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It was more or less assumed by St. Tammany Parish residents that when Randy Smith defeated Jack Strain for sheriff back in 2015, problems associated with the office might finally be put behind them.

After all, the problems involving operations at the parish detention center were sufficient for voters to choose new blood even before the Strain stain of incest, rape, child abuse and garden variety corruption charges were filed against the former sheriff LAST AUGUST.

In fact, one might even think St. Tammany had seen quite enough political shenanigans after the spate of corruption stories involving former District Attorney WALTER REED, a former DEPUTY, and the former parish CORONER,

So protective are the political powers that be, however, that the suggestion of a parish INSPECTOR GENERAL to keep watch on their activities in order to insure compliance with the law was quickly shot down with opponents of the proposal calling instead for closer monitoring by the Legislative Auditor’s Office, which already has the responsibility of keeping tabs on the entire state.

So, it naturally stands to reason that if someone like, say a federal agent for the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, should have the temerity to criticize the new sheriff, he should be promptly arrested, handcuffed and hauled off to jail for criminal defamation.

And that precisely what Sheriff Randy Smith did when JERRY ROGERS, a former St. Tammany deputy, sent an email to the family of slain NANETTE KRENTEL saying, in effect, that the sheriff’s office had botched its investigation of the July 2017 murder, which remains unsolved.

There are several problems with the arrest of Rogers. First of all, criminal defamation under Louisiana law is a misdemeanor, not a felony, hardly worthy of arrest and a ride in the back seat of a patrol car. Second, and probably pretty important, the law was ruled unconstitutional in 1973 by the State Supreme Court after the U.S. Supreme Court found that the law’s wording was unconstitutional way back in 1964. Third, when Rogers was arrested back in September, deputies neglected to tell him why as they hauled him off to jail—a violation of his Miranda rights. Fourth, the warrant for Rogers’ arrest was signed by Judge Raymond Childress after he found there was probable cause. Fifth, Judge Childress and Sheriff Smith apparently forgot there was still a First Amendment protecting free speech.

About those fourth and fifth factors: you’d think a judge, who successfully completed law school and who, after seeking a judgeship, is deemed to be qualified to cast judgment on people’s affairs in matters that come before him would be sufficiently current on the law (or at least able to do a minimal amount of legal research) to ascertain that the criminal defamation statute had long ago—like more than half-a-century ago—been ruled unconstitutional. I mean, that’s why we have judges, for goodness sake.

Is it too much to ask a judge to do his damned job?

This travesty is eerily reminiscent of a similar episode in Terrebonne Parish when Sheriff JERRY LARPENTER raided the home of an internet blogger, a city police officer, who had criticized the high sheriff in a blog post. Like Smith, Larpenter convinced a judge, someone supposedly with a passing familiarity with the law and the Constitution, to issue a warrant authorizing the raid in which the blogger’s computers were seized—illegally, it turned out, in brazen violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects a little thing called free speech.

In the Terrebonne case, a federal judge subsequently read the riot act—and the First Amendment—to Larpenter and the blogger sued and won a judgment believed to have been somewhere in the $250,000 range.

[Immediately after the raid (and before the lawsuit was filed), I brought up the incident in a conversation with former Gov. Edwin Edwards and his comment was, “I’d love to be that blogger’s lawyer.”]

The big difference in the two cases is the blogger down in Houma was not arrested or handcuffed. Rogers was. I’d love to be his lawyer.

As a graphic illustration of just how toxic the actions of Smith and Childress were, after 22nd JDC District Attorney Warren Montgomery recused his office because Rogers’ wife if employed by his office, referring the case to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, the AG, realizing the legal implications, quickly punted.

“Because the alleged conduct under these specific facts involve statements aimed at a public official performing public duties, this office is precluded by law from moving forward with any criminal action,” said Assistant Attorney General Joseph LeBeau (correctly) in a letter to Rogers.

Truth be told, Rogers likely had good reason to question the investigation of Krentel’s murder. Certainly the family does. It’s not unusual for investigations by local sheriffs’ offices to appear as something akin to the Keystone Kops.

In Lincoln Parish in the early 1970s, for example, there was a manhunt on for a killer on a Saturday. The sheriff’s office incredibly closed at midnight and did not re-open until noon on Sunday. Seriously, they just locked the doors and went home. Meanwhile, the Monroe and Shreveport newspapers ran a description of the suspect’s car and on Sunday morning, a high school student on his way to church spotted the car and called Ruston city police who captured the suspect.

And the sheriff was irate at the papers for running the description of the vehicle, saying they could have “run him clean out of the g–d— country.”

Similar questions continue to linger over other investigations, including violent deaths in Washington (2012) and Rapides Parishes (2005).

(To learn more about the power—and corruption—of Louisiana sheriffs, you may order my book Louisiana’s Rogue Sheriffs: A Culture of Corruption for $30 by clicking on the yellow oval DONATE button in the column to the right of this post.)

 

Even as LSU fans celebrate the Tigers’ spectacular undefeated, national championship season, the potential for controversy and international espionage hovers over the university’s Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering.

