Calcasieu Parish DA John DeRosier’s characterization of Louisiana’s 10-juror rule as “a vestige of slavery, but it is what it is,” draws ire of Rep. Ted James, other black state representatives.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier

 

As evidenced in the following video highlight, at the April 25, 2018 meeting of the House Committee on Criminal Justice, Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier, who is a Democrat, drew the wrath of numerous black state representatives for his commentary entailing Louisiana’s rule requiring a mere 10 votes out of a 12-person jury panel to convict an individual of a felony:


DeRosier’s commentary on Louisiana’s 10-juror rule and the ensuing wrath he incurred from several black state representatives.

 

Forty eight (48) states require unanimous jury verdicts to convict anyone of a felony.  Oregon is the only other state aside from Louisiana to permit a felony conviction with less than a unanimous 12-member jury voting to convict.  DeRosier uttered his commentary in demonstrating opposition to State Sen. J. P. Morrell (D-New Orleans)’s SB-243, which is a proposed constitutional amendment to prospectively (for felonies committed on or after January 1, 2019, not retroactively) require unanimous jury verdicts for anyone to be convicted of a felony in State District Courts (Federal Courts in Louisiana already require a 12-person unanimous verdict for such convictions).

 

Sound Off Louisiana was contacted by several of our loyal subscribers about the above incident, and so we are providing the above video for our subscribers to form their own opinions entailing DeRosier’s comments.  For our part, however, we view them as reprehensible.  Further, at one point not included in the video above, DeRosier stated that he asked his dad, who had insisted that he watch a Presidential debate, to explain what a “conservative” is.  We at Sound Off Louisiana consider ourselves strong fiscal conservatives, but we want no connection whatsoever to DeRosier’s insensitive and inflammatory commentary depicted above.

 

Instead, for the balance of this feature, we want to shift the focus to our own frustrations with DeRosier.  At the exact time that DeRosier was making his testimony, we were making a public records request of a public body, Gravity District 8 of Calcasieu Parish.  That public records request is displayed below:

 

 

 

 

As is obvious, similar to our Lafayette Parish School Board public records request upon which we produced our feature on former Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper, we sought legal invoices to the district applicable for Russell (“Rusty”) L. Stutes.  Though we sought invoices back to 2008, we were informed that we would only receive invoices from 2015 forward because invoices prior to that time had been destroyed due to “space.”  As bad as the Lafayette Parish School Board was in saying it would “take weeks” to download invoices, at least they did not state that invoices had been destroyed!

 

Why did (do) we want the invoices?  Simple.  Stutes, combined with Calcasieu Parish Police Jury attorney Sam Gabb, placed contractor Billy Broussard under a restraining order prohibiting him from making public records requests or even communicating with members of the district or the police jury.  In reviewing official minutes for the applicable timeframe during which the restraining order was sought, we could find no evidence whatsoever that either Stutes or Gabb received authorization from either of the respective bodies to file the restraining order.  Further, when we contacted one Police Jury member, Charles “Hal” McMillian, he indicated he had no idea any such restraining order had been filed, nor was he aware that he was supposed to refrain with engaging in any conversations with Broussard.

 

In other words, Gabb and Stutes appear to have “gone rogue” and filed the measure on their own without the authorization of either body.  Hence, we asked for legal invoices to substantiate whether they billed their agencies for the work entailing the restraining order.  Gabb, who, when we contacted him by phone 14 months ago told us, “I had just gotten hired by the police jury, and all of this is really Rusty’s undertaking,” recently readily admitted to us via email that he “did not invoice” the police jury for his work on the restraining order.

 

Notwithstanding the above response on our public records request indicating that we would obtain Stutes’ invoices from 2015 forward, we received a follow-up correspondence directly from Stutes on April 30, 2018 which indicated that we would not.  That correspondence follows:

 

 

You read correctly!  Stutes states that such invoices “contain writings which reflect the mental impressions and legal theories formulated by my office,” and therefore he believes that he is under no obligation to surrender the invoices.  Obviously, we’re consulting legal counsel entailing a likely cause of action we have against the district and/or Stutes for what we firmly believe constitutes an improper denial of our public records request.

 

A more broad question, however, entails DeRosier!  Entailing the above-referenced matter for the Lafayette Parish School Board, Lafayette Parish District Attorney Keith Stutes (no known relationship to Rusty) fired off a letter to the Board indicating a need for them to fulfill the request.  DeRosier, who serves as legal counsel for the drainage district, in sharp contrast to Keith Stutes, apparently is content to permit Rusty Stutes to handle our public records request, which would seem particularly inappropriate given the very nature of our request.

