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Editor’s note: Ronnie Jones, former chairman of the State Gaming Control Board, is one of several state and local officials whose careers were left in tatters by former Sen. Karen Carter Peterson over her 22 years in the Louisiana Legislature, as a New Orleans political power broker, and as chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

It should be pointed out, as one reader did, that former 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed, who was convicted of several counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and mail fraud, was sentenced in 2017 to four years, fined $15,000, ordered to pay $609,000 in forfeiture, $40,000 to the IRS, and $572,000 in restitution – compared to Peterson’s comparatively light sentence of 22 months for her guilty plea to diverting $140,000 in funds from the state Democratic Party and her campaign funds to her personal use, ostensibly to feed her insatiable gambling addiction.

Written on Nov. 29, 2022, immediately following Peterson’s guilty plea – and at the request of LouisianaVoice, the following is Jones’s reconstruction of how Peterson torpedoed Jones’s career when she blocked his reappointment as gaming control board:

I don’t recall exactly what year Ms. Peterson applied for the Self Exclusion List but her name came to our attention at the Board shortly after she filed and signed the paperwork.  Once I was aware that Ms. Peterson was on the list, I was confronted with what I thought might be a dilemma, a political and ethical dilemma.  The names on the list are considered confidential except for the Board, the State Police and the gaming licensees.  Nevertheless, did I have an obligation to share Ms. Peterson’s participation on the list with Governor Edwards?  He was, after all, the highest-ranking Democrat in the state and she was the influential head of the state Democratic party. 

It was a question quickly answered by my in-house counsel.  I’m paraphrasing, but the answer was a variation of “Not no, but hell no.  Have you lost your freaking mind?”  (She and I had a special relationship and she could be blunt but seldom wrong.)  The matter was then settled.  Peterson’s participation could not be shared with anyone not authorized by law or the gaming regulations.  Even the Governor was not entitled to know.

But there was another nagging question.  After considering who she was and the fact that she had admitted to a compulsive gambling problem, was it appropriate for me to reach out to Peterson and offer names, numbers and resources for managing her problem?  The question gnawed at me for more than a week.  After some discussion with staff we surmised that reaching out to Peterson would not likely be well received by the then-Senator.  She might entirely misinterpret my intentions as being disingenuous. 

Her reputation was well known around the capital and I knew that to conduct the Board’s business it would be necessary to appear from time to time before the Senate Judiciary B Committee.  Peterson sat on that committee.  Things could go badly in those meetings if Peterson perceived some malevolent motive on my part in confronting her with her addiction.  That would complicate the Board’s legislative business.  That, in turn, would be bad for the Board, but more importantly that would be bad for the state.  It wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.

Throughout the next few years, I had heard that Peterson was violating her Self Exclusion agreement by gambling. I knew it would only be a matter of time before her luck would run out.  Literally.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I heard from officials at L’auberge Casino in Baton Rouge in February 2019.  They had a slot winner who didn’t wait around for a significant win payout.  The size of the jackpot would have required producing identification and completion of legally required forms.  They had a photo and sent it along with the question, “Do we know who this is?” 

Before even opening the attached photo, I knew there were usually only two reasons a gambler heads to the exit before collecting on a jackpot:  they were either wanted by law enforcement or they were on the Self Exclusion List.  I opened the attachment and the player’s closely cropped hair style was unmistakable.  It was Peterson.  State Police was notified that it was the Senator.  They asked if I had an opinion on how the matter should be handled and I asked them to treat this case as they would any other.    

In due course State Police contacted Peterson and told her they wanted to meet with her.  I’m pretty sure she knew why she got the call.  At the meeting she was cited for trespassing, the appropriate legal charge for a gambler on the list who violates the terms by being on a licensed gaming floor.   

It didn’t take long for WWL TV to learn of the citation because even though the Exclusion List is not a public document a citation has no equivalent protection under the law.  Somebody called the TV station.  It could have been somebody associated with the property, someone in State Police or a number of other sources.  But it wasn’t me.  Nor was it anyone on my staff.  Indeed, at the time I reasoned that there were plenty of suspects out there who figured they had a score to settle with Peterson, for as many people as she may have assisted in her political career there was an equal number she had disrespected, upbraided or otherwise mistreated.

And so it came to pass that she was outed as a compulsive gambler by a TV news report, something I had known for years but had never divulged.  The following day I sent the following email to Peterson:

From: Ronnie Jones
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 7:13 AM
To: Karen Carter Peterson

Senator Peterson—

Thank you for your comments yesterday on the issue of compulsive gambling.  Although you should never have been forced to talk about this personal struggle so publicly, you have done so with courage and grace.  As my senator, you have made me proud.

