and a former boyfriend over a period of nearly three years—from November 2013 to October 2016.

Nakamoto’s story was taken exclusively from public records he obtained from LSP, so there should have been no question as to the story’s legitimacy. Had the station’s attorney filed an answer, the suit in all probability, would have been dismissed with prejudice, meaning the dismissal would be final. By failing to answer, WBRZ attorney Stephen Babcock of Baton Rouge left Judge Hughes no choice but to enter the preliminary default. That judgment, of course is now under appeal, if somewhat belatedly, and is likely to be reversed.

Burns, in appealing his suspension, said on 46 of those 52 searches, he was conducting a search of his own license plate and that the “spin-off” searches of his wife were a result of “unintended inquiries generated by an automated system.”

IA didn’t buy that explanation, especially since “spin-of” searches generated by an “automated system” couldn’t explain away the two searches on his former wife’s current fiancé and the four searches on her ex-boyfriend. Those searches, besides vehicle and driver’s license records, also included computerized criminal histories on the two men.

Moreover, Burns subsequently disseminated some of the information (we’ll get to that shortly) and then texted his ex-wife to request that she not report his actions because he “could get fired for doing so.”

The searches, according to a letter to him from LSP, were for “non-law enforcement purposes, in violation of department policy and federal law.”

Hughes signed the preliminary JUDGMENT on Sept. 28. On Oct. 19, the day after the LouisianaVoice STORY, Carmen Hawkins weighed in with her own LAWSUIT against the Department of Public Safety (DPS), LSP, and Burns and this is where things really get dicey.

She claims in her petition that she had her vehicle in an auto body shop in Walker when her ex-husband, Burns, appeared at the shop “in uniform and identifying himself as acting under the color of law and within his capacity as an employee of…Louisiana State Police, and proceeded to ask questions about plaintiff’s vehicle and the circumstances surrounding it(s) needing repair.”

Some time following his visit to the repair shop, she says in her lawsuit, Burns appeared at the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department “dressed in uniform and identifying himself as acting under the color of law and within his capacity as an employee of…Louisiana State Police (and) proceeded without probable cause to request that a warrant be issued” for her arrest “on allegations he knew to be false or which were based upon reckless disregard for the truth.”

She was then arrested at her home by sheriff’s deputies but “immediately release when the reason for her arrest was discovered,” she said. But that was far from the end of the matter.

In her petition, she says Burns then “published false and defamatory communications” to her employer, “which communications impugned plaintiff’s professional reputation and included the false allegation that plaintiff had accessed confidential, personal health (HIPAA) information.”

Unauthorized access and dissemination of confidential patient information is a violation of HIPAA regulations.

She said Burns’ claims were false and that it resulted in the termination of her employment.

LouisianaVoice sources have indicated Hawkins’ former employer was Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge and that she has since obtained employment at another Baton Rouge hospital.

She says little about the alleged HIPAA violations but does say in her lawsuit that her ex-husband’s access to LSP databases had been permitted “by the customs and regular practice” of LSP and former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who she said was believed to have had “actual knowledge that its employees, including…Robert Burns, who were not listed as authorized users, could and were engaging in violations of department policy and state and federal law by using the databases…”

Her attorney, Jonathan Mitchell of Baton Rouge, is asking that DPS, LSP and Burns be held liable in solido (jointly) for damages and losses sustained by his client.

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It was a possibility almost too bizarre an idea to entertain.

It was just too weird to even consider.

The evidence was right there, however, for all to see and the conclusion was inescapable.

Mike Edmonson, erstwhile Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) and once the most powerful law enforcement official in the state, had outed himself.

It’s not as if he had not been disgraced enough already. From the ill-fated but almost successful attempt to pad his own retirement in defiance of existing state regulations to that astonishingly ill-fated San Diego misadventure—with at least a dozen ugly stories of mismanagement, questionable promotions, and assorted rumors squeezed in between—would bring an ordinary man to disgrace.

But to leak a state audit that turned a glaring light on his propensity to use his position for personal financial gain and which may have left him exposed to major IRS penalties and even prosecution is the latest in a long line of of incredibly poor decisions that leaves observers a little incredulous.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened. Mike Edmonson—or someone acting on his behalf—leaked a copy of that devastating audit to the Baton Rouge Advocate and/or New Orleans television station WWL, which identifies itself as a news partner of the Advocate.

Do the math. There were only two copies of the audit. One went to LSP. The other was sent to Edmonson. The one provided Edmonson included a cover letter addressed to him. The one received by LSP did not contain that cover letter. That pretty much narrows the origin of the leak to a single source—Edmonson himself.

And when you watch the WWL report, 40 seconds into the VIDEO there is a shot of that cover letter dated Nov. 28 and addressed to “Dear Colonel Edmonson.”

Oops.

Pause the video at that spot and you can see for yourself that the first two paragraphs of that letter read:

“Enclosed please find a draft of our investigative audit report regarding the Department of Public Safety and Corrections – Public Safety Services – Office of State Police. Draft reports are not public documents and should be maintained in a confidential manner until the final report is officially released by the Legislative Auditor (Emphasis ours).

“At this time, we are asking you to provide any information you may have which may affect the findings contained in the draft report. Any information deemed material will be included in the final report. If you choose to respond, please respond no later than noon on December 12, 2017. Your written response will be included as part of the final report.”

