Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It remains to be seen if the Senate Select Committee on State Police Oversight will come up with any significant recommendations to rein in an increasingly rogue department when it convenes in its inaugural meeting Monday at 10 a.m. in Senate Committee Room A-B.

The more pressing question, however, is whether or not any forthcoming recommendations will actually be implemented by an agency conditioned to autonomy in its day-to-day operations or if they will be placed on a shelf somewhere to be forgotten, along with countless other efficiency and operational studies.

But former State Police Commission member and retired US Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and ATF agent Lloyd Grafton will offer some pointed recommendations that should be taken under serious consideration by Gov. Edwards and State Police Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis.

An agency that answers only to the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association isn’t likely to be receptive to change – even in the aftermath of national negative headlines about the beatings of black motorists RONALD GREENE and LARRY BOWMAN by troopers assigned to Monroe’s Troop F.

An effort in the legislature to limit the qualified immunity doctrine that shields officers from lawsuits, after all, went down in flames last year after the legislature cobbled together the 25-member Police Training Screening and De-escalation TASK FORCE in the wake of the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

As might be expected, it was Senate Republicans who came together to KILL Rep. Edmond Jordan’s House Bill 609 that would have limited immunity enjoyed by out-of-control law enforcement officers.

But that was before all hell broke loose over the killing – and the blatant lies that followed – of Greene at the hands of state troopers. Greene was killed in May 2020 but it took a full 16 months for the details to surface, thanks to desperate attempts by State Police to keep a lid on the facts.

Just as a refresher, the official reason given for Greene’s death was a traffic accident that occurred when he struck a tree during his attempt to flee police (that was a lie: he was very much alive when pulled from his vehicle). Moreover, it was initially claimed that there was no body cam video from the incident (another lie). And only when more accurate details began to leak out did LSP take any official action to suspend and later fire officers.

The official agenda for Monday’s committee meeting calls for Davis to lead off the proceedings with an “agency overview.” Following that, there will be discussions and testimony on:

  • Excessive Force Policy and Procedures
  • Use of Force Training
  • Internal Investigations
  • Use of Force Review Board

Somewhere in all that, committee Vice Chair Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge), is expected to enter into the record a scathing two-page list of recommendations submitted by Grafton:

  • The Head of the State Police should be selected from a national search and not from the present requirement of a graduate of the Louisiana State Police Academy.  A Blue-Ribbon Committee formed by the legislature could select the superintendent.
  • Abolish the Louisiana State Police Commission and place the State Police under the Louisiana Civil Service Board. (Required Constitutional Amendment)
  • Remove the State Police from the State Capitol Building and allow the Capitol Police to work the Capitol building and grounds.

Anyone who has ever visited the State Capitol during a legislative session could not help observing the presence of uniformed state police who at times appear to rival lobbyists in their numbers. There are Capitol Police who possess the same training as State Police and their job is to police the State Capitol. Grafton is simply suggesting that they be allowed to do their jobs and free up State Police to “work traffic and other functions.”

Simply put, Grafton says State Police “should build a reputation on service to the public, not politicians.”

Perhaps it was just an oversight that he did not also recommend pulling State Troopers from assignments guarding and protecting state college football coaches at both home and out-of-state games. Their presence seems redundant, given the fact that coaches are surrounded by upwards of 100 beefy, well-conditioned football players.

For a complete text of Grafton’s letter, click on the link below:

Read Full Post »

Much has been said and written – and it should have been – about the beating death of RONALD GREENE and the beating of LARRY BOWMAN, both at the hands of Louisiana State Police in Troop F in northeast Louisiana.

But for whatever reason, not a word has been uttered by Louisiana media – until now – about the two-minute video of a BRUTAL ATTACK of a vicious Lake Charles Police Department K-9 on a helpless woman named Nicole Edwards and the image of officers trying to handcuff the prone woman even as the dog continues biting her.

Edwards never resisted and the animal ignored repeated shouts by officers to cease its attack. An unidentified officer can even be heard demanding that Edwards put her hands down and stop fighting the dog who is obviously out of control.

The attack occurred on May 3, 2019, but somehow local media never heard about it. Neither, apparently, did the media learn of Edwards’ lawsuit which resulted in a huge but otherwise undisclosed settlement – but not before the department attempted to hide behind the qualified immunity protection given law enforcement officers in many such cases.