You may not be aware but I have been an advocate for those who struggle with addictive disorders for years.  That continues today in my role as Chairman of the Gaming Control Board.  I believe the state has an absolute moral responsibility to provide resources for those who suffer from the disorder.  The industry, too, must bear a share of the burden for providing assistance and they know where I stand with respect to compulsive gambling.  I think there is more all of us can do to address the collateral damage, although unintended, that gaming causes throughout the state.  My pledge to you is that you shall always have my support so long as I serve in this capacity.

I look forward to visiting with you at your convenience.  I am leaving on some personal time this weekend and will be back in about 10 days.  Call when you feel like talking.

Ronnie Jones, Chairman

Louisiana Gaming Control Board

7901 Independence Boulevard

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70806

And her reply:

From: Karen Carter Peterson
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 3:22 PM
To: Ronnie Jones
Subject: Re: Thank you

Thanks so much for this email. I would like to chat with you this evening before you leave if possible. Let me know what works for you. 

Best regards, 

Karen Carter Peterson

504-621-1697

From: Ronnie Jones
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2019 3:58 PM
To: Karen Carter Peterson
Subject: RE: Thank you

I have a neighborhood meeting this evening but I’ll be available in the morning if you have some time.

Ronnie Jones

Chairman

Louisiana Gaming Control Board

She never called.  Despite two follow up emails, she never responded.  But her silence was part of a larger pattern.  When she offered her objections to my reappointment as Chairman of the Gaming Board on June 2, 2020, it was on a list with 5 other appointees’ names, all from her district.  According to sources inside the closed-door Senate chambers, when she was asked to explain her objections to the nominees, she sat silent.  She had also declined to respond to three emails from me in the spring of 2020 preceding the confirmation process in which I told her I was up for reappointment and offered to meet with her and discuss any potential issues.   Crickets.

It was not until February 2021 when facing dismal polling numbers on her quest to fill a vacant Congressional seat that Peterson broke her silence.  Sort of.  She had been hammered during her campaign by several follow-up articles retelling her actions at blocking board and commission nominees without explanation.  She relented by penning a letter to the editor of The Times-Picayune/The Advocate asserting that she vetoed my reappointment because I had been too cozy with the industry.  “I believe we cannot have our regulators too close to the industry they regulate.”  She offered no evidence.  Because there was none.  She also said the Board needed an injection of new leadership because I had been there for 7 years.  My replacement, Mike Noel, who was otherwise well qualified, had been regulating gaming for 15 years.  Peterson’s math was as confusing as her unsupported suggestion of coziness.

After my abrupt ouster we all wondered what the real reason was behind her veto of appointments from her district.  One theory was pretty clear cut—that she blamed me for the leaked report of her transgression at L’auberge.  But that simply wasn’t the case.  I had ample opportunity for several years to “out” Peterson but as much as I disdained her, I had an ethical and legal obligation to keep my mouth shut.  Moreover, I was just one of six constituents she blocked.  Had it been just about me, a personal vendetta of sorts, she would likely have only included my name on the list.

It was a former Board member from the New Orleans area with deep roots in the junkyard political culture of the area who cleared things up for me.  He called after Peterson’s confirmation gambit to express his thanks for my service.  During the discussion I mused about being punished for something I didn’t do, leaking the report of gambling problem.  He countered quickly, “That wasn’t it at all.  This was much bigger than just you (and your reappointment).  This was about exacting revenge on the governor.”  It was an ah-ha moment.  And so, it began to make more sense to me.  She and John Bel had fallen on hard political times and as a state senator, one’s options at retribution against a sitting governor are limited.  This wasn’t really about me, not about me at least directly.  She shot at the governor and hit me in the head.  In the last conversation I had with the governor the day after the ouster, he thanked me for my work as chairman and said that he was sorry that I had been collateral damage.  I didn’t ask him what he meant but now I know.

Having had months to process all that transpired, since June 2020, I got the opportunity to offer my take on the senator when she wrote her letter to the editor.  It’s a response that’s been previously reported:  “I believe the consensus sentiment is that I spent 45 years in public service and served with honor, dignity and integrity,” Jones said . . . . “The jury is still out on Sen. Peterson.”  Well, it would seem, the jury has spoken. 

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She was an influential state senator, chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, the daughter of a powerful New Orleans politician, and an unsuccessful candidate to fill the 2nd Congressional District seat vacated by Cedric Richmond when he joined the Biden administration.

