Deputy David Prejean and a police dog are seen in surveillance video attacking inmate Marcus Robicheaux at the Iberia Parish Jail on Dec. 6, 2012. Prejean was fired in January 2015 after his superiors at the Sheriff’s Office watched the video. [Photo courtesy of NBC news].
As was readily apparent from the fact that we sued Louisiana State Police (LSP) seeking for 19th JDC Judge Don Johnson to take a look at a massive number of fully-redacted pages we got when we requested the personnel file of LSP Trooper Scott Lopez, we felt LSP went overboard on the redacting.
Once we ascertain who will defend the lawsuit (outside counsel or an in-house attorney), we’ll amend the suit to reflect that the approximate actual number of redacted pages is 175 of the 276 pages we were provided.
We’re always told that the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) serves as the “central repository” for personnel records for all LSP troopers. We don’t know if, even in theory, that’s the case, but we certainly know that, in reality, it most certainly is NOT the case. Whatever the case, just to cover all bases, we made a public records request of the LSPC to examine any and all documents in its possession pertaining to LSP Trooper Scott Lopez. Only a few days later, we were able to obtain these few pages.
Though the pages were few, they actually offered arguably more interesting material on Trooper Lopez than did the 276 pages (approximately 175 of which were fully redacted) we received from LSP itself. Now, the LSPC documents, combined with us making a phone call to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, enabled us to create a timeline table for Lopez’s employment leading up to LSP as well as his two episodes of employment with LSP for which the gap between those employment terms of four years was highlighted by an 18-month stint working with highly controversial former Iberia Parish Sheriff (and former LSP Trooper) Louis Ackal.
Now, before we present the table, we want to emphasize that we’ve received reports (almost exclusively from black LSP Troopers) that, if a trooper is in the “clique” (and they’ve added that being white is a huge benefit in that regard), then he (or she) may receive a mere “letter of counseling/warning” for the same identical acts of misconduct that other troopers not in the “clique” (often black troopers according to our sources) received actual discipline in the form of a suspension (and in some instances, termination).
We will emphasize that we’ve not substantiated those allegations, and we guess it may be impossible to do so given the LSPC’s enacting of a rule to block release to the public of any letters of counseling/warning. One can only question if that was not the rationale behind troopers seeking for the LSPC to issue just such a rule!
So, all we’re seeking is for someone examining, at a minimum, LSP Trooper Scott Lopez’s two letters of counseling/warning just as a precaution to ensure that he got no lenient treatment as referenced above for acts for which other troopers may have been disciplined more harshly. We seek nothing more and nothing less, and that’s why we want an outside party (19th JDC Judge Donald Johnson in this case) to examine the letters in-camera.
Having that disclaimer out of the way, here is the table outlining Trooper Lopez’s employment history:
|Timeframe of Employment||Name of Employer/Nature of Work/Starting & Ending Salary||Stated Reason for Leaving|
|2/10/96 - 4/20/98.||K & J Supplies|
Sales - Janitorial Supplies
|4/26/98 - 1/10/99.||Tarpon Rentals (Oil field rental tools).|
Washing/painting equipment and delivering tools to location.
|1/18/99 - 5/19/06.||Earnest P. Breaux Electrical.|
|Tired of working out of state.|
|5/22/06 - 9/28/08.||Slemco (power company).|
|Pursue being LSP Trooper.|
|7/6/01 - Sometime in '07. [Overlaps with jobs listed above].||Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department.|
Reserve Deputy. Patrol, narcotics, special assignments. Avg. hours = 25/week.
|To help politic for Louis Ackal.|
|9/28/08 - 9/28/09.||LSP Cadet. Appx. $18/hr.||N/A. Became LSP Trooper.|
|9/28/09 - 7/8/13.||LSP Trooper.|
|"Job opportunity in private sector that will be more beneficial to me and my family."|
|Appx. 7/9/13 to sometime prior to 9/24/15.||Unknown.||Unknown.|
|9/24/15 - 3/10/17.||New Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department. Working directly for Sheriff Louis Ackal.||Unknown.|
|Appx. 3/14/17 - present.||LSP Trooper. $27/hour......$31/hour (Note: with overtime in 2020, Lopez made $110K - source: Open the books).||N/A. Currently with LSP.|
Now, Lopez worked for the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office as a Reserve Deputy prior to Ackal’s election to Sheriff in 2007 (after which Lopez joined LSP), and he worked for the Iberia Parish Sheriff full time from September 24, 2015 through March 10, 2017.
As evidenced from the link above, Sheriff Ackal emerged victorious via acquittal on all charges of civil rights violations on November 6, 2016, or 124 days prior to Trooper Lopez opting to leave the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office and return to LSP. Let’s take a look at a few highlights from the previously-linked feature entailing Ackal’s trial:
This week a series of small-town sheriff’s officers took the stand in a federal courtroom in Louisiana and testified to brutal, racist scenes that seemed like relics from another era.
After drinking, three off-duty officers beat up two young black men for fun, one testified.
Later, when the sheriff found out, he said it simply sounded like a case of “n****r knockin’,” another testified.