New Orleans attorney Glenn McGovern, who represented Edwards, said attacks by law enforcement canines has become a growing problem since 9-11. “That’s when departments really started beefing up their K-9 forces for protection,” McGovern said.

“You have to follow the money. As the demand grew, the ability to properly train enough animals diminished and what happened was the flooding of departments with improperly and inadequately trained dogs. But the demand was there,” he said.

“My wife’s hairdresser and our interior decorator spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to train for their occupations. Police departments spend $370 – the fee to become certified and the certification of both the handlers and the dogs is sadly insufficient,” he said.

McGovern said the emphasis in recent years is to import the Belgian Malinois breed, a dog that closely resembles the German Shepherd breed, and which is generally preferred for use by the military.

But the increase in the use of K-9s has brought a dramatic increase in PROBLEMS , not just in Louisiana, but elsewhere as well.

“Dogs must be trained to bite. Some don’t want to and those are forced in more training to get into the bite mode. As a result, the dog becomes neurotic, unpredictable. The average department has a bite rate of about 20-30 percent. If you have a gun that goes off 30 percent of the time, you’d say that was ridiculous. Baton Rouge had a 90 percent bite rate.”

Police department dogs require “maintenance” each month in order to remain certified, McGovern said. “But the handlers are generally someone who has been stuck in there who is burned out. They don’t even get overtime pay for working with the dogs,” he said.

There are no national standards, he said, adding that 30 percent or more of the time, a dog will not release from an attack and sometimes they even attack the handler/officer.

“Smaller departments have to have dual-purpose dogs that are used for drugs, for tracking, for S.W.A.T. and for apprehension,” McGovern said. “There’s just no way they can adequately train these dogs for all those functions.”

Because of the demand for dogs, breeders flooded the market, selling up to 20 dogs at a time to a trainer – and none were rejected and the departments end up with these animals. “You can’t possible sell 20 dogs at a time and get no rejects,” McGovern said. “The problem is, and what’s really scary, is there are no records of certification of training. When the dogs are green and the officers are green, they can’t handle the animals.

“The mindset is the dog is a wuss if he doesn’t take someone down. Sometimes they take down the wrong person, though. We have a case in Caddo or Bossier where the dog attacked a little girl who just happened to be nearby.”

The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Department likes to brag about a dog it has that has steel teeth, McGovern said. “They call him Robo-Cop.”

“If you examine the results, you’ll see that the victims are primarily young blacks.

“In another Lake Charles case,” he said, “there were conflicting orders given a motorist. One cop was yelling at him to get out of the car while another was telling him to keep his hands up. Well, you can’t reach for the door handle and keep your hands up at the same time, so you have a choice of getting shot if you reach for the door handle or having the dog set upon you if you remain in the car.”

Read Full Post »

I don’t know how I got so lucky.

First, I got myself on the mailing list of Bobby Jindal when he was floundering his way through caucuses and primaries in his ridiculous pursuit of the 2016 Republican president nomination – though in retrospect, he might well have proven a more effective and less divisive president than the one we ended up with.

Which brings me to that one. I now find myself on the mailing list of the self-described president-in-exile down in Florida as he:

Continues to insist he was robbed – despite some 60 court decisions that have said otherwise;

Blames his successor for many of his own failures – for instance, he lays the coronavirus tragedy at the feet of Biden despite his own distain for precautions like masks and vaccines that, had he endorsed them, his fawning followers would have fallen in line. He also consistently blames Biden for the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle despite the fact that the so-called Biden withdrawal was done under strict terms negotiated by…Trump.

Most importantly, he begs for contributions in a manner that resembles some sort of hybrid combination of a shameless televangelist offering eternal salvation and a splinter from the cross and those cheesy late-night TV commercials for “limited-time” opportunities to purchase cheap merchandise provided you call in the next 15 minutes.

I receive dozens of these solicitations daily not only from the Trump Meister his own self, but from sons Donnie Jr., and Eric, from Ivanka, Donnie’s sleep-over girlfriend what’s-her-name, and various hangers-on like Newt and a host of others. Conspicuously absent from this all-star cast of grifters, however, is the name Melania. Apparently, she doesn’t share her husband’s taste for carnivalesque barkers.

