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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Judge Favors PD Culture of Corruption

Judge sides with LCG, LPD during first police corruption hearing 
The Advertiser by Nicholas Persac - May 29, 2012 
Plaintiff attorney vows to continue fight in Lafayette's 'Serpico' case 

Lafayette, LA - A 15th Judicial District Court judge ruled this morning in favor of the local government and police department during the first court hearing in a lawsuit filed by nine Lafayette Police Department officers who claim a culture of corruption has lead to physical threats and racial discrimination. "All the judge did was dissolve the temporary restraining orders," Stephen Spring, an attorney for the nine LPD plaintiffs, said during a phone interview after this morning's court hearing. "Obviously I'm disappointed, but it's not over by a long shot. We're discussing our options right now, and the rest of the suit is still there. This is chapter two." The case began when LPD officials launched an internal investigation to determine which employee may have leaked an Internal Affairs document. The nine officers who filed the lawsuit argue the investigation into the leak unfairly targeted the plaintiffs and violated portions of the Policeman's Bill of Rights. Those officers accused the department of using such investigations as a way to punish officers who bucked the alleged culture of corruption within LPD. Spring said one option he's already considering is filing an appeal to try to have today's decision overturned by a higher court. Defense attorney Michael Corry asked Judge Kristian Earles to review secret audio recordings that Spring claimed bolstered his case and proved the LPD higher ups made threats against his clients. During the two-hour hearing Tuesday morning, Earles first granted a brief recess so Corry and his defense team could examine one of the recordings. Earles then instructed Spring to play the tape, which recorded plaintiff LPD officer Gabe Thompson talking with LPD Patrol Division Commander Maj. George "Jackie" Alfred, before the court. "When Judge Earles heard the entire 17 minute recording, he found the city was absolutely right and there was no irreparable harm, damage, loss or injury," Corry said outside the courthouse while talking with reporters. "Judge Earles did not even require the testimony of any witnesses. All he needed to do was hear the entirety of the tape, which he did, to find that the city should prevail." Before Spring played the recording for the court, he and Corry questioned Thompson, who said he used a secret recording device disguised as a writing pen to tape the conversation he had with Alfred. “I don’t care if they call it retaliation, and they can say whatever they want to say,” Alfred allegedly said on the recording, according to Spring. “This stuff has gotten personal, and when it becomes personal, a lot of stuff can happen … even fighting and shooting.” Corry said the tape did not provide enough evidence of any real threat, pointing to the fact that Thompson laughed "no less than 22 times" during the conversation. "There is nothing on that tape that is threatening," Corry said. "This isn't a smoking gun. This is simply an attempt to stop an investigation." LPD officer Scott Poiencot, one of Spring's clients as a plaintiff, testified during today's hearing and said he loaned Thompson the spy-like pen without knowing what he was going to record. In the lawsuit, Spring compares his clients to Frank Serpico — the NYPD officer who testified against police corruption and is portrayed by Al Pacino in a 1971 film. The reality of taking such a stand, Spring said, has left the officers with “genuine fears” of being physically assaulted, battered or even shot, in addition to facing “unlawful … disciplinary proceedings.” Though Spring vowed to continue fighting his clients' case, Corry said today's decision should effectively end the "Serpico" case. "What we do know is that Judge Earles has found their claim was completely baseless and meritless," Corry said. "There is nothing else to go forward. It's over."

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