LouisianaVoice has learned that Wang Wanjun, formerly a professor at North University, was recruited by China’s “Thousand Talents Plan” in 2010 while employed by LSU. He continues to serve as a professor in the state’s flagship university’s Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering.

North University has deep ties to the China military that go back at least half-a-century. In 2015, the school transferred its research results to the Chinese military and in 2018, an agreement was signed with China’s Aerospace Science and Industry to enhance the transfer of technological development from academia to the military.

The Thousand Talents Plan is a state-run program created in 2008 which recruits mostly Chinese science and technology individuals who have studied or lived abroad to work in China. Wang was recruited by the talent program in 2010, according to a February 2019 article in The Epoch Times. You can read that article by clicking HERE.

The plan has recruited more than 7,000 people for employment at universities, research institutes or state-owned enterprises.

Wang, after obtaining a grant of the equivalent of about $1.5 million from China in 2010, joined the Thousand Talents Plan to establish a lithography center and a lithography company. Lithography is a key manufacturing step in the production of semiconductor chips.

A just-released 109-page report (click HERE to read report) by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations entitled Threats to the U.S. Research Enterprise: China’s Talent Recruitment Plans, examines the Thousand Talents Plan, which it said “incentivizes individuals engaged in research and development in the United States to transmit the knowledge and research they gain here to China in exchange for salaries, research funding, lab space, and other incentives. China unfairly uses the American research and expertise it obtains for its own economic and military gain.”

The Chinese Communist Party “plays a lead role in administering the Thousand Talents Plan,” the Senate report says. “The party is able to ‘exert exceptional’ levels of control over the…plan and other talent recruitment plans.”

Plan members sign legally binding contracts with Chinese institutions. The contracts may “incentivize members to lie on grant applications to U.S. grant-making agencies,” the report says, adding that members may also be obligated to set up “shadow labs” in China to facilitate research identical to their U.S. research and in some cases, to transfer that intellectual research.

The Epoch Times article quoted Wang as saying he entered into the Thousand Talents Plan because the school (North University) allowed him “to serve his country and start a business.”

The report says that recruitment plan members removed some 30,000 electronic files before leaving for China, submitted false information on grant applications, filed Chinese patents based on U.S. government-funded research and hired other Chinese talent recruitment plan members to work on U.S. national security topics.

Following public testimony and heightened U.S. government scrutiny in October 2018, the Chinese government began deleting only references to the Thousand Talents Plan. Among the items deleted were any mentions about plan members. Chinese universities ceased promoting the program on their websites and the plan’s official website removed the names of scientists participating in the program. China’s recruitment of talent for the plan, however, continues.

“China’s talent recruitment plans, including the Thousand Talents Plan (China’s most prominent talent recruitment plan), undermine the integrity of our research enterprise and harm our economic and national security interests,” the report says.

“China’s talent recruitment plans (the so-called “brain gain” programs), such as the Thousand Talents Program, offer competitive salaries, state-of-the-art research facilities, and honorific titles, luring both Chinese overseas talent and foreign experts alike to bring their knowledge and experience to China, even if that means stealing proprietary information or violating export controls to do so,” the report says.

Besides Wanjun Wang, there is also a Yong Wang listed in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering ONLINE DIRECTORY. Both are associate professors of mechanical engineering but Wanjun Wang is the only one specifically mentioned in The Epoch Times article of last February as being affiliated with either China’s North University or the Thousand Talents Plan.

Efforts by LouisianaVoice to contact Wanjun Wang were unsuccessful.

There is no indication that Wanjun Wang is under investigation for his ties to the two, but Florida legislators have opened an INVESTIGATION into the “extent of foreign meddling in taxpayer-funded research” at that state’s research universities, according to an article in Inside Education.

The Florida investigation, believed to be the first state-level probe of this sort, was initiated after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a warning of efforts by foreign enterprises to influence or compromise U.S. researchers.

The University of Florida has ceased approval of participation in any foreign talent programs as an outside activity, according to Steve Orlando, a spokesman for the university.

The NIH, meanwhile has begun cracking down on researches who fail to disclose foreign ties. The agency reported that as of last October, it had investigated a minimum of 180 scientists at more than 65 institutions for violations of policies requiring disclosure of foreign ties. The NIH investigation focused on the Thousand Talents Plan.

LSU’s official policy PERMANENT MEMORANDUM 11, governing outside employment of university employees does not specifically address employment with foreign entities other than requiring requirement of outside employment and the identities “to the extent the information is known to the employee” of the owners, directors, and majority shareholders of the outside employer. “Additional information about such contracts may be required by the university upon request,” the policy says.

“But Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much. Respect that fact.”

—Donald Trump, at rally in Phoenix, Arizona, August 22, 2017.

“Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world, I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, ‘Can you believe what I am getting?'”

—Donald Trump, in Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life, 2008.

“If you need Viagra, you’re probably with the wrong girl.”

—Donald Trump, Playboy interview, October 2004.

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