The “offers” are as ridiculous and worthless are they are varied and when you step back and analyze them, they’re actually pretty insulting to anything with an IQ higher than that of a gerbil.

Topping the list, perhaps, would be the opportunity to be included in the “Trump Honor Roll,” followed pretty close by the “official” Trump Club gold membership card (left unexplained is where, exactly, this club is, or who the other members are).

And then there are the imaginative Trump Christmas stockings:

Or the handy Trump 2022 calendars:

And who could resist those clever “Let’s Go Brandon” tee-shirts?

And who could resist a chance to get their name on Trump’s “Donor List” or an opportunity to win a trip to meet and take a photo with Trump backstage at his rally?

But only if you act now. Make your contribution in the next 10 minutes (or by 11:59 p.m.).

(Though it would be nice if they’d do the right thing and let you know that it’s not a one-time contribution. Once you give them your credit care number or bank account information, the money is extracted from your account each month – without your knowledge of consent.)

Read Full Post »

Funny how our so-called system of justice works. In fact, maybe that headline should read “on the inside looking out.”

Take a high-profile case like the death of George Floyd driven by public outrage and you get a reasonably quick trial, conviction and sentencing.

Then there is the equally tragic death of Ronald Greene at the hands of Louisiana State Police and because the only available video is in the possess of those same State Police, it takes 16 months for the story to surface and while there have been a couple of firings, there is still no trial.

And the two homicides, that of George Floyd and Ronald Greene, were only a couple of months apart but still no formal charges, much less a trial in the Greene case.

Take the case of BERNARD NOBLE, an African-American lacking the right political connections. He was stopped by New Orleans police while he was riding…a bicycle. On the ground was a small bag of marijuana the equivalent of two joints. He was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in prison and actually served seven before an outpouring of support and publicity about his case.

But when there are sexual harassment charges at a highly-visible institution like LSU, or the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, those at the top close ranks to protect the school or office and in the process, the alleged offenders and the cases drags on interminably.

DEREK HARRIS of Abbeville is another of those lacking the financial resources to engage a high-priced defense attorney. Consequently, when the unemployed Gulf War veteran was arrested for selling $30 worth of weed to an undercover agent, his sentence appeared a little disproportionate to his sin.

His trial was postponed (continued, in legal parlance) for three years and he chose to be tried before a judge rather than a jury. The judge handed down a 15-year sentence on June 16, 2012, but that didn’t satisfy the district attorney, who then filed a habitual offender bill of information (a bill of information is executed by the DA without benefit of a grand jury hearing the evidence) based on Harris’s prior arrests and on Nov. 26, 2012, he was popped with a life sentence without benefit of parole.

Seven years later, JOHN PAUL FUNES, who did have the benefit of highly-paid legal counsel, received a 33-month sentence for embezzling nearly $800,000 from a children’s hospital foundation.

I’ll repeat that: $800,000. From. A. Children’s. Hospital. Foundation. 33 months.

But not to worry, Derek Harris is tucked away for life.

And now we have the case of Baton Rouge physical therapist Philippe Veeters that’s been hanging around for two years with no indication that anyone at the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s office is in a hurry to get the inert case moving.

Veeters is accused of inappropriate touching of female patients and inappropriate comments about their bodies.

Veeters, besides operating his own facility, Dutch Physical Therapy, also was affiliated with The Spine Diagnostic Promotional, LLC.

The Spine Diagnostic Promotional, LLC has two officers according to Louisiana Secretary of State corporate records: Veeters and Dr. J. Michael Burdine.

Burdine is the former president of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

While the State Board of Medical Examiners has no jurisdiction or regulatory authority over physical therapists – they are licensed and regulated by the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board – it never hurts to have the former president of the State Board of Medical Examiners as a business partner.

In fact, the State Board of Medical Examiners and the Louisiana Physical Therapy Board once shared the same legal counsel – George Papale – until he was TERMINATED by the physical therapy board following complaints about the way the board handled …sexual misconduct cases involving physical therapists.

One of his accusers has voiced her anger at what she perceives as foot-dragging by prosecutors.

“We still have no trial,” she said. It’s currently set for march but I’m doubtful. The defense still has not released her [answers] to the D.A.

