Louisiana State Police (LSP) Lt. Russell Graham as he testified at his August 8, 2023 appeal hearing before the Louisiana State Police Commission.
On February 9, 2023, Sound Off Louisiana‘s founder, Robert Burns, was stunned to see approximately 17 LSP Troopers in attendance and in uniform at the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) meeting scheduled for that day.
So many troopers were present as intended witnesses in an appeal hearing for LSP Lt. Russell Graham, whom LSP Col. Lamar Davis suspended for 40 hours as a result of an incident at the LSP Training Academy swimming pool on February 16, 2022 with then-Cadet Kevin Blake. The hearing was continued because Graham’s legal counsel, Louisiana State Trooper’s Association (LSTA) attorney Mary White, informed the Commission that documents Graham sought for the hearing, namely text messages and emails pertaining to the incident, had not been provided to Graham.
Accordingly, the hearing was continued until August 10, 2023. That hearing lasted, including breaks, for approximately nine (9) hours. We’ll be providing highlights of the appeal hearing in this feature.
Let us begin with LSP’s “star witness,” Sgt. Georgiana Lynn Kibodeaux Sonnier. We want to start out by stating that Sonnier places second only to former LSP Col. Mike Edmonson regarding her ability to ramble on for extended periods and say next to nothing. We were so thankful that, after her repetitively engaging in such “responses” to questions, LSPC Chairman Eulis Simien finally said, “It may help if you just answer the question and then elaborate if you’d like.” Anyone who could read Burns’ mind would have heard it stating a very loud “Amen” to Simien’s admonition!
We are going to admit up front that trying to capture the essence of what Sonnier had to say given the incredibly long period for which she was on the stand was no easy task. Nevertheless, we believe that the following 18-minute video, which includes video of the swimming pool incident transpiring between Blake and Graham, adequately covers her testimony (as well as her apparent perjury on the witness stand, which White demonstrated in extremely authoritative fashion):
August 8, 2023 testimony of LSP Sgt. Georgiana Lynn Kibodeaux Sonnier entailing the appeal of Lt. Russell Graham.
We believe that the above video, as much of an embarrassment as it should be to LSP (and not because of anything Graham did but rather the utter absurdity of tying up literally several thousand manhours to pursue this whole incident), speaks for itself, so we will make no comment upon it.
LSP then paraded in a group of troopers, all of whom essentially stated that Graham, though normally a top-notch trainer, acted inappropriately in the swimming pool incident reflected on the video above. Everyone stipulated that Blake was a “slacker,” and consistently failed to carry his share of the load and slowed down the progress of the other cadets in the class.
Now, Blake, who dropped out of the Training Academy sometime after the incident, did not file any complaint (or at least none was indicated). Instead, Col. Lamar Davis, who testified for 23 minutes at the hearing, indicated that, after talk of the incident began to circulate combined with that talk making its way, “up the chain of command,” he asked that an administrative investigation be launched into the matter.
Blake himself did testify, and we feel it only fair to provide both his testimony in full as well as the testimony of Lt. Graham (which will follow shortly). Here’s a video of Blake’s testimony:
August 8, 2023 testimony of Kevin Blake entailing the appeal of Lt. Russell Graham.
Similarly to LSP, Graham also had several troopers who were from Blake’s Cadet Class (100) testify before the Commission, and he also had Sgt. Kory Borcherding testify via Zoom from California entailing the incident. The link for the testimony we just supplied for troopers testifying favorably entailing Lt. Graham includes every such trooper but one. We felt that trooper, Roy Jones, who testified for less than five minutes, deserves to have his testimony on prominent display, and so here is Trooper Jones’ testimony:
August 8, 2023 testimony of Trooper Roy Jones entailing the appeal of Lt. Russell Graham.
Graham also sought and obtained the testimony of LSP Training Academy nurse Elaine Cammarosano. Her testimony lasted less than four minutes, and we provide it at this time:
August 8, 2023 testimony of LSP Training Academy nurse Elaine Cammarosano entailing the appeal of Lt. Russell Graham.
Now for Graham’s testimony in its entirety:
August 8, 2023 testimony of Lt. Russell Graham entailing his own appeal hearing.
