Included in the 27th Judicial District Court’s case file for Luke Edwards — released by District Attorney Earl Taylor’s office following a January public records request from The IND — is a letter sent anonymously to Taylor regarding the Lafayette lawyer’s April 6, 2012, arrest by Louisiana State Police, in which he was charged with a DWI second-offense after crashing his 2011 BMW into a ditch in St. Landry Parish. In the hand-written letter, the writer pleads with the DA to prosecute Edwards, saying in part:

He is gonna kill somebody ...

Right now he is charged with a dui in St. Landry Parish. I have the police report that says it’s his second time. ...

If you are to [sic] busy, fine. When he kills a person or a family in my parish I will make my letter public.

luke_edwards
Photo of Luke Edwards taken from Youtube.

Earlier this year, The IND investigated Edwards’ history with drinking and driving, and his possible connection to the federal probe into the pay-for-plea bribery scheme of the 15th JDC, which primarily involved OWI cases. For that Jan. 2 story, the feds neither confirmed nor denied whether Edwards was being investigated, but our inquiry found several unanswered questions about the 27th JDC’s handling of Edwards’ drunken driving arrest last year.

For starters, the the district attorney's office and the DA himself were inititally unable to locate any information pertaining to the April 6 arrest.

Based on the public records The IND finally received last week, which includes a letter from Edwards to Taylor asking for "alternatives to prosecution," the OWI second-offense against Edwards was dismissed by Taylor in July 2012. In a letter dated July 11, Taylor makes no mention of the conditions Edwards must meet, though there is another document in the file signed that same day by Edwards agreeing to six months edwards_letterof supervised probation, which will be terminated after a number of other conditions in the district's pre-trial diversion program are met.

On Aug. 4 Edwards received certificates for completing four hours of driver education and four hours of substance abuse training courses — requirements he appears to have completed on the same day.

Documents in the case file reveal that after our Jan. 2 story, Edwards got to work on the 32 hours of community service as required in his pre-trial agreement with prosecutors. In fact, he knocked out all 32 hours of the required community service in four days straight between Friday, Jan. 27, and Monday, Jan. 30. That, followed by a payment of $1,040 to Taylor’s office on Jan. 30, and Edwards’ obligation to the 27th JDC was no more.

Taylor’s dismissal of an OWI second-offense is no doubt a Agreementquestionable move. More troubling is the fact that the charge was dropped outright without an iota of the pre-trial requirements having been completed. According to the state’s pre-trial diversion law, those requirements are supposed to be filled before a defendant can get an OWI charge scratched from the record. Also questionable is whether Edwards was even eligible for the 27th JDC’s pre-trial program, considering he’d already been arrested for an OWI in 2006 by Wildlife & Fisheries, according to court records from the 11th JDC. Though prosecutors in the 11th JDC eventually reduced that charge to careless operation, this July 3, 2006, arrest report by Wildlife agents tells a different story:

As we approached the boat, we could smell a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from the vessel ... Mr. Edwards was having a hard time concentrating on the various requests. He was swaying while trying to stand up and his speech was slightly slurred throughout the investigation. Mr. Edwards would not follow my finger with his eyes, which were very bloodshot.

I then asked him if he knew the alphabet, and he stated that he did. I then asked him to start with the letter “J” and end with the letter “P”. He sat for a while and stated that he could not perform this test. We started heading to Mr. Edwards’ camp and he asked us if we could just let (his wife) go back to the camp and if we could perform the next tests somewhere besides his camp because he had a lot of friends at the camp and he did not want them to see what was going on.

According to an official with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, even after last year’s incident between Edwards, his BMW and a ditch, driving privileges were never taken away. Although Edwards refused a Breathalyzer, State Police, the investigating agency, slapped him with an OWI second-offense and booked him into the St. Landry Parish Jail. Here is what State Police had to say, according to the court record:

Upon contact with [Edwards] I smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath. He also had a stuttering speech, a swaying balance and glassy eyes.

I asked the subject to submit to the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. He refused to take any tests. [W]hile standing in front of my unit ... I observed that he had to hold onto the front bumper of my unit in order to keep his balance. [Edwards] advised me that he could not perform the test due to medical reasons. He later advised me that he was drinking an alcoholic beverage.

I transported him to the St. Landry Parish Jail for a Chemical Test. I read Mr. Edwards his rights relating to the Chemical test for Intoxication, he acknowledged and signed the rights form. He refused to give a sample of breath in the Intoxilyzer 5000.

The IND spoke Monday afternoon with Taylor, who says Edwards was treated as a first-time OWI offender because his 2006 OWI was Community_Servicereduced to careless operation. Edwards also refused a Breathalyzer test during the 2006 arrest by Wildlife & Fisheries.

The absence of a Breathalyzer report from the 2012 arrest, according to Taylor, would have made it too difficult to prosecute a second-offense charge, despite the descriptive incident reports filed by both Wildlife & Fisheries in 2006 and State Police last year. Officials with both agencies attested to the level of Edwards' apparent inebriation.

Taylor also confirms his dismissal of the OWI second-offense charge took effect July 11, the day Edwards signed the pre-trial agreement. Taylor further says it's OK that the six-month probation had expired by the time Edwards started logging community service hours.

According to state law, that is not how the program works; Taylor's rules per Monday's phone interview with The IND don't jibe with the agreeement both he and Edwards signed last year either, which outlined the provisions in state law.

According to the law:

Anyone refusing the Breathalyzer test will be ineligible for participation.

The prosecution of the charges is delayed during the length of the program and only after successful completion of all program conditions are the pending charges dismissed. Any participant who does not satisfy all requirements is immediately returned to court for full prosecution.

So let's get this straight: In Taylor's jurisdiction pre-trial is a valid option for defendants who refused a Breathalyzer, and it's OK to drop a defendant's OWI charge before he completes community service — because defendants can knock all those hours out at their own leisure, no deadlines. At least in the 27th JDC they can.

 

 

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