Judge Who Signed 'Criminal Defamation' Warrant For Sheriff's Raid Of Blogger's House Says Warrant Perfectly Fine

from the I-only-sign-the-best-warrants! dept

Nothing's going to stop Louisiana sheriff Jerry Larpenter from defending his good name. If you "print lies" about the sheriff, he'll "come after you." He'll have to use a criminal complaint filed by someone else (insurance agent Tony Alford) and an unconstitutional law to do it... but he's still coming after you.

The "you" in this case is a local police officer who allegedly runs a blog that allegedly made defamatory comments with claims of corruption involving the sheriff, his wife, and the insurance agency she works for.

Defamation isn't normally a criminal offense. Louisiana, for some reason, still has a criminal defamation statute on the books, but it only applies to non-public figures, which the sheriff -- and the parish's insurance agent, Tony Alford -- are not. Alford, who filed the complaint, not only holds two government positions but his agency also secured a no-bid contract to provide insurance services to the parish.

Never mind all that, though. Sheriff Larpenter found an off-duty judge to sign a search warrant and raided Officer Wayne Anderson's home, seeking evidence that he was the author of the posts. Anderson denies having anything to do with the blog posts, not that it matters. Larpenter's deputies have already made off with five electronic devices, including a laptop belonging to the officer's kids.

It would seem that after the initial raid and seizure, cooler judicial heads might prevail. No luck here. Abusing power to oppress speech is something embraced by at least two-thirds of the governmental checks-and-balances system. The judge (Randall Bethancourt) presiding over the case is none other than the judge Larpenter sought to sign his questionable search warrant -- a judge who wasn't on duty for criminal cases when the sheriff pushed his affidavit through.

A Terrebonne Parish judge on Friday stood by his decision to authorize the sheriff's office to seize a Houma police officer's computers earlier this week under the theory they were used to post a blog that may have defamed the sheriff.

I'm sure the judge was in no hurry to invalidate a warrant he signed. Anderson's lawyer argued there was no basis for it because the statute used to obtain it is unconstitutional as applied to the allegedly-defamatory blog posts. Judge Bethancourt, however, feels none of this is really a big deal.

Bethancourt said [the sheriff] had to stay within the "four corners" of the warrant and affidavit and said he couldn't tell if Alford was a public official. Frustrated, Ardoin pointed out that Alford is on the Levee Board, but what's relevant is that the comments in the complaint were about public affairs and should be protected speech.

Apparently, Bethancourt will know whether or not the Constitution applies after the sheriff's office has already examined the devices. And why not, because the statute being used can be interpreted many ways, especially with Bethancourt reading it.

Bethancourt countered that Louisiana’s criminal defamation statute is "pretty broad" and said he would allow the state to "take a look-see at these computers that might have defamatory statements on them."

Gotta love that down-home spin on possible First and Fourth Amendment violations. Law enforcement will just be performing a "look-see" within the "four corners" of a likely-invalid search warrant… all with the blessing of a judge who was apparently in jeans and a T-shirt when approached by someone from the sheriff's office during his day off.

The DA's office isn't much help either, stating that the warrant is "presumed valid" until ruled otherwise and "speaks for itself." The DA did not elaborate on what the warrant said when speaking on its own behalf, but WWLTV notes District Attorney Joe Waitz, Jr. is also mentioned in the blog as being part of a parish-wide web of corruption.

At least one member of the parish government has decided to take the litigation route, as one normally does when confronted with possible defamation.

Alford owns multiple businesses with Parish President Gordon Dove, who, the parish acknowledges, engaged Alford as the parish’s new insurance agent-of-record without any public bid.

Dove told WWL-TV that he is considering suing whoever posted the website, in part because it mentions his daughter, who is married to an assistant district attorney. He also defended the hiring of Alford because his insurance agency is local and would replace an out-of-parish consulting firm.

This thicket of incestuous business/government intermingling, along with people marrying into the family business (and sometimes the "business" is government) isn't exactly going to persuade outsiders that the blog's allegations of government corruption are likely to be false. From the look of things, it will be almost impossible to find anyone without a conflict of interest to investigate, prosecute, or adjudicate this case.

Meanwhile, Officer Anderson has been suspended indefinitely by the Houma Police Department and his electronics remain in control of the clerk of courts while Bethancourt's assertion of warrant validity is taken up the judicial ladder by his lawyers. And Sheriff Larpenter continues to look like someone who's willing to interpret the laws he's paid to enforce as broadly as needed to silence criticism of him and his office.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 3:36am

    Well, on the bright side, I’m pretty sure the sheriff will enjoy all this free press he’s getting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 3:52am

    Sounds like an episode from Dukes of Hazzard

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 7:36am

      Re:

      Nothing's going to stop Louisiana sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from defending his good name. If you "print lies" about the sheriff, he'll "come after you."

      Boss Hogg owns multiple businesses with Parish President Cletus Hogg, who, the parish acknowledges, engaged Boss Hogg as the parish’s new insurance agent-of-record without any public bid.

      Cletus told WWL-TV that he is considering suing whoever posted the website, in part because it mentions his daughter, who is married to an assistant district attorney. He also defended the hiring of Boss Hogg because his insurance agency is local and would replace an out-of-parish consulting firm.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 3:53am

    ... btw TD - you have a script being served thats maxing out processors...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 3:58am

    Just as expected

    Louisiana is a primitive, backward state that's been run by the dishonest and greedy for decades. This is the norm there: political and personal power wielded illegally in order to settle personal grudges. Larpenter is just another corrupt thug in a long line of corrupt thugs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 11 Aug 2016 @ 6:09am

      Re: Just as expected

      Louisiana is a primitive, backward state that's been run by the dishonest and greedy for decades.

