|Stephen Spring II|
Just below the surface, however, is what appears less a fight for justice and more a smoke-and-mirrors scheme, with evidence based largely on hearsay, and clients who are more disgruntled than they are victims.
In the last year, Spring and Alexander have tied up the 15th Judicial District and federal courthouses in Lafayette with a slew of high profile cases, most involving allegations of corruption within Lafayette Consolidated Government and the police department.
Spring practiced law in Lafayette during the 1980s, before moving to Florida and then settling in Baton Rouge. He and Alexander, who have separate practices but often team up on cases, first made local headlines by representing a number of disgruntled police officers in what has been called the “Serpico” suit, claiming widespread corruption of 14 officials within the department and city-parish government. The lead plaintiff in the suit is former narcotics officer Kane Marceaux, who for many years represented LPD on a federal Drug Enforcement Agency task force.
“LPD always has an officer assigned to the DEA and Kane was that guy for many years,” says one of two sources close to the case who spoke with The IND on the condition they remain anonymous. “That officer serves at the pleasure of Chief [Jim] Craft, and for whatever reason, the chief pulled Kane from that task force. Kane gets put back into regular narcotics for a while, and he wasn’t happy. Then, he comes down with some disease and tries to take medical retirement, but was declined by the retirement board. He’s disgruntled, and this lawsuit comes out shortly after.”
From the start, the lawsuit, which calls the department “rotten to the core” and alleges an unofficial system of favoritism is being engineered by Craft and LCG Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley, attempted to put race at the forefront, though not very successfully, according to our sources.
“They were attempting to use race to get more officers involved in the suit, and though Kane [Marceaux] is white, they were trying to recruit mostly black and Hispanic officers, sometimes by using smear tactics against officers who refused to join in on the suit by making allegations of them being a dirty cop,” says one source close to the department.
To join the suit, officers would pay an entry fee to Spring to be added on as plaintiffs, making them eligible for a percentage of any final judgment rendered on the case, according to our source, who adds that many of the officers who joined the suit weren’t “highly regarded” within the department, which likely fueled Spring’s repeated attempts to recruit Andres Landor, a black narcotics officer and long-time friend of Marceaux.
“Kane really wanted Landor to join him on this lawsuit, because frankly most of these guys weren’t highly regarded; Landor, he would’ve been a feather in their cap,” says our source.
IND Monthly obtained a text message correspondence between the two officers, which shows Marceaux attempting for a third time to set up a meeting with Landor and Spring. Marceaux writes:
“Hey, do what you need to. You stood the man up twice. He waited for you. What I’m telling you is that if what your [sic] telling me is true, then you can retire because you or [sic] set. ... Let me know what island to send you [sic] post card to for Christmas because you will be a wealthy man.”
Landor never joined, and now, just over a year later, the Serpico suit has nearly fizzled out, with a final judgment now pending a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals over a federal judge’s decision to shut down a website operated by Spring and Alexander that was critical of Craft and the department.
Michael Corry, the attorney representing LCG and the police department, tells The Advocate that by having a role in the website’s operation, Spring and Alexander are in violation of the Code of Professional Conduct — a set of rules for attorneys established by the Louisiana Supreme Court. That violation, claims Corry, stems from their intentionally posting embarrassing information on individuals not named in the lawsuit, by attempting to impede the judicial process through “media antics,” and by making “extra judicial” statements outside the courtroom.
Spring, in an emailed response, says the website, realcopsvcraft.com, went up to counter disinformation being spread about his clients. According to Spring: “[T]he website ... does not belong to either myself or Chris Alexander. It belongs to our clients. At our clients’ request to counteract the disinformation being published about them by the Stanley Craft machine within the LPD, we initially established the website for them. Our clients expressed serious concerns about potential reprisals and retaliations if the Stanley-Craft machine discovered they owned the website. The website is and has always been our clients’ website — not ours.”
Further attesting to the legal shenanigans of Spring and Alexander and their lack of clientele discretion is their representation of two of Lafayette’s most infamous newsmakers: real estate developer Glenn Stewart and Busted in Acadiana’s Chris Hebert. It appears the two, Stewart and Hebert, are now working in cahoots, evidenced by the BIA administrator’s recent online posting of documents supporting Stewart’s weak fight against this newspaper, documents Hebert could have only accessed through the real estate developer, or possibly their shared lawyer.
