Almost one month after a victory in city court, Guamas Restaurant owners Rubens Mesa and Julieta Tarazona are taking their story of alleged abuse by Lafayette police officers to federal court.
The married couple jointly filed a civil rights suit last Friday against five city police officers, as well as Lafayette Police Chief Randy Hundley and Lafayette Consolidated Government.
Mesa and Tarazona claim the city police officers arrested them without proper cause and beat Mesa on the sidewalk outside their restaurant on the night of April 9, 2005 ("Street Fight," April 20, 2005). The officers have claimed Mesa provoked the altercation.
The couple is seeking restitution for punitive as well as actual damages resulting from the incident, including attorneys' fees, medical bills and defamation. The suit cites across-the-board negligence from city officials that "did nothing to investigate the incident, did not reprimand the officers involved and prosecuted petitioners in Lafayette City Court on the false charges that were leveled against them." In addition, the suit aims to reprimand the city for failing to adequately screen and monitor its police officers with psychological evaluations and drug tests.
Last month, Judge Doug Saloom cleared Mesa and Tarazona in city court of all six criminal charges police brought against them from the night of their arrest ("On Trial, Feb. 15). The civil suit, filed in U.S. District Court, is the sixth case alleging wrongful arrest and excessive force by the Lafayette Police Department to be filed since the start of 2005. The case is expected to be tried within the next two years. ' Nathan Stubbs
SIGN OF THE TIMES
A proposed new zoning ordinance seeks to reverse the trend of towering business signs along city streets. The Zoning Commission is gathering public feedback on the ordinance before voting on a recommendation to send to the city-parish council. As it is now written, the regulations would require all new businesses to adopt monument signs no taller than 10 feet high. Existing businesses would have seven years to bring their signs into compliance. Exceptions would be made for signs within 500 feet of the interstate (which would be limited to 30 feet high) and "landmark" signs deemed to have a cultural or historical value. ' NS
Last week, KLFY-TV10 reported that two students were recommended for expulsion because one brought a toy gun and another had brought a "cockfighting rooster" toÂ J. Wallace James Elementary. Justine Sutley, director of public relations for the Lafayette Parish School System, says two second-grade students did bring a toy gun and a rooster to school,Â both concealed in their backpacks, on March 8, to trade the items with one another. After a March 16 hearing, it was determined the students did not intend any harm, and neither was expelled.
But whether the chicken in question was raised for fighting in a cockpit remains unclear. "I don't know where the cockfighting thing came in," Sutley says, "unless that's what the students reported. I really don't know." SutleyÂ adds thatÂ according toÂ Principal Dana Schmersahl, "This was a rooster from the kid's grandmother's yard." ' R. Reese Fuller
WHO'S RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR?
As far as who has officially announced, it's not Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal, or even former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Breaux. The only declared candidate for governor thus far ' besides reigning Queen Bee Democrat Kathleen Blanco ' is Anthony "Tony G" Gentile. A recently converted Independent and "everyday person like you," Tony G is a refinery supervisor at ExxonMobil in Chalmette and has launched a Web site at www.tonygforgov.com. His site states that he doesn't have a campaign budget, but he promises to canvas the state with his reform message. ' Jeremy Alford
A piece of legislation passed during last month's special session with no opposing votes throughout the entire process could end up costing coastal parishes millions of dollars, according to local tax officials. Act 34 by Rep. John Alario, a Westwego Democrat, expands an existing law exempting certain ships, vessels and barges from state and local sales and use taxes. Specifically, it added barges and drilling ships operating in foreign or interstate commerce to that tax-free column. Alario pushed the legislation as a simple "clarification" and was out of town when contacted for comment. Late last month, tax officials in St. Charles Parish reported that they expect to lose about $500,000 annually from the change, and that the coastal parish region could incur a $20 million collective hit as well. Other coastal parishes contacted don't know what to expect yet, but Lafourche Parish, for example, is anticipating a $300,000 to $500,000 annual loss due to taxes that can no longer be levied on supplies, services and repairs of barges in association with drilling vessels. ' JA
UNUSED HURRICANE RELIEF FUNDS
Even though Hurricane Katrina remains front page news and President Bush recently made his 10th visit to the devastated area, more than $1 billion designated for hurricane relief has gone unused by state governments, according to a report from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit policy group. According to report author Jenni Bergal, Congress passed an emergency bill that gave states access to $2 billion to help low-income hurricane victims scattered across the country, but only a dozen states ' including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama ' have taken the feds up on the offer. Some large states, such as California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, never requested any of the "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" money for evacuees. Meanwhile, elected officials and alarmed advocates for the poor keep arguing that low-income Katrina evacuees need all the help they can get. ' JA
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 13, 2013:
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.