      Decades? What was the American Civil War about?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 8:42am

        Re: Re: Just as expected

        It was about *pick your favorite political spin*.

        All war is only ever about 1 thing. Power!

        Some say money, but Power/Money are interchangeable at that stage.

        The Civil War was no different. The North wanted to control the Souths economy too much at the South said fuck no. Slavery was as indirectly responsible as saying Germany Started WWII over Poland not returning a used cup of sugar.

        I really love all claims that attacks are not provoked... its kinda funny that logic fly against the "Principle of Causation"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Padpaw (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 9:48am

        Re: Re: Just as expected

        the right for states to secede from the union

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 5:14am

    While the United States does have some form of criminal defamation, they are rarely used, in most cases, never. This is just one witless sheriff who scammed the court into going along with him for the ride and I fear that the sheriff, not to mention the judge who signed the warrant, are going to get dragged through the mud.

    There's no possible way this survives a court challenge and these two morons are going to learn a valuable lesson. The judge? I doubt he'll get re-elected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 11 Aug 2016 @ 6:19am

      Re:

      one witless sheriff who scammed the court

      Uh, you are entertaining the theory that the blog post painting them all to be in cahoots delivering their local self-interested flavor of "justice" is factually wrong.

      So far it looks quite spot-on. I don't see a witless sheriff and I don't see a scammed court. And unless there is a federal intervention, I do see a blogger spending a long time in jail.

      This is one notable state where schools had to be desegregated by Eisenhower sending the army in. Because the Supreme Court of the United States' opinion (and the U.S. Constitution) was not considered binding by local authorities.

      When you state
      There's no possible way this survives a court challenge and these two morons are going to learn a valuable lesson. The judge? I doubt he'll get re-elected.

      you clearly have lost sight of where you, or rather where they are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re:

        It sounds like someone from the outside needs to go through every dealing that these two have in common and rescue hundreds or thousands of people rotting in jail from unconstitutional legal proceedings. If they willing to stretch the law this far for this case, there is no way this is the first time they have done so.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 10:49am

        Re: Re:

        This is one notable state where schools had to be desegregated by Eisenhower sending the army in.
        Please don't confuse Louisiana with Arkansas.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 11 Aug 2016 @ 1:56pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, U.S. Marshals as opposed to the National Guard. I consider the confusion slight.

          At any rate, in your Louisiana link I found
          Leander Perez, district attorney for nearby Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes and one of the leading segregationists in the state, told the crowd: “Don’t wait for your daughter to be raped by these Congolese. Don’t wait until the burr-heads are forced into your schools. Do something about it now.”

          and this like sounds like it would fit right into Trump's playbook with minor changes. Depending on the audience, maybe even without any changes.

          These kind of messages appealing to primitive tribal urges incompatible with a civilization based on personal accountability and dignity will always work unless kept consciously in check, like greed, power lust, envy. They are natural urges that have to be kept under control if we want to survive as society.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Harold, 11 Aug 2016 @ 6:18am

    And you wonder why law abiding people FLY OVER states like this!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 6:34am

    Remember, they have get this scam warrant past a federal judge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GrooveNeedle (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 7:07am

      Re:

      Will it matter by then? The sheriff's office will have possession of this guys electronic devices for how long before someone outside the parish gets a chance to review any of the legalities involved?

      That's the thing with corrupt agents of the justice system, once they complete step 1 (arrest/impound), you are constantly playing catch-up and they hold all the cards.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 8:26am

      Re:

      Why? The message is sent. The guy has already been screwed over, he's had all his stuff taken and been suspended. The mission is already accomplished.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2016 @ 10:33am

      Re:

      Remember, they have get this scam warrant past a federal judge.
      Well, just as long as we're remembering things here…
      Biographical Directory of Federal Judges
      Porteous, G. Thomas Jr.
      Born 1946 in New Orleans, LA

      Federal Judicial Service:
      Judge, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana
      Nominated by William J. Clinton on August 25, 1994, to a seat vacated by Robert F. Collins. Confirmed by the Senate on October 7, 1994, and received commission on October 11, 1994. Service terminated on December 8, 2010, due to impeachment and conviction.
      I do indeed remember watching Mr Porteous' trial in the Senate. Not something you tend to forget.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Whatever, 11 Aug 2016 @ 8:20am

    ...Ah, I came.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 8:21am

    Sounds like Officer Anderson's a traitor otherwise he would have used the proper official whistle-blower channels by reporting the alleged corruption to the sheriff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 11 Aug 2016 @ 9:12am

    I just wish someone would publish more posts at the website to call into question the Sheriff's judgement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 9:43am

    Let me guess, since they have no basis to know the law, they have to break the law to discover if they are breaking the laws. What with the rulings that police don't have to know the laws to enforce their will on others.

    Home grown tyranny

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Aug 2016 @ 11:08am

    Failures and corruption top to bottom

    The sheriff accused of corruption is allowed to investigate the claims personally(because of course he's still actively employed, unlike the one who may or may not have accused him), the judge who issued the warrant is the one deciding on whether or not it's good, and a DA who's also implicated in the corruption is the one overseeing the case.

    You'd be hard pressed to make it more obvious that the entire system in that area is corrupt, and the best part is that while the blog posts might have hinted at possible corruption, the actions of those involved have made it pretty clear that those accusations are spot on, and if anything missed just how corrupt things are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Carol Lewis, 12 Aug 2016 @ 12:17pm

    Bad pun

    The Law Ass and the Larpenter

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Injector, 12 Aug 2016 @ 12:33pm

    Dogs

    Always love the scenes hardly ever seen these days of the ravenous rabinous dogs attacking the zombies and then turn on each other and just start gnawing away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.