The Terrebonne Parish Government and President Gordon Dove have paid a Houma couple $50,000 to be dismissed from a civil rights lawsuit over the unconstitutional sheriff’s raid of the couple’s home last year.
WWL-TV first exposed the raid of Wayne and Jennifer Anderson’s home by Sheriff Jerry Larpenter’s deputies in April 2016. The sheriff’s office sought to unmask a blogger who had been criticizing Laprenter’s public contracts on a self-proclaimed “anti-corruption” website called ExposeDAT.
At the time, Larpenter defended the raid to WWL-TV by saying, “If you’re gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I’m gonna come after you.”
WWL-TV received a copy of the settlement agreement through a public records request, and our partners at The Houma Courier used a public records request to get a copy of a $50,000 check issued by parish attorneys June 1 to the Andersons and their attorney, Jerri Smitko. All parties had asked federal Judge Lance Africk to keep the terms of their settlement secret and exempt from the state’s public records law, but Africk denied that request June 13.
Neither the Andersons, Smitko nor Dove responded to requests for comment.
The Andersons continue to pursue their main civil rights claim in federal court against Larpenter and the sheriff’s office.
Dove and insurance agent Tony Alford, whose company is the agent of record for both the parish government and the sheriff’s office, filed criminal defamation complaints against the blogger. They have now both been dismissed from the Andersons’ civil rights complaint against Larpenter.
Jennifer Anderson later acknowledged she was the author of the ExposeDAT blog and an affiliated Facebook page under the pseudonym John Turner. She posted comments about Larpenter’s contracts with an insurance agent who employed his wife. The blog also questioned the public contracts and connections of Dove and District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr.
Wayne Anderson is a Houma police officer and has said he had nothing to do with his wife’s blogging.
A state appeals court later ruled the sheriff’s raid was unconstitutional and Louisiana’s criminal defamation statute could not be used to curtail free speech about public officials conducting public affairs.