Edmonson, as has been typical of him all along, again reacted as the aggrieved victim. He texted Advocate reporter Jim Mustian in advance of Friday’s publication of the audit’s findings to complain that if he (Mustian) published the audit’s contents prior to the release of the final report “you will be negating my legal right to review. The process is for me to respond back to them first, not the media. Whoever furnished you with the report did so without the approval of the auditor’s office,” he said.

It is important to parse his words here. When he said whoever furnished the report did so “without the approval of the auditor’s office,” notice he did not say it was without his approval. But the most important passage was “you will be negating my legal right to review.” (Emphasis ours)

That’s key. By first leaking the document and then, after Mustian contacted him for a comment before publication, following up with that email, Edmonson could have been setting the stage for his legal strategy. He will no doubt lawyer up if he has not done so already. And you can expect his legal counsel to claim that he was:

  • ratted out by disgruntled former subordinates;
  • treated unfairly by reporters and bloggers;
  • tried in the court of public opinion before he ever had a chance to defend himself from the ravenous wolves.

He will likely claim the premature release of the audit has placed him at an unfair disadvantage from which it will all but impossible for him recover.

And you can bet he did not leak the audit directly, but through a third party. Or if he did leak it directly, it was via a fictitious email account that could not be traced back to him. One person who knows Edmonson said he suspects it was by an email account set up under an alias. “Or it may have been done by an attorney,” though, he said he would first start “with Mike.”

The same person said he did not think Edmonson was smart enough to attempt a preemptive strike to gain a legal edge by claiming his defense was tainted by the premature release.

He said he audit report, while likely reflecting most adversely on Edmonson, probably includes other findings against the entire department which may have led Edmonson to believe the focus would be on the broader agency issues. “If that’s the reason, it was a huge miscalculation,” he said. “In fact, whatever his motive, it was a huge error. The audit is damning in its detail.

“And when I was watching WWL, I saw the closeup with his name on the cover letter. There was the smoking gun.”

 

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It was inevitable, I suppose. The signs were there for us to see all this time, so it certainly should be no surprise.

Donald Trump has launched his own NEWS SERVICE to give the minions the “real” news. He’s fed up with that fake stuff dished out by the networks that they back up with obviously faked video, doctored photos, falsified documents and biased stories about his bogus university, his refusal to divest himself from his business interests and his coziness with the Russians.

Well, what ostrich-head-in-the-sand couldn’t see that coming?

Of course, the real head-scratcher is why he would go to all that trouble when he has the biggest blowhard of all spewing the right wing extremist line for three hours every day on a smaller-than-before-but-still-large radio network.

But Rush (“Praise the Lord and Pass the OxyContin”) Limburger is basically a mouthpiece for the Republican Party as a whole and that party is going to have to separate itself from ol’ Orange Hair with all due haste if it has a chance to hold its ground in the 2018 elections. So, in that respect, maybe his own “news” network would seem in order to Trump.

After all, this is the man whose motto would seem to be ut per eos testacles in cordibus et in animis sequentur. That’s Latin for “Get ‘em by the testacles; the hearts and minds will follow.” (And he’s certainly known for grabbing those areas.)

Any student of history knows that a dictatorship requires a suspension of all citizens’ rights (see his efforts to clamp down on dissent) and to muzzle all criticism (his repeated attacks on the media). The third requirement, of course, is to take over the media so the dictatorship’s lies can be saturated without fear of challenge.

We may as well start referring to Trump as DEAR LEADER a-la Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, though, I just don’t think I can bring myself to call him Herr Trump.

But the signs are already there. His repeated boasts of non-existent accomplishments, his exploring the possibility of pardoning himself, his exaggerated claims of voter fraud, claims that he had the biggest inauguration crowd in history, attacks of “fake news,” and the list goes on and on ad nauseum. And all easily refutable lies but still he barges ahead with still more lies. His favorite, of course, is calling the special prosecutor’s investigation into collusion with the Russians “a witch hunt.” He uses that one on a regular basis these days.

Adolf Hitler was the first to describe the benefits of the repetitive lie, which he said people would come to believe if they heard it often enough. He called it the “Big Lie.”

In Mein Kampf, Hitler said, “…In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie…Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” (emphasis added.)

He would go on to say in Mein Kampf:

“The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.

The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make and objective study of the truth, insofar as it favors the enemy, and then set before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, would later expand on der Führer’s philosophy when he said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Extreme examples? Perhaps. But the track that Trump is on is frighteningly familiar to students of history and should not be dismissed lightly.

After all, look at the people with whom he has surrounded himself. Not the least of these is one STEPHEN BANNON who has described Trump as a “revolutionary on the world stage,” and who described himself as a LENINIST who desired “to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

So, is Bannon Trump’s Joseph Goebbels or will he be his Martin Bormann (Hitler’s private secretary who controlled access to der Führer)? Or worse, will he be Trump’s Heinrich Himmler (commander of the Gestapo)? From this vantage point, the vote would have to go to Bormann.

All these scenarios were unthinkable 18 months ago. No one seriously thought Trump would ever be president. The day of his announcement, I confidently predicted he would “crash and burn” in six weeks.

But then, no one thought Hitler would rise to a position from which he could plunge the world into war.

But now we have an official Trump news service through which he can reach the masses with his own skewed version of reality. And for now, at least, he has an official Minister of Propaganda in Kayleigh McEnany.

 

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