Now, we’ve provided the link for LSP Col. Davis’ testimony in its entirety for anyone who wishes to view it, but we want to draw special focus to Davis’ statement to LSPC Commissioner Jarred Riecke when Riecke asked if Graham’s actions were analogous to “the old days” when a high school football coach may grab a player by the facemask and get on his case for a poor performance on the field. In Davis’ response, he had the unmitigated gall to, though he didn’t reference Ronald Greene by name, state that the Graham incident was, “eerily similar to a situation that took place in the public where you have someone saying ‘please stop’ and we’re not.” Here’s the video:
August 8, 2023 testimony of LSP Col. Lamar Davis stating that the Graham incident is “eerily similar” to another incident which is clearly referencing Ronald Greene.
WOW!! So here we have a Colonel who shows reckless disregard for public safety in speeding at a rate of 92 MPH over a section of I-10 over the Atchafalaya Basin which has been designated as a dangerous section and for which the speed limit is 60 MPH. He then compounds his irresponsible act by indicating that it is “permissible” for the trooper who clocked him at that speed and pulled him over to, “turn off his body cam because the situation was assessed as non-combative.” That statement still absolutely infuriates us more with each passing day that he declines to retract it!
WOW! When we watch the Ronald Greene video, Greene sure appeared non-combative to us. So, according to Davis, those troopers who deactivated their body cams did nothing wrong because the suspect didn’t appear combative!
Notwithstanding all of that, for the Head of LSP, Col. Lamar Davis himself, to have the audacity and unmitigated gall to compare the Russell Graham incident depicted on the first video above to the following video (with special focus on the 11:50 – 16:00 mark) is so far beyond the pale that words can’t adequately describe the abject insult that his words are to the Greene family (at least in our eyes):
May 10, 2019 video of the arrest and in-custody death of Ronald Greene, (with specific attention directed at the 11:50 – 16:00 mark).
In fact we’re going to now present a table (our subscribers may note that we’re quite fond of them) contrasting the Greene arrest with the Graham incident so we can outline just how “eerily similar” the two incidents are:
|Incident Item||Ronald Greene||Kevin Blake|
|Date of incident||May 10, 2019||February 16, 2022|
|Date of commencement of IA/administrative investigation||September 15, 2020.||March 2, 2022.|
|Days from incident until IA/Administrative investigation commences.||494||14|
|Impact upon subject||Death.||No injuries whatsoever (per nurse above)|
|# of LSP Troopers involved||On scene = 5-6 (one of whom is deceased due to either a suicide or accident); As part of subsequent massive coverup = unknown.||One (Russell Graham).|
|Transparency.||Nonexistent with video not even surfacing until 1 1/2 years later and then only due to leak to AP reporter.||Immediate and total with video being provided during 8/8/23 appeal hearing.|
|Federal involvement.||Played into ongoing "pattern and practices" investigation, Federal Grand Jury convened for charges that never materialized.||None.|
|State prosecution.||Although it appears on life support as a result of prosecutorial ineptitude, 17 indictments were collectively handed down by a grand jury.||None.|
|National news media coverage.||Although insufficient given what transpired, yes.||No.|
|Governor John Bel Edwards forced to address the matter?||Yes, in a press conference immediately after meeting with the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus.||No.|
We’ll let the public weigh in with their thoughts but, to us, it doesn’t look like the two incidents are even remotely similar, much less, “eerily similar.”
So, what was the outcome of the appeal hearing? Well, that’s the best part! The LSPC opted to defer a decision until its next meeting, which is Thursday, September 14, 2023. Let’s take a look at closing arguments from August 8, 2023:
Closing arguments in the appeal of LSP Lt. Russell Graham.
As noted in the video above, Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr., indicated that the Commission would, immediately upon convening on Thursday, “go into Executive Session.”
We want to make sure every single trooper in this state is aware that, if he or she is the subject of an appeal hearing, the LSPC can go into Executive Session ONLY if the trooper gives his or her consent! That is pursuant to LA R. S. 42:17 (A)(1)).
That’s one statue Burns knows by heart as he litigated that very matter entailing an Auctioneer Licensing Board meeting of September 17, 2012. It makes for an interesting read of the documents (including a transcript of the trial which Burns conducted pro se in front of Judge Wilson Fields) for anyone who may wish to invest the time.
We’ll be there on Thursday, and we’ll report upon the LSPC’s decision and, from a selfish standpoint, we sincerely hope Graham invokes his right pursuant to LA R. S. 42:17(A)(1) and insists that the LSPC deliberate in an open forum to where we can videotape everything each Commissioner has to say on the matter!
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