“The judge again allowed him to travel in December and January to his vacation home.”

“The judge ruled in favor of Veeters that no additional criminal charges will be allowed. We had been waiting for this answer for months!

“All the while he is free and traveling because he has money and the power to hire an attorney to drag this out, there were many men in shackles on lesser charges waiting for a trial because they can’t afford an attorney.

“The criminal justice system is sickening for victims where the defendant has money. They are allowed to drag it out so much you want out. I want my life back and I want closure. It’s so horrible he can travel all over the last few years with no restrictions.

“And no one cares. A physical therapist who has [multiple] charges and multiple ones which fall outside the statute of limitations and he is a free man and the court allows him to drag it out for four years? Where is the justice for the victims?”

Read Full Post »

Back in early October, LouisianaVoice did a story about railroad safety and the firing by Union Pacific Railroad of one of its employees because he took a rail line out of service over safety issues despite being ordered not to do so.

Johnny Taylor subsequently SUED Union Pacific and the railroad offered the defense that Taylor was terminated for disrespectful conduct and that he had “significant performance issues” and a history of “insubordination and outright refusal to alter his behavior.”

It was the classic David v. Goliath case with Taylor represented by no-nonsense lawyer Art Smith, who was pitted against a bank of suited corporate lawyers whose only purpose in life was to protect the interest of Union Pacific.

(Full disclosure: Smith also is my attorney in public records and public meeting litigation and has won three of four such cases that have gone to trial. I like to joke that he is also the typical lawyer in that he goes by the traditional first initial, followed by his middle name, last name, and a Roman numeral – as in J. Arthur Smith, III. His son also is an attorney in his firm. His name is J. Arthur Smith, IV. They’re referred to by their legal team as Art-Three and Art-Four.)

If you view the Smith Law Firm office on North Street in downtown Baton Rouge from either the outside or its interior, you wouldn’t be impressed. But then, Art-Three doesn’t go in for a lot of frills. The most expensive artwork you’ll find in his office consists of an array of New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz-Fest) poster reproductions. A big outing for Art-Three is for him and his beautiful wife to peruse the latest releases at the Louisiana Book Festival in downtown Baton Rouge each fall (cancelled, unfortunately, the past two years because of COVID).

You won’t see the Smith Law Firm assaulting your senses with all those mind-numbing commercials during local newscasts (local TV news exists only to keep those ads from bumping together and lately, even that task is seemingly impossible as you’re liable to see back-to-back-to-back ads from Morris Bart, Gordon McKernan, Spencer Callahan, Peyton Murphy, and God-knows-who-else). Some of those firms that like to advertise those big awards neglect to mention that their fees (some as high as 40 percent), expert witness fees, court reporter fees and court costs come off the top of those awards even though, I believe, there is a state law now that is supposed to provide full disclosure in the ads but which is ignored for obvious reasons.

What you do see, however, is serious legal work from a capable – and dedicated – staff that, believe it or not, takes its clients’ problems personally.

And so it came to pass that Union Pacific got its comeuppance recently when Johnny Taylor and Art-Three kicked butt in U.S. District Court’s Middle District in Baton Rouge.

In the Jury Verdict Form completed by the jury, the answers to six questions were:

  • Did Plaintiff Johnny Taylor prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he engaged in protected activity under the Federal Railroad Safety Act? Yes.
  • Did Plaintiff Johnny Taylor prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his protected activity was a contributing factor to Defendant Union Pacific’s decision to terminate him? Yes.
  • Did Union Pacific prove by clear and convincing evidence that it would have terminated Plaintiff Johnny Taylor even if he had not engaged in protected activity? No.
  • Do you find that Plaintiff Johnny Taylor should be awarded back pay? Yes.
  • What sum of money, if paid now in cash, would fairly and reasonably compensate Plaintiff Johnny Taylor for the damages, if any, you have found Defendant Union Pacific caused him?
  • Past pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life: $300,000.
  • Future pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life: $423,000.
  • Do you find that Plaintiff Johnny Taylor should be awarded punitive damages? No.

All in all, not too shabby a performance in David’s unheralded skirmish with Goliath.

And not a single tasteless, obnoxious, cheesy lawyer ad to be found to assault your sensibilities.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: