Raid on police corruption whistleblower was unconstitutional, court rules
Police officer Wayne Anderson took a risk when he shared evidence of corruption in the Terrebonne Sheriff’s Office. He was finally vindicated, however, when the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a raid on his home was unconstitutional.
A unanimous decision handed down from the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals found that a raid on Anderson’s home was unconstitutional, as the rationale for it contained a fatal flaw.
Two computers and five cellphones were confiscated from his home under the premise that he was breaking the law with defamation. He was not, the court found.
Anderson served as a police officer in Terrebonne Parish’s seat, Houma, when he noticed wrongdoings by officials in the community he was meant to serve. However, he became the focus of many officials after his home was raided in early August, based on what he was suspected of sharing on a website called ExposeDAT as well as a Facebook page, under the name of “John Turner.”
The blog covered wrongdoings in the Southern Louisiana parish, including civil liberties lawsuits as well as fraud and corruption investigations. However, when Anderson began writing about Tony Alford, a local business owner and insurance agent for the parish government, things got complicated.
Alford was featured on ExposeDAT when public records revealed a few questionable issues. To start, his business partner was Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove and his office was managed by Priscilla Larpenter, wife of Sheriff Larpenter. Priscilla earned six figures to manage the office that ExposeDAT claims was managing the parish government’s healthcare without going through standard, public bids and proceedings.
That’s just the beginning, too. Anderson investigated citations Alford had received for dumping radioactive waste in Montana through a company owned by him and Dove.
All of this came to a head when Alford filed a criminal complaint against the blog, which allowed Larpenter to get a warrant to trace the IP numbers of ExposeDAT and the John Turner Facebook page. The warrant was approved by Judge Randall Bethancourt, who allowed officers to “take a look-see at these computers that might have defamatory statements on them,” the ABA Journal reported.
The court would confirm that taking a “look-see” doesn’t constitute reasonable cause.
“Anthony Alford, the supposed victim, is president of the Terrebonne Parish Levee and Conservation Board of Louisiana, and a public official,” the decision read. “Consequently, the search warrant lacks probable cause because the conduct complained of is not a criminally actionable offense.”
Anderson was put on paid suspension following the raid. He and his wife attempted to resolve their issues with the local courts to no avail. Courts upheld the warrant, while the media examined both Anderson and his wife’s criminal background and made it Houma news.
“I certainly believe that my clients have been damaged by this unconstitutional action,” Jerri Smitko, another one of the Andersons’ laywers, told the Intercept.
“I love it when justice is tangible,” she said, elated to have a physical copy of the court’s decision.
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