She also was addicted to gambling and that compulsion apparently took precedence over all the other traits and now KAREN CARTER PETERSON is headed to federal prison for 22 months. She was sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty to a single count of wire fraud for diverting more than $140,000 from the state Democratic Party’s treasury and from her own campaign funds to feed her gambling passion.

For one person in particular, it must have been a sense of karma. If Buddy Leach were still alive, there might well have been two experiencing that feeling of what goes around comes around.

Leach, a former congressman in his own right, and a wealthy oil and gas man from southwest Louisiana, was chairman of the state Democratic Party until unseated by Peterson who promptly set about using that position for her and family members’ personal benefit.

Some observers feel she single-handedly did more damage to the Democratic Party in Louisiana than any Republican strategy ever could have.

The other person is former chairman of the State Gaming Control Board Ronnie Jones.

Jones, who was residing in Peterson’s New Orleans senatorial district, was renominated by Gov. John Bel Edwards to the gaming post. But a quirk in the rules allows the senator in whose district any gubernatorial nominee resides to protest the appointment. That one protest is all it takes to kill the governor’s choice and that’s precisely what Peterson did to Jones.

It could have been some degree of sour grapes or misplaced revenge motive. Peterson, who had voluntarily placed herself on a “self-exclusion” list for Louisiana casinos, nevertheless managed to get into a Baton Rouge casino in 2019 for a little action and was CAUGHT. Perhaps she blamed Jones for her being outed and issued a misdemeanor summons.

“It is a disease,” she subsequently wrote in a statement on social media. “From time to time, I have relapsed.” At the same time, she also criticized whoever leaked her involvement in the state program to media, describing it as intentional.

Jones agreed that gambling addiction is a disease but he stopped short of giving her a pass on her behavior on that basis.

“Gambling addiction is real,” he said. “It’s crushed families from coast to coast and I don’t think there’s any doubt that Peterson gambled away stolen money. But we don’t know what we don’t know. Was all the $140,000 gambled? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps there was some wining and dining along the way courtesy of other people’s money. But she has successfully weaponized gambling addiction as the bogeyman for all her ills. In this case it’s the political equivalent of the dog ate my homework excuse. Cast yourself as the victim and hope for the best outcome.”    

Another black man killed by police during a routine traffic stop.

This time it wasn’t State Police, but a sheriff’s deputy and it wasn’t in Troop F, but in Rapides Parish.

And it was the end result of a traffic stop for, of all things, a pickup truck for suspected window tint and modified muffler violations, according to Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Lamar Davis, who belatedly came up with the reason for the traffic stop – even though the deputy who actually pulled Derrick Kittling over never explained to him why he was pulled over.

And also, to be completely fair, I don’t know what went on during the exchange between Deputy Rodney Anderson and Kittling, but I do know this: Louisiana’s archaic laws over window tint and muffler modification are nothing more than license to harass and an excuse for selective enforcement.

I live next to a major thoroughfare in Denham Springs and I literally am unable to count the number of vehicles – driven mostly by white, middle-class teenagers – that roar up and down Range Avenue with those loud, obnoxious modified mufflers with impunity from Denham Springs police.

To carry the absurdity a bit further, there is no continuity between states, no standardized regulations on tinted windows. A friend, also in Denham Springs, purchased a vehicle in another state that already had its windows tinted – legally in that state, but apparently not so much in Louisiana. The result? He can’t get his vehicle inspected in this state without changing out all his windows because of our backward laws regulating tinted windows.

In Kittling’s case, he allegedly asked repeatedly why Anderson had stopped him but got no response and things escalated.

And again, I don’t know the particulars of this incident. Anderson may have only been trying to give Kittling a warning and things got out of hand.

But Davis, who said State Police are conducting an ongoing investigation of the November 6 shooting – that’s an investigation that has slogged along for two whole months now, if you’re counting – said the sheriff’s office had been receiving reports of people with weapons in the area where Kittling was pulled over.

What?

Are you kidding me?

Weapons? Please name me any area of any town, city, burg, hamlet, village, or metropolis where there is not a presence of guns these days.

That’s about the weakest explanation yet from LSP.

And of course, LSP has not responded to a request for an update on its investigation but that’s not unusual. Make a request for public records to LSP for a public record (as I have) and you’ll get the response (as I have) that it may take up to 45 days for compliance despite Louisiana Revised Statute 44:1 (et seq.), which plainly says:

If the public record applied for is immediately available, it shall be immediately

presented to the authorized person applying for it. If the public record applied

for is in active use at the time of the application, the custodian shall promptly

certify this in writing to the applicant and shall fix a day and hour within three

days, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays, for review of

the record.

