State Police Commissioner resigns under fire

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

BATON ROUGE – A State Police commissioner who oversees troopers’ civil service appeals has resigned from his post in the midst of a controversy over whether he used his position to get special treatment from law enforcement for himself and his family.
 
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the resignation of Commissioner Calvin Braxton in a news release Friday.
 
“I believe he made the right decision,” Edwards said. “Public officials must hold themselves to the highest ethical standard, and I will accept nothing less as we consider a replacement on the commission.”

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.

Recently, 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.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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