Back in 2012, three Baton Rouge attorneys came to the aid of several disgruntled police officers with a high-profile federal lawsuit against the Lafayette Police chief and a number of higher-ups in city-parish government.
|"It is truly unfortunate that the department and our community have been distracted by these distortions of fact" — Chief Jim Craft commenting on Thursday's dismissal of the lawsuit against his department and City Hall.|
And with their claims of a big-time conspiracy tracing up to the highest ranks of local government, they became darlings of the local media almost overnight, leaving a temporary black eye on the department and City Hall.
That all changed Thursday in what some witnesses are calling an "embarrassing" dissection of the lawsuit that revealed proof and cold-hard facts were exchanged for hearsay and conspiracy, resulting in one of the attorneys, Royal Alexander, even going so far as to plead with U.S. District Judge Richard Haik to not be sanctioned.
Alexander was joined during Thursday's hearing by his law partners, Christopher Alexander (also his brother) and Stephen Spring.
According to several sources who witnessed the hearing, the situation got off to a bad start from the very beginning thanks to Spring’s late arrival, which prompted a stern rebuke from Haik who made the Baton Rouge attorney sit with the rest of the onlookers away from his partners and clients at the counsel table. And it only worsened from there, with Haik going through every deposition, reading every word and looking over every claim made by the lawsuit, putting Spring and the Alexander brothers under the microscope to prove the facts of their case.
They did just the opposite.
“It was an absolute embarrassment,” says one source who witnessed Thursday’s hearing but spoke on the condition of anonymity.
For all six of the remaining plaintiffs in the case — including Kane Marceaux, Scott Poiencot, Greg Cormier, Gabe Thompson, Nolvey Stelly and Uletom Hewitt — Haik went one by one, listing the allegations made by each and demanding proof from their attorneys. For each of their six clients, Spring and the Alexanders were left nearly speechless, and with no facts in hand to prove their claims of corruption, Haik’s response for each of the six was the same: Case dismissed.
“By the time it got to the third or fourth plaintiff, Royal Alexander was saying ‘Please don’t sanction me, please don’t sanction me,’” recalls one of our sources.
Haik’s examination revealed a number of big holes in the suit, like one plaintiff’s claim that he was the target of retaliation — namely that he was transferred to a different, less desirable division within the department — by Police Chief Jim Craft and LCG Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley for a restraining order he filed against the two as a result of the lawsuit. The officer’s transfer, however, happened prior to the issuance of the restraining order.
When asked how that could be a form of retaliation if Stanley and Craft had no knowledge of the restraining order, Spring and the Alexanders were short on answers. In fact, they said nothing.
Haik continued to pick apart the allegations, focusing on the claims by several officers that their punishment from Craft and Stanley involved a transfer to a high-crime area described in the lawsuit as “Hell’s Kitchen.” It too blew up in the faces of the Baton Rouge attorneys.
Examining the depositions taken by Spring and the Alexanders, Haik wanted to know why each officer claiming to have been transferred to Hell’s Kitchen had a disparate understanding of where exactly Hell’s Kitchen was. Each officer described a different part of the city as being Hell’s Kitchen, with one officer even saying he thought it was a “TV show.”
Thursday’s hearing marks the end of what has been called the “Serpico” suit — a reference to the 1973 Al Pacino film about an officer's fight against police force corruption — and for Spring and the Alexanders, it could possibly mean the end of creating conspiracies in Lafayette’s courtrooms. (For more on this case and the antics of Spring and the Alexanders, read our July 2013 article “The Lawyers of Last Resort,” which details how they’ve repeatedly used smoke-and-mirror schemes to drum up attention for lawsuits that are based more on hearsay than fact, and represent clients who are more disgruntled than they are victims.)
Following Thursday’s conclusion of a case that’s hung over the heads of Lafayette officials for the last two years, The IND reached out to Chief Craft for comment.
He issued this statement:
Over the last two years of court proceedings involving the baseless and unfounded allegations in this lawsuit, we never lost faith in the fact that our actions were proper and legal. After a meticulous review of each and every claim, a federal judge determined this lawsuit to be without merit and dismissed it.
I thank my fellow officers and our legal defense team for their support during this ordeal and I also thank the citizens of Lafayette for their trust in the leadership of their police department. It is truly unfortunate that the department and our community have been distracted by these distortions of fact.
We are obviously pleased that this is over and we are now able to fully focus our attention on the affairs of the Lafayette Police Department.