Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Written by The Independent Staff

It was a textbook case of protecting and serving when The Advocate obtained and posted online video of the January 2010 traffic stop that resulted in a drunk driving charge against state Rep. Bobby Badon, D-Carencro — a charge that was recently thrown out on a technicality. On the one side you had a nervous, stammering, slurring-his-words Badon trying to protect his reputation and serve his own interests after being pulled over on his way home from a party. On the other was State Trooper James Lazard — composed and professional despite Badon’s name dropping and good-ole-boy appeals for deference to his status and “a little leniency.” Kudos to Lazard for standing his ground and following the law. And ditto to The Advocate for pursuing the public’s right to know.

The kayaker who spotted the body of 29-year-old Cory Sonnier in Lake Martin the morning of June 24 was undoubtedly shaken up by the discovery of an apparent homicide victim. But when The Daily Advertiser tried to interview the unfortunate witness, he didn’t decline because he was too disturbed by what he found; rather, he told the Lafayette daily that he was “instructed by police not to speak with the media.” Since the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case — and said sheriff’s office has been known in the past to give the same “instructions” to other witnesses when newsworthy crimes take place in its jurisdiction — presumably the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office was again the issuer of an illegal gag order. What’s not explained in the daily’s crime story is that no law enforcement agency can prohibit witnesses from talking for the sake of preserving an investigation. That’s thanks to a little protection known as the First Amendment, which specifically gives Americans the freedom to speak about almost anything to Uncle T-Bob, Maw-Maw Barbara, friends and even the media. Also included in the First Amendment is the added protection of a free press, though nowhere in the document did our Founding Fathers outline the importance of a police state. We kindly ask the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office to brush up on its high school civics or Google the term “Bill of Rights.”

Pity poor Washington. The little town that butters its bread with an interstate speed trap just can’t get its act together. The latest exhibit of incompetence came last week when it was learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is demanding the St. Landry Parish hamlet return more than $72,000 it was allocated following Hurricane Katrina for housing evacuees. Washington, it turns out, never provided the proper documentation demonstrating how it spent the money and, what’s more, it’s now been two years since the town was notified about the problem. This follows a recent revelation that Washington owes the state $200,000 for speeding tickets issued to motorists who were traveling less than 10 miles over the posted limit on I-49. While Washington Mayor Joseph Pitre, who is black, has suggested his town is the victim of a racially motivated conspiracy, we prefer to think of it as a karma.

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