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Sheriff Forced to Pay After Ordering Raid on Blogger Who Criticized Him

"In our case, he stepped on the wrong people's constitutional rights because we knew our rights."

Rotary Club of Terrebonne County/FacebookRotary Club of Terrebonne County/FacebookHas a bullying Louisiana sheriff learned his lesson about abusing power? The targets of an illegitimate and unconstitutional 2016 raid he ordered think he has. Yet Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter has received no formal discipline for his conduct.

Larpenter has reached a settlement in the civil suit filed against him by Jennifer and Wayne Anderson, whose home was raided by Larpenter's deputies in 2016 after Jennifer blogged critically about the sheriff.

"I think the sheriff's finally learned that he can't bully people and violate people's constitutional rights," Wayne, a Houma police officer, told local station WWLTV. "In our case, he stepped on the wrong people's constitutional rights because we knew our rights. Hopefully, he thinks twice the next time he gets his feelings hurt."

The trouble stems from Jennifer's pseudonymous blog, ExposeDAT, which billed itself as the area's "Underground Watchdog" and was critical of Terrebonne Parish leadership, including Larpenter. Among other things, the blog questioned the business relationship between Larpenter, Parish President Gordon Dove, and Tony Alford, an insurance agent and a commissioner on the Terrebonne Parish Levee and Conservation District Board. Alford filed a defamation complaint.

Under Louisiana's defamation statute, the crime is defined as "the malicious publication or expression in any manner, to anyone other than the party defamed, of anything which tends to expose any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to deprive him of the benefit of public confidence or social intercourse; or to expose the memory of one deceased to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or to injure any person, corporation, or association of persons in his or their business or occupation." But the Louisiana Supreme Court has declared this statute unconstitutionally broad when applied to public figures—like Larpenter, Dove, or Alford.

Nonetheless, after warrants issued to Facebook and AT&T linked ExposeDAT to the Anderson household, the sheriff obtained search warrants for the couple's home and computer and for the ExposeDAT Facebook account. Terrebonne Parish deputies raided their home, seizing two computers and five cellphones (including one computer and some phones that belonged to the Anderson children).

State District Judge Randall Bethancourt, who issued the search warrants, told WWLTV he had no problem letting law-enforcement "take a look-see at these computers that might have defamatory statements on them."

The Andersons quickly filed a suit in federal court, asking it to stop police from searching the family's computers and to declare the raid and seizure unconstitutional. This week, the Andersons settled with Larpenter out of court in an undisclosed agreement.

Per the terms of the settlement, the Andersons can't say much about what went down. But in a statement, their attorney declared the agreement "a victory for citizens' right to be critical of their elected officials without fear of retribution" and said it's "reassuring to see that the Sheriff has decided to take responsibility for what he did to the Anderson's, and compensate them for the harm they suffered due to his actions."

U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk officially dismissed the case on Thursday, but he said he retains the right to open it again if the settlement's terms aren't met in a reasonable time period.

In an earlier ruling, Africk opined that "Jennifer Anderson's speech [on ExposeDAT] falls squarely within the four corners of the First Amendment." Larventer's actions, Africk wrote, send a message that "if you speak ill of the sheriff of your parish, then the sheriff will direct his law enforcement resources toward forcibly entering your home and taking your belongings under the guise of a criminal investigation." This "would certainly chill anyone...from engaging in similar constitutionally protected speech in the future."

Meanwhile, Louisiana's 5th Circuit Court of Appeal declared there was insufficient probable cause for the warrants and declared the subsequent searches unconstitutional.

Larpenter remains head of law enforcement in Terrebonne Parish.

Photo Credit: Rotary Club of Terrebonne County/Facebook

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    State District Judge Randall Bethancourt, who issued the search warrants, told WWLTV he had no problem letting law-enforcement "take a look-see at these computers that might have defamatory statements on them."

    Thank God there was judicial review to prevent law enforcement from riding roughshod over anyone's rights.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ^^ That's the bigger part of the problem.

  • Chuckles_the_Snarky_Piggy||

    No, the real problem is the statute that makes defamation a crime when it is clearly something that could be handled as a civil tort. Then asshole judges who can't discern a fishing expedition when they are sitting in the fucking boat would not be able to sign such a ridiculous warrant.

    Hey, Judge Randall "Take a look-see up my" Buttincourt, whatever happened to "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause... particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Or do you consider, "any device that can send information to the internet" to be acceptable as a particular description? If that is the case, they should have seized the X-box, the TVs and refridgerator as well.

