State police watchdog accused of abusing power to fix tickets, intimidate trooper

A group of Louisiana State Troopers is renewing its push to have Governor John Bel Edwards remove one of the Louisiana State Police Commissioners who oversees officers' civil service appeals, after the state police say the commissioner used his position t

A group of Louisiana State Troopers is renewing its push to have Governor John Bel Edwards remove one of the Louisiana State Police Commissioners who oversees officers’ civil service appeals, after the state police say the commissioner used his position to ask for special treatment from law enforcement for him and his family.

Calvin Braxton, a car dealership owner and investor from Nachitoches, La., was appointed to serve on the commission under Governor Bobby Jindal.

Last year, an incident report filed by the State Police Commander of Troop E in Nachotoches accused Braxton of intimidating a trooper after the trooper arrested Braxton’s daughter for DWI.

And now, emails obtained through a public records request by WWL-TV show the former Executive Director of the commission, Cathy Derbonne, helped Braxton fix two speeding tickets.

In November 2015, a sheriff's deputy in Monroe County, Florida pulled Braxton over for driving 66 mph on a road where the speed limit was 45 mph.

But instead of just dealing with the consequences, emails exchanged between Braxton and Derbonne detail how Derbonne helped Braxton get the citation dismissed.

On December 3, 2015, an email from Derbonne to Braxton said, "This email is for your records. I have attached a copy of the citation. I will handle this for you. No worries."

Braxton replied, "T you," an abbreviated thank you.

“She would not have initiated that unless she was asked to do something. The fact that she cc'd him, copies him, made him aware that she was taking action on his behalf in a personal traffic matter, which is totally inappropriate,” said Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche.

Derbonne emailed Braxton a copy of a letter she sent on official Louisiana State Police Commission letterhead to the Monroe County Clerk of Court in Florida asking for the ticket to be “Reduced to a non-moving violation or null processed." ‘Nolle prosse’ is a legal term used when prosecutors dismiss a case. Court records from the Monroe County Clerk’s office show Braxton's citation was dismissed a month after Derbonne sent her letter to the clerk.

Because it was on letterhead, Braxton’s name is prominently printed on it as, at the time, he was Chairman of the commission.

Just days after Braxton asked Derbonne to help with his ticket, his daughter Brandy was arrested for a DWI in Nachitoches, Braxton's home town.

State Trooper Jayson Linebaugh pulled her over. An incident report shows Brandy later blew a .139, nearly twice the state’s legal blood alcohol limit.

She was booked on charges of DWI first offense, speeding, improper lane usage and for having an open container of alcohol in the car.

An incident report written by then-commander of State Police Troop E, Captain Jay Oliphant outlines what happened next. Oliphant writes in the report that he called Calvin Braxton the day after Brandy’s arrest as a courtesy.

Braxton allegedly told the commander that Trooper Linebaugh should have known who he was and that the trooper, “Should have given his daughter professional courtesy, as well as utilizing discretion in not arresting her."

The report says Braxton spoke with Oliphant four times about Trooper Linebaugh, with each conversation becoming more intimidating.

Braxton allegedly called Trooper Linebaugh a liar and said, “He has known troopers to get fired for lying.”

The report says Braxton then said, "He might not help Trooper Linebaugh if he gets in a bind on the job which requires him to appear before the Louisiana State Police Commission."

Braxton then said he would call former state police Commander Colonel Mike Edmonson to express his displeasure, and according to the report, Braxton did.

In one of the conversations with Oliphant, Braxton suggested Linebaugh be reassigned to New Orleans, hundreds of miles away from home, for 90 days to, “Get his mind right.”

The commander also writes Braxton claimed Nachitoches Sheriff Victor Jones also felt Linebaugh should be transferred because Linebaugh had arrested Jones' son for DWI four months prior.

“I told [Oliphant] I never made that comment to no one pertaining to having the trooper at that time removed from my parish,” Jones said in an interview.

On Dec. 14, 2015, the report says Oliphant told Braxton he would not reassign Trooper Linebaugh, yet the incident report on Braxton’s actions after the fact wasn’t written until June of 2016.

“It says that there was some other motivating factor for this report to be prepared seven months after the events initially occurred,” Goyeneche said.

That motivating factor is unclear.

But what is clear, is that no investigation was launched within state police or by the state police commission into Braxton's actions after his daughter's DWI, even after Oliphant wrote the incident report on it.

When asked why it took seven months for Oliphant to write the report and why the State Police didn’t launch an investigation, Public Affairs Lieutenant JB Slaton said in an email, “…Although Mr. Braxton's inappropriate requests and comments have no direct bearing on the enforcement action taken by State Police, it was important for the department to document the incident and memorialize his conduct to protect the agency in the event that other inappropriate conduct occurred in the future.”

Ultimately, Brandy Braxton’s charges were dismissed after she paid a fine and completed a pre-trial intervention program, according to Nachitoches Parish District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington.

According to Goyeneche, that’s not unusual for a first offense DWI.

Shortly after Oliphant’s report was written about Braxton and the DWI, an attorney for the Louisiana State Troopers Association, Floyd Falcon, sent a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards asking him to remove Braxton from the commission.

READ THE FULL LETTER HERE

Just last week, Braxton talked about the situation at the regularly-scheduled State Police Commission meeting.

“People did what they did. The governor did what he did and I'm still here. I have no further comment,” Braxton said.

He did not return WWL-TV’s calls for comment either.

Governor John Bel Edwards’ Executive Counsel, Matthew Block, said Monday he met multiple times with Col. Edmonson and unnamed members of the Louisiana State Troopers Association about the DWI report last year after receiving the LSTA letter, but stopped short of taking steps to remove Braxton.

“There has to be a hearing that's conducted by the governor, for the governor and [Braxton] can only be removed for cause. The governor decided, after some discussion, not to use that procedure,” Block said.

Jay O'Quinn, President of the LSTA wouldn't do an interview with Eyewitness News about the situation, but did say in a statement, "We only want what we have always wanted regarding the Louisiana State Police Commission — fairness and accountability. Our stance has not and will not change."

While it is a complicated and unprecedented process to remove Braxton from the board, Edwards didn’t ask Braxton to resign either.

“There were some discussions that were had both with Mr. Braxton and with other individuals who were associated with Mr. Braxton about trying to figure out what exactly happened and what Mr. Braxton's, his intentions were. Mr. Braxton made it clear he wanted to remain on the commission,” Block said, adding that the governor also considered the fact that Braxton’s actions after the DWI weren’t official actions as a commissioner.

But the new allegations about the ticket fix in Florida and another request Braxton’s assistant sent to Derbonne in May of 2016 may make the governor think again.

An email from Braxton’s assistant, Carrie Sargent, was sent to Derbonne saying, “Please see the attached ticket. Mr. Braxton wants you to help with this."

Derbonne copies Braxton in her reply, telling him to call a retired trooper from Shreveport.

Who received the ticket is unclear as the current Executive Director of the LSPC said the email servers didn't keep the attachments to that email.

“When you see a person on this commission who is voting on matters concerning the state police, requesting special considerations and treatment from law enforcement from the very agency that he's supposed to be monitoring, it's a clear conflict of interest and very hypocritical for him to sit in judgment of people when he's asking for special treatment for him and his family,” Goyeneche said.

Block stopped short of saying they'll investigate Braxton's attempts to get the tickets fixed, instead saying they will re-visit the situation.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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