A supervisor pointed to a stain on the floor next to an interrogation suspect and said, “That’s from the last n****r I shot,” one officer testified.
A witness also testified that the sheriff ordered pre-trial detainees into his jail’s chapel, away from the eyes of surveillance cameras, where they were beaten and pleaded for mercy.
The facilitator of such brutality, they said, was Sheriff Louis Ackal, the tough-talking sheriff of Iberia Parish, a rural swath of sugarcane fields about two hours outside of New Orleans. This week, in the culmination of a years-long, wide-ranging federal probe of his office, Ackal was tried on four federal civil rights violations in Shreveport.
On late Friday afternoon a jury acquitted Ackal of all charges.
“I’m elated,” Ackal said after the verdict, while hugging the president of the NAACP’s New Iberia chapter. “I thank the Lord almighty.”
“Thank God we had a jury that listened,”
Sheriff Ackal denied the charges against him. His attorney, John McLindon, said in court that the case against Ackal relied on testimony by deputies who are still awaiting sentencing. He called it “paycheck prosecution,” according to The Advocate.
On the final day of his trial, Ackal’s defense called several witnesses, including an inmate whose beating was at the heart of the case against the sheriff. The inmate said he did not see Ackal when he was being beaten, according to his testimony, only when he was taken away. Black employees also testified that the sheriff treated them well, according to The Advocate.
Before his trial began, Ackal was secretly recorded making threats against federal prosecutor Mark Blumberg, according to court filings. A transcript of the conversation shows Ackal threatening to shoot the prosecutor, who is special litigation counsel assigned to the Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC.
“He told me ah, you can help the government,” Ackal was recorded saying to an unidentified person. “You know about these people, you can give them to us.”
“I said, ‘The only thing I’m gonna give you, f***ing shoot you right between your g*****n Jewish eyes, look-like-an-opossum bastard,’” Ackal said.
Ackal also called the prosecutor a “sorry son-of-a-b**** Jew bastard in Washington.”
After court Ackal said he was “totally exonerated” and those who testified against him “lied about the whole thing.”
The probe of his office, he said, eliminated bad actors from his law enforcement agency who hurt “innocent people.”
“I’m going to go back to New Iberia and make sure my house is very clean,” he said.
One individual who was certainly not happy with the Shreveport jury’s verdict is Victor White, Sr., whose son was ruled to have committed suicide in 2014 while handcuffed in the back of a squad car by shooting himself in the back while handcuffed. Some of our black friends have told us that the White death is referred to as the “Houdini suicide” implying that the same talents of the former escape artist would have been required to pull off such a suicide. The above feature contains a brief segment of White expressing his sentiments about the circumstances entailing his son’s death. Let’s take a look:
Brief video of Victor White, Sr. speaking on the 2014 death of his son while in the custody of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office derived from the NBC News feature above.
It could very well be that Trooper Lopez began fulltime employment with Sheriff Ackal and found him to simply not be the man he thought he was, and Lopez therefore sought to return to LSP. That is without question a possibility.
Nevertheless, it is disconcerting that Trooper Lopez’s sought to actively “politic for Louis Ackal” given some of the despicable language that Ackal is alleged to have uttered. The fact that Lopez was employed, even for the relatively brief 18-month period that he was, at a Sheriff’s Office which engaged in the kind of conduct that transpired, gives us pause for concern. At a minimum, it appears to have been a toxic environment to have to work in, and it’s our sincere hope that Lopez recognized as much and sought to distance himself from that environment at the earliest opportunity he could do so.
Maybe it was rogue deputies who engaged in all the egregious acts of violence, and Ackal was “in the dark” as he successfully portrayed to the jurors. Nevertheless, we believe that, as former President Harry Truman was fond of saying, “The buck stops here,” and Ackal is certainly accountable for those deputies’ actions irrespective of him being aloof and not around as they transpired as was successfully argued during his trial. Obviously, Ackal simply doesn’t subscribe to former President Truman’s philosophy in that regard, and we guess it’s interesting that, even after acquittal, he uttered the final words he did highlighted on the feature above.
Anyway, all we’re saying in filing the lawsuit we filed last week against LSP and its blocking of 175 pages of Lopez’s file (particularly the two letters of counseling/warning) is that, given the following factors:
==> the totality of conduct exhibited by LSP troopers in recent years;
==> the fact that Lopez never activated his body camera on June 14, 2021 when he allegedly said during a pullover of a driver not even alleged to have committed a traffic violation, “You better not go down my road again if you know what’s good for you;”
==> the fact that LSP has indicated that audio recordings of phone calls to and from Troop I for the period of 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on June 14, 2021 are, “lost forever;”
cause us to firmly believe that these circumstances collectively tilt the scales in favor of the public’s right to know exceeding Lopez’s right to privacy (or any absurd LSPC Rule clearly enacted to block the public’s right to know) regarding his two letters of counseling/warning.
We hope our arguments prevail in court and that a ruling is ultimately issued seeking to remove the redactions of those letters (and any other documents of the 175 fully-redacted pages that Judge Johnson may designate worthy of public disclosure).
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