  • Quixote||

    Come now, why shouldn't defamation be a crime? See the documentation of America's leading criminal "satire" case at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    Surely no one here would dare to defend the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated, so-called judge in that case? Apart from that inappropriate dissent, the courts have clearly explained that states have the right to use criminal sanctions to protect reputations, and no one in the "free speech community" (ha-ha-ha) appears to be objecting.

  • gaoxiaen||

    TL:DR Post the Cliff Notes version and you might get a few takers.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    > no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause

    I wonder if judicial immunity extends to signing affidavits that do not contain probable cause into warrants.

  • Joe Blowski||

    the 4th amendment really just relates to the validity of the warrant and does not enable suits against magistrates for approving weak affidavits. the penalty for 4th amendment violation is that the evidence can't be used.

  • ||

    This judge, no doubt, fucks sheep.

  • Jerryskids||

    I realize this is a sheriff who thinks he's above the law and therefore doesn't give a crap what anybody thinks, but it seems to me he would have been smarter to take the Trump route and dismiss any criticism as 100% vicious lies that, unfortunately due to the liberal Supreme Court allowing the press to be able to get away with lies and smears and libel and slander, he as a public figure was unable to respond to the way any private citizen would, by suing the shit out of these lying liars. As it stands now, everybody knows he tried to go after these people for lying and failed - which suggests these people weren't lying at all and everything they've said about the sheriff is true.

  • Brandybuck||

    "I realize this is a sheriff who thinks he's above the law..."

    Actually, most people on the right (not the alt-right, just standard right) think that sheriffs are the highest ranking law enforcement in the nation. They are not. They may outrank the police, but they do not outrank state or Federal law. It's an easy mistake to make, since most matters at the county level fall within the jurisdiction of the county, but sheriffs are not kings. They have never been kings. And despite Trump's pardon-fest, they never will be kings.

  • Tionico||

    amusing you refer to Trump's pardon of ONE MAN who was obviously railroaded and tried under VERY suspicious circumstances a "pardon fest".

    Maybe this sheriff is launching a "fish fest" or perhaps a "shut up fest"?

    READ about the corruption and scandal of Joseph Aripaio's "trial".... that "judge" had him convicted before he walked in, rigged "evidence" and witnesses, denied all manner of due process rights to the accused..... Trump COULD have ordered a higher court to examine the handling of that "case" looking for reason to overturn the verdict.... he used the simple cheap straightforward no-delay "fix". Pardoned him.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    This is probably true, but Aripiaio has been doing the same and much worse to others his entire career. He's ex-DEA fer chrissakes!

  • chemjeff||

    Can we stop whiteknighting for Arpaio the dickhead? Please?

  • BillEverman||

    "READ" about it where? My understanding is that the grandstanding moron bragged about defying the court order that led to his being found in contempt of court, so it doesn't seem like "railroading" would be necessary. I want everyone, even this shitstain, to get a fair trial and due process of law, but I'm not going to scour the internet to find proof that he was "railroaded" if you're too lazy to provide a link to back up the claim.

    And in the interest of fairness, here's my proof that Sheriff Arpaio was a walking sack of garbage: http://reason.com/blog/2017/08.....f-joe-arpa . And that one doesn't even include his policy of having pregnant inmates give birth while shackled.

  • TBlakely||

    On the other hand, lefties think that they can ignore any law that they deem 'unjust'. Seem that they think they are 'kings' and above the law.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    > they do not outrank state or Federal law

    Sheriffs are the highest ranking law enforcement in the county. No one can arrest the sheriff except the coroner. They outrank everyone else, including (especially) the feds. Federal territorial jurisdiction consists of DC, and the areas ceded (not rented or purchased) by the states for the erection of forts dockyards, and other needful buildings. The term "United States" has a number of different meanings. It is a "term of art", and is construed by the statutory context. In the Internal Revenue Code, it has over a hundred different meanings, one of which is China.

    If (emphasis on the IF) a sheriff digs his heels in, there is little anyone can do to stop him, other than wait for the next election.

  • ImanAzol||

    Why would he do something smart? I understand from reports he's mentally retarded and a flaming homosexual.

  • mashed potatoes||

    Did he have to pay personally or was this the taxpayers?

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Did he have to pay personally"

    Lol

  • Longtobefree||

    It will be his insurance company.