 

What’s the whole story behind all this?

 

Well, as long-time Sound Off Louisiana subscribers may recall, we ran the feature linked above on Billy Broussard in early 2017.  In a nutshell, Broussard is convinced that collusion took place on the parts of multiple parties which enabled the drainage district to be reimbursed for debris which was ineligible for FEMA reimbursement in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

 

Broussard and Sound Off Louisiana’s Burns met with Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera personally and one of his assistants, John Morehead, on Friday, April 13, 2018.  During that meeting, Morehead got rather defensive about Broussard’s claim of “collusion,” even going so far as to state that “any such collusion would have to include us.”

 

Burns, an inactive CPA, began the meeting by referencing his early days of auditing class at LSU taught by Dr. Rich White wherein Burns recounted the following statement by White:  “For the next several weeks, we’ll be covering the components of effective internal control measures which you’ll be checking for in your public accounting careers.  However, I want each student in this class to understand one thing:  no matter how strong the internal control system is for a company, there is one thing it will NEVER overcome, and that is collusion.”

 

Morehead’s statement about the need for the Legislative Auditor’s Office to have to be “in on” collusion is indicative of someone clearly not understanding the meaning of the word collusion as White illustrated.  Basically, collusion is an act or acts engaged in by the perpetrators specifically designed to overcome auditors’ efforts to uncover fraud.  Thus, it’s illogical to even suggest that the perpetrators would want the auditor (the Legislator’s Auditor’s Office, in this case) to even uncover the collusion!

 

Broussard contends that collusion transpired by the submission of documentation that falsely represented that debris was removed from approved GPS sites when, in reality, he contends (actually emphatically swears) that the debris was NOT from approved GPS sites but instead was removed from sites that were located outside of the entire map of FEMA-approved GPS sites and even beyond the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers wetland permit!  Broussard contends that it was district employees who removed that debris and that false representations were made to FEMA that the debris was removed from approved GPS sites.  Broussard also contends that FEMA payments meant to go to him from debris he removed between GPS-approved sites (but still on the map of approved sites) which were received by the district after FEMA formally approved payments for that debris were instead redirected and used to pay its own workers for the work he references that was outside of the entire map of FEMA-approved GPS sites.  Obviously, if his allegations are true, that’s clear-cut fraud perpetrated against FEMA!

 

Morehead, who remained on the defensive for virtually the entirety of the meeting, countered Broussard’s assertion about debris being removed from sites which were beyond the map of approved GPS sites by stating:  “Dan Kennedy is with FEMA, and he signed off that this debris was all from approved GPS sites.”  Broussard didn’t blink or pause, and he looked straight at Morehead and countered, “I was at these sites virtually every day of the project’s duration, and I can tell you that I never saw Dan Kennedy on any of these sites during the entire time I worked the project.”

 

Contrary to what Morehead stated, there would be no requirement for the Legislative Auditor’s Office to be “in on” any collusion but, because they are not onsite and instead only review documents believed to not involve acts of collusion, they would be unable to uncover the type of fraudulent activity Broussard alleges transpired entailing collusion.  It’s identical to Dr. White’s admonition to his auditing class that the best internal control system will never overcome the type of collusion Broussard alleges transpired in this instance.  At the conclusion of the meeting, Purpera himself stated, “That’s correct.  We’re not onsite, we’re just reviewing documents on the back end.”

 

We expect to report more on Broussard in coming days because his attorney recently filed a motion to dissolve the restraining order against him.  We called 14th JDC and inquired if a court date had been set.  We were informed that a court date of Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. was set for the hearing.  However, we have subsequently been informed that date has been scrapped and that Judge Ritchie, who has gone officially on record with some very unflattering commentary regarding Attorney General Jeff Landry, is now “sitting on” the motion.  Whatever the date and time ends up being, Sound Off Louisiana is firmly committed to being in attendance, and we’ll report back to our subscribers the result of any such hearing.

 

In the meantime, we are deeply disturbed by the manner in which DeRosier is handling our most recent public records request, particularly given the nature of that request and what we firmly believe was an illegal infirngement upon Broussard’s rights to obtain public documents and communicate with elected or appointed public officials.

 

As for DeRosier’s commentary on the video above, perhaps an amendment to Morrell’s bill may be in order.  That amendment could state that, for felony trials in which DeRosier is the DA, an 18-member jury panel may be needed with unanimous verdicts to convict someone charged of a felony.  If DeRosier objectes to being singled out for a higher bar to obtain a felony conviction, the author of the proposed amendment could simply state, “Well, it is what it is!”

 

 

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