November 3, 2019 by Tom Aswell (Louisiana Voice)
Livingston Parish, where I have live, is just across the Amite River from East Baton Rouge Parish and many of the people who live here work in Baton Rouge. Among those commuters are Baton Rouge City Police officers, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputies, and Louisiana State Troopers.
This once quiet, largely rural parish is no more. Thanks to a mass exodus from East Baton Rouge Parish by those desiring better schools and cheaper land, the population has exploded since I moved here in 1981. With the growth, however, necessarily comes problems and Livingston has certainly had its share in recent weeks and months.
In fact, if you travel east on I-12 out of Baton Rouge, you will encounter three successive parishes where arrests of law enforcement officials and stories of questionable behavior on the part of judges have shaken once peaceful communities heretofore insulated from the sordid stories of illicit sex and judicial misconduct normally found in larger cities. The parishes of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Livingston are peppered with law enforcement and legal officials currently residing in jail.
- In Livingston Parish, a sheriff’s deputy and his wife, a junior high school teacher, are being held without bond after their arrest on CHILD RAPE AND PORNOGRAPHY
- In Tangipahoa Parish, which is in the same judicial district at Livingston, the 21st JDC, the state paid a legal settlement of $100,000 over a malicious prosecution lawsuit against 32nd JDC Judge Elizabeth Wolfe.
- A former Hammond city council member claimed in a sworn affidavit last Wednesday that Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes, III, offered him $5,000 to switch his endorsement in the Nov. 16 runoff for an open seat on the state’s high court. (Hughes formerly held the same Division F seat in the 21st JDC now held by Judge Wolfe.)
- In December 2016, the FBI raided the offices of the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, the Hammond Police Department and arrested longtime DEA agent and former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s deputy Chad Scott, who was subsequently convicted on seven counts that included perjury, obstruction of justice and falsification of government records.
According to former council member Johnny Blount, HUGHES approached him and offered him $5,000 to switch his endorsement of 1st Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Will Crain, supported by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) in favor of 5th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Hans Liljeberg, favored by trial lawyers, particularly the Baton Rouge firm of Talbot, Carmouche and Marcello, one of the leading firms fighting the oil and gas industry in the state.
If the allegation is true, it would raise a number of questions about judicial ethics, according to New Orleans Advocate columnist JAMES GILL.
Hughes has declined to comment on Blount’s claim, but in a separate case involving allegations of misconduct in a controversial child custody case that attracted the attention of federal investigators, he responded to reporters’ inquiries by referring them as “idiots.”
Perhaps the bad vibes emanating from the 21st JDC is a spillover from the adjacent 22nd JDC.
- Former St. Tammany District Attorney WALTER READ was sentenced to four years in prison in 2017 for political corruption and his son was given five years’ probation, prompting the elder Read to call it “a good day.”
- Former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff JACK STRAIN was arrested in July on charges of aggravated rape, sexual battery, incest, and indecent behavior with a juvenile.
Whatever the reason, residents of Livingston and Tangipahoa must be wondering what it takes to have a community where it’s safe to raise children without having to be concerned about the behavior of judges, district attorneys, teachers and cops.
That is not, of course, to paint all such public servants with the same broad brush. That would be grossly unfair to all the excellent teachers, judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials who show up for work every day wanting only to do their jobs in the way that is in the best interests of their fellow citizens.
Livingston Parish Sheriff’s deputy Dennis Perkins, who along with his wife, was arrested last month for child pornography and child rape, was hired on the recommendation of then-deputy Jason Ard in 2001 and earlier for the Walker Police Department. Ard also served a reference for Perkins during his application for that position.
Perkins came under investigation by the Walker Police Department in 2002 when records show he took sick leave to attend a wedding but was seen by a coworker at a bar and later took a week of sick leave to attend the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office training center in violation of orders not to attend.
In 2014, an officer from a different agency contacted Ard, who by then was sheriff, to allege that Perkins had an affair with the agent’s wife and that he inappropriately touched a teenage girl in his family. Ard said he asked Perkins about the allegations and he denied them and the investigation went no further.
Ard now calls Perkins “monstrous,” but the fact remains that the head of the sheriff’s office’s SWAT team and his wife flew under the radar for a long time.
And innocent children suffered.
As for Judge Wolfe, she waded into a domestic dispute between a woman who divorced her husband who had been rendered a quadriplegic and unable to speak because of a grain aneurysm to marry the judge’s stepson.
The disabled man, Daniel Hoover was living in a medical facility. He communicated to his childhood friend, Scott Lemoine, that his wife had taken everything from him, sold their house, gave away his ruck and tolls, and was keeping him from seeing their young son.
Lemoine posted comments online suggesting Wolfe had abused her judicial position.
Wolfe, in an INCREDIBLE ADMISSION for a sitting judge, admitted in her deposition, “OK. I can’t tell you about the First Amendment protection because I don’t know exactly what would or wouldn’t be. I haven’t studied it in a long time.” Obviously, she was absent from law school on Bill of Rights Day.
So, duly ignorant of that section of the Constitution, she met with Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s deputy Toby Aguillard who, after booking Lemoine on suspicion of cyber stalking, in an equally incredible move, twice called Wolfe’s husband to suggest that Judge Wolfe call the duty judge, Robert Morrison, to increase Lemoine’s bail in order to keep him locked up.
In what could pass for an episode of Judges Gone Wild, if such show were to ever be made, Judge Morrison obligingly increase Lemoine’s bail from $25,000 to $100,000 and ordered him to wear a GPS ankle bracelet if he did make bail. Morrison would later admit that he increased bail in response to a phone request but conveniently, could not remember who made the request.
When Lemoine’s family was prepared to post bail the sheriff’s office—conveniently again—discovered it was out of GPS gear, meaning Lemoine had to remain in jail.
But this story gets even better and is worthy of some sort of bizarre comedy skit were it not such a tragedy of due process.
Two days after his arrest, based on the dubious “testimony” of a jailhouse snitch, Lemoine was booked again—this time on a felony count of solicitation of murder. Inmate Brian Register claimed Lemoine offered him $10,000 to kill Judge Wolfe. He even offered a note he said Lemoine had written on how to make a pipe bomb.
Register later sent Wolfe two letters. First, he identified himself as the inmate who had “set up” Lemoine and asked her advice should federal authorities or Lemoine’s attorneys question him. Then, in the second letter, he thanked Judge Wolfe for sending a public defender to see him and asked her to reduce his bail amount, adding, “I’m going to testify on Scott Lemoine for you!”
and that note on the making of pipe bombs Register said were written by Lemoine? It was later found to have been written in Register’s handwriting instead.
The upshot of the whole sordid affair was Lemoine sued, the state defended Judge Wolfe at an undisclosed cost to taxpayers, and the state ended up settling for an amount that was disclosed: $100,000.
The masthead on this blog reads, “Graft, Lies & Politics—A Monument to Corruption.”
It also says right under that: “It is understandable when a child is afraid of the dark but unforgivable when a man (or woman) fears the light.”
Thanks to some excellent reporting by The Baton Rouge Advocate and New Orleans Advocate, that light continues to shine.
But in the end, it is you, the voter, who makes the choices on who will serve as our law enforcement officials, our prosecutors, and our judges. Make the wrong choices based solely on television sound bites, and people get hurt.