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Cooler talk or cover up in the Lafayette City Police Department?

Fri, Aug 3, 2012

Off The Beat

Cooler talk or cover up in the Lafayette City Police Department?

According to The Advertiser, six current and three former Lafayette Police Department officers who allege top officials in both the police department and local government fostered a culture of corruption are continuing to escalate their lawsuits, now asking the district attorney and possibly the attorney general to launch investigations into the LPD.

The plaintiffs claim LPD officials helped cover up a drunken-driving incident involving an LPD officer. The defense wants both the entire case tossed from court and the attorneys and plaintiffs sanctioned for bringing baseless claims to court.

The plaintiffs first filed a lawsuit in district court, which now appears to have hit a dead end after a 15th Judicial District judge has twice ruled in favor of LPD and against the officers suing the department. The plaintiffs, however, took the matter to federal court, where it is still moving through the judicial process.

LPD Chief Jim Craft has strongly refuted the accusations in that federal lawsuit, which run the gamut from police corruption, racial discrimination and payroll fraud to manipulating crime statistics, using unauthorized wiretaps, favoritism with unjust punishments and harassment. Many of the accusations in the lawsuit are not supported by affidavits or other documents, like sworn statements from witnesses.

On Thursday, attorneys Stephen Spring and Christopher Alexander, who represent the plaintiffs, filed in the 15th JDC a new petition asking the court to force LPD officials to turnover a handful of documents and audio recordings those attorneys believe show LPD helped cover up the alleged drunk driving of Officer Jeremy Dupuis.

The attorneys filed a public records request for those documents, and claim LPD officials broke the law by not turning over all of the requested materials. If the documents do show what Spring and Alexander claim, they would help bolster the claims of alleged widespread corruption, including police cover-ups and favoritism.

In their petition, the attorneys claim Dupuis and other LPD officers enjoyed a night of drinking on Oct. 4, including illegal after-hours alcohol consumption at City Bar in downtown Lafayette that led to the bar owner being cited for a misdemeanor violation, which was ultimately dismissed.

Dupuis then allegedly left the bar and went to the McDonald’s on Johnston Street near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus. A restaurant employee called 911 to report a drunken driver “passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle.” The driver, Dupuis, allegedly left the engine running as he lost consciousness and was “armed with his LPD issued firearm.”

When LPD officers responded to the 911 call, the officers allegedly gave Dupuis a ride home and initiated a shift-level investigation rather than launching an Internal Affairs investigation, which is typically used to address more serious problems within the department. Spring and Alexander also claim a handful of officers lied in official statements about the incident to help protect Dupuis.

The attorneys also have an audio recording that allegedly captures LPD Chief Jim Craft discussing the incident, and Craft admits in the recording that Dupuis was drunk enough to possibly kill someone while driving. The alleged incident, however, resulted in only a one-day suspension and no formal criminal charges for Dupuis, according to Spring and Alexander.

Spring and Alexander sent District Attorney Mike Harson the information they’ve been able to obtain, and they’ve asked Harson’s office to conduct an independent investigation of this entire episode. The attorneys also suggest Harson could pass the matter to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office for additional help.

The defense, meanwhile, has filed petitions in federal court asking that the federal lawsuit be dismissed and that sanctions be placed on Spring and Alexander in addition to their clients.

According to court documents, Judge Richard Haik will hear oral arguments over the defense’s motion to dismiss the case during a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 16 at the federal courthouse in downtown

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In a letter addressed to Lafayette Parish District Attorney Mike Harson, Baton Rouge Attorneys, Stephen Spring and Chris Alexander are asking Harson to investigate the Lafayette City Police Department alleging top officials in the department and local government are involved in the cover-up

The Attorneys also give Harson the option to defer to the Louisiana Attorney Generals Office citing a case where Springield, Louisiana Mayor and Chief were indicted last month for allegedly covering up a woman’s DWI arrest. This case was investigated and is being prosecuted by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. Assistant Attorney General David Caldwell told WAFB, “the two officials intentionally misused their authority and positions of public trust, and they knowingly tried to obstruct the prosecution of a DWI case.”

We sent an email request for comment to District Attorney Mike Harson, however, as of publication, we haven’t recieved a response.

You can review the letter embedded below or click here

2 August 2012 Letter to Michael Harson

 

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