Of course, when presented with that statute, LSP’s legal department responded with a statute that does not remotely apply to the records in question. We are now in our 24th working day in our standoff over my pending records request despite the law that mandates “immediate” compliance.

But back to those Louisiana laws governing tinted windows and modified mufflers.

According to a deep dive into the records by freelance journalist FRANCES MADESON, writing for the Louisiana Illuminator, the Rapides Sheriff has a crack team assigned to the public danger inherent in dark windows and loud mufflers. Madeson reports that there was a grand total of seven modified muffler violations in 2020, ten in 2021, and eight as of November 28, 2022.

Tinted windows? Well, there was just one in 2020, five in 2021, and another five as of Nov. 28, 2022.

Would anyone care to guess as to the ethnicity of the drivers?

Oh, the sheriff’s office did say those numbers did not include stops in which drivers were not ticketed. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the ethnicity of those drivers?

Another point raised by Madeson was the inspection sticker on Kittler’s vehicle, purchased only a month before the shooting. That would have been in October. The inspection sticker, issued that same month, indicated that it had passed inspection only a month before Anderson pulled him over. State inspections are supposed to check window tinting with an approved light meter, and vehicles with exhaust systems that produce “excessive noise” can be rejected, according to state law.

That alone should produce a curious “hmmm?” from investigators.

Madeson contacted Lauren Bonds, executive director of the National Police Accountability Project based in New Orleans (NPAP), who said such low-level infractions are widely known as “gateway” violations. “You get a tint violation,” she said, “and then it’s ‘I saw that you didn’t have your seatbelts on’ and then ‘I got a chance to read your license and saw that you had a suspended license’ or ‘I get this chance to look at your insurance and see that it’s expired.’”

While Bonds called RPSO’s citation numbers “strikingly low,” she described the tint and mufflers stops as often being “pretextual” or a reason to conduct another type of investigation. She said once they find a bigger violation, it’s a common practice not to include the lower offense on the ticket.

Do you like conspiracy theories?

Who was really responsible for the JFK assassination? Theories abound: the Mafia, Castro, the CIA, LBJ. I have no idea, though I do harbor my own doubts that Oswald acted alone.

Was the World Trade Center an inside job to justify the Mideast war? I weigh in with a resounding No on that one but I do still have questions about the true motives behind the decision to invade Iraq.

Did Elvis fake his death? Is he still alive? Come on. Really? Why would he do that? And the king would be 88 this month. I’m certain he has left the building.

Was the 2020 election stolen from Trump? How did Biden get so many votes? There were a ton of Americans fed up with his antics as president then and with his constant whining since November 2020. Yeah, there’s a valid explanation for all those Biden votes.

But here’s a conspiracy theory passed on to me by a friend. I was going to give him credit until he told me he stole the idea from someone else so, I’ll just forward it to you unattributed, but nevertheless it’s probably a solid possibility worthy of further pondering. Here goes:

The very public (C-Span cameras rolled and panned the entire time, which is unique in itself) haggling, finger-pointing and accusations in a stuttering, stumbling effort to elect a Speaker of the House was an orchestrated effort by Repugnantcans to divert attention away from the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.

Before you guffaw and chortle and snort at the very suggestion, let’s consider a few odd coincidences (I’m sure you’ve read at one time of another about all the weird events surrounding the JFK assassination):

It would take only a handful of Trump lackeys to get together to stage a “second insurrection” to disrupt media coverage of the Jan. 6 anniversary. My friend called it “three-dimensional chess, which Democrats are incapable of.” I love that quote, though I don’t know if it is original with my friend or if he lifted that from someone else as well. Regardless, it’s a great observation.

I believe the following quote is original with my friend because he sent it to me after he fessed up to borrowing the theory of deflection and obfuscation:

“So the most Trumpism members are defying Trump’s choice? And it (the attempts to elect a speaker) goes to midnight on the 6th, including the crazy red cards to stop the adjournment. And the whole time (Kevin) McCarthy (who finally got the needed votes shortly after midnight [on the 7th] is saying ‘COME TO PAPA!’ Not one fist-fight on the floor. It was rigged.

“It was a fait accompli.”

So, there you go. The man who has been screaming “rigged election” for more than two years has now pulled off a “rigged election” of his own.

And no one saw it coming. Well, almost no one.

There you go. Something to mull over while watching a cheesy Netflix movie.

Republicans eat their own.

–Former Lt. Gov. candidate Caroline Fayard, March 2011 (Unable to use quote marks because the actual quote was, Republicans “eat their young,” but by revising it ever so slightly, it takes on more relevance today than ever)

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