In both suits, they claim the civil rights of their clients were violated during their arrests by LPD last year — Stewart’s stemming from his Mardi Gras cold-cocking of a mother/school teacher and Hebert’s arising from his arrest for allegedly stalking, cyberstalking and threatening another female victim.
What’s interesting about the Stewart and Hebert suits is that the allegations are nearly identical, giving credence to the description by one of our sources of them being nothing more than “template lawsuits.” So too are the defendants, as both lawsuits cite not only the female victims and arresting officers, but a much larger conspiracy stretching all the way up to the chief of police, and in Stewart’s case as high up as City-Parish President Joey Durel.
Though the events leading up to their arrests are different, in both suits the attorneys claim their clients not only had their “good names” tarnished, but also were the victims of “false arrest, false imprisonment [and] malicious prosecution.” The damages allegedly suffered by the two are also the same, including “past, present and future medical expenses” arising from “physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and anxiety, lost wages and diminished earning capacity, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, embarrassment and humiliation, loss of consortium and physical disability.”
Stewart was recently convicted on a simple battery charge stemming from his 2012 arrest. District Judge John Trahan, in rendering a decision on the case, called Stewart out on his claim that he accidentally punched the school teacher, saying the statement was “a lie.” Based on Trahan’s decision in Stewart’s criminal case, IND Monthly asked Spring how he plans to proceed on Stewart’s civil suit.
“Glenn is considering appealing his misdemeanor conviction,” Spring writes in an emailed response (it’s worth noting that on the day Stewart was convicted, his criminal attorney, Lewis Unglesby, told KATC-TV3 no appeal was planned). “As you may know, the trial court’s decision does not become final until after either appeal delays have expired or Glenn’s appeal(s) are decided,” Spring continues. “Glenn has not yet decided but will make a timely decision. Chris [Alexander] and I will make adjustments to the present civil suit depending upon Glenn’s decision and/or instructions. As you know, appellate courts exist in order to review the correctness of the trial court’s determinations based upon a complete review of the record.”
The civil case for Hebert — the man who profited by posting people’s arrest records and mugshots on his sleazy Busted in Acadiana Facebook page — also is pending, yet unlike Stewart, he still awaits a criminal trial, which was scheduled for July 8 when this story went to press.
“These guys are notorious for orchestrating these big smoke and mirrors lawsuits. They’ll generate a lot of paper by filing all these exceptions and motions, all very wordy but without very much substance, and when the cases start losing steam and push comes to shove, they’ll just not show up to court, always saying they’ve got some big trial out of state, though they never mention where or what trial they’re going to,” says one local attorney familiar with Spring and Alexander. “Our ethics as lawyers require a good faith belief in anything we file, that we’ve made due diligence and have done the research to validate the claims we’re making.”
Spring’s and Alexander’s practices, however, are sometimes based on just the opposite, starting with a lawsuit and later gathering the facts to back it up. That was witnessed in a March 2012 ruling by a Baton Rouge judge in a lawsuit they filed against Mayor Kip Holden, alleging he was having an affair with a court employee and using city money to purchase her gifts. District Judge William Morvant tossed the case saying the allegations were backed by “hearsay,” rather than facts.
“What’s in it for them? I don’t think it’s money,” our courthouse source says. “Say it all works out with their police lawsuit, and they get a $10 million judgment against the city. Well, the city never has to even pay it. State agencies are immune from paying this type of judgment. Unless they want to pay it, they don’t have to.”
Spring’s trouble with the Feds
Spring found himself in trouble with the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board in 2001 for his failure to pay child support, a case that oddly went before the U.S. Western District Court in Lafayette where he was sentenced to pay full restitution in the amount of $58,465.
Typically, such cases are handled in state district court. “This is very unusual,” says Chuck Plattsmier, chief disciplinary counsel for the Louisiana Disciplinary Board. “This is the first time I can recall seeing anyone being brought into federal court for failure to pay child support. This is largely a state function, typically reserved for state court actions for failure to pay.” Plattsmier says Spring’s 2001 hearing before the disciplinary board resulted in a two-year deferred suspension. “The board deferred imposition of the suspension and put him on probation for two years with the special condition that he met the terms of what he owed in child support. So he basically had something hanging over his head saying you better comply with the provisions of your sentence or we’ll pull your ticket.”