  • Memory Hole||

    Bethancourt is a Republican judge and the Sheriff is without doubt a Trump guy. If you lived among Louisiana conservatives you would vote for Satan if he was the alternative on the ballot.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Really the only punishment sheriffs can receive are being voted out and indictment.

  • Memory Hole||

    Hahahahaha, but that ain't happen. He'll get a fucking reward from the civic orgs down here. Democracy doesn't work when the voters are fascist. One of our Sheriffs was torturing people in his prison and it was confirmed by the victims and some of the perpetrators who turned states evidence. Before the trial the Sheriff was caught on an undercover mic basically threatening the "jew liberal Obama justice department lawyers" but none of the evidence mattered and to the jury. He was acquitted even though some his deputies had pled guilty and had revealed everything. There is a rot down here among the people, the cops, the judges, the jurors that you would give you fucking nightmares. This ain't your so called "liberal fascism" where they make you read a book you don't want to read, these motherfuckers will torture you and bury you in the swamp.

  • Juice||

    Growing up in Louisiana, I knew that people there basically sucked ass, but I didn't realize how bad it was until Facebook, where everyone started showing their true selves (or closer to it).

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Larventer's actions, Africk wrote, send a message that "if you speak ill of the sheriff of your parish, then the sheriff will direct his law enforcement resources toward forcibly entering your home and taking your belongings under the guise of a criminal investigation."

    Has the sheriff raided the judge's home yet?

    It would take a lot of (non-taxpayer) money for me to agree to terms that came with a gag order, I think. In fact, I don't think they should be allowed. Enforcement of gag order means that the state is put into a position of abridging speech rights.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    The blogger's husband is a police officer in the largest city in the parish, so there may have been some professional pressure to take the money and shut up.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I read that he was suspended with pay after the raid, but didn't see his current status.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Those contracts should be examined. And the notion that search warrants are issuing and the house of a media commentator is being searched for the content of speech posted on a public website is absolutely extraordinary," Ciolino said. "It's amazing we're having this conversation in Louisiana rather than in Iran."

    Someone has a higher opinion of Louisiana politics than is merited.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You're not having this conversation in Iran because you don't speak Farsi, silly.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    If you were in your office right now, we'd be having this conversation face to face.

  • Juice||

    "It's amazing we're having this conversation in Louisiana

    LOL, no it's not.

  • Billy Bones||

    I am happy that the Larpenters won their lawsuit, BUT are the rest of us losers because they settled? I get so tired of these "settlements" where not only do the defendants not have to admit culpability but the public is not allowed to learn the details of the settlement. The public deserves to know the full extent of their sheriff's illegal activity.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Look at Mr. War on Cops over here.

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    Per the terms of the settlement, the Andersons can't say much about what went down.

    So Larpenter won then. Suppression is what he was after and the Andersons acquiesced.

  • Ron||

    probably found a website visit on the computer and with kids in the house the police can claim any of the family members for it and will bring child protective services etc. its hard to go after the police when they have all the cards and can even add cards to the deck fairly easy.

  • John C. Randolph||

    State District Judge Randall Bethancourt has violated his oath of office, and he should be impeached, removed from office, and disbarred. He should also face personal liability for violating the Anderson's first and fourth amendment rights under color of authority.

    -jcr

  • Duke of url||

    Judge Randy "rubberstamp" Bethancourt , he 'backs the blue', ALWAYS.

  • PG23COLO||

    The sheriff didn't pay, the taxpayers will pay the settlement. Louisiana sheriffs have a long history of involvement in good old boy politics and political corruption. The sheriff still has the power to abuse people in the name of the law. The only good thing that comes out of a case like this is the public outing of abusive public officials. That should be a lesson to all: never trust the government. A further lesson: don't go to a law court to vindicate your rights. Go to the court of public opinion.

  • ImanAzol||

    From what I understand, Larpenter is a flaming homosexual.

  • Longtobefree||

    The real crime here is the use of the taxpayer funded court system to reach a settlement that is not part of the public record. Once a suit is filed, it should have to go through to a judicial conclusion, fully open to public scrutiny.
    The only winner here is the lawyer.

  • Joe Blowski||

    this is not really possible. the vast majority of filed lawsuits are settled before final judgment. to pull this off we would need to increase funding for the courts at least 20 times. plus there are good arguments about the unconstitutionalit of denying a party the right to settlement.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Has a bullying Louisiana sheriff learned his lesson about abusing power?

    No.

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