Sunday, August 07, 2016
My Sunday Feeling
42 U.S.Code Section 1983 states in material part (as they say) that "Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, of the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States...to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law..."
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America gives us freedom of the press, to petition the government for redress of grievances and freedom of speech. These are basic bedrock freedoms we enjoy as Americans and they are given the highest level of protection.
Except in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
The image of the small town law enforcement officer as some bumbling Barney Fife type has slowly been eroded over the years. However, recent actions by the High Sheriff of Terrebonne Parish, a man by the name of Jerry Larpenter, have done much to revive that old unfortunate stereotype.
Carpenter got high pissed at a muckraking blog out of the Parish seat of Houma called Exposedat that aimed political corruption stories at Larpenter and some of his business associates along with other Parish political figures. You can find it here at http://exposedat.in/wp . So, he ginned up a phony baloney criminal case of criminal defamation (I didn't even know such crimes were still on the books) of the PARISH'S INSURANCE AGENT against a local man he suspected of running the blog, obtained search warrants THAT A JUDGE ACTUALLY SIGNED OFF ON, and sent deputies out to the suspect's house to execute the warrants.
This being Louisiana and all, it should be noted at this juncture that the target of the investigation is a Houma police officer who used to be a Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Deputy and New Orleans cop. Make of this as you will.
The deputies sent to execute the warrants seized two laptops, one of which belonged to the target's daughter, and 5 cell phones.
The reason for these, shall we say, robust law enforcement activities? Let the High Sheriff explain it.
"If you're gonna lie about me and make it [sic]under a fictitious name, I'm gonna come after you."
And with the full weight and authority of the police powers of the State of Louisiana he should have added. The language quoted above? I predict that Mr. Larpenter, who may not be the brightest guy to ever put on a badge but that's just me, will come to rue dearly that he said that.
Because guess what? Mr. Larpenter and Terrebonne Parish just bought themselves a 1983 suit, the pertinent language of which is cited above. This is not even how you go about investigating crimes involving computers or other communication devices in the usual case. 9 times out of ten the cops issue an investigative subpoena against the Internet or cell phone providers. They have the data. But maybe computer records were not all the Sheriff was looking for.
That's how bad this is. Mr. Larpenter used the power of the state to seize the target's property with the evident intent of silencing him in manifest violation of his First Amendment rights. At least that's how it looks to me.
Had Mr. Larpenter had the foresight to consult me, or someone reasonably competent even, I would have advised him that the Federal Courts take an exceedingly dim view of attempts by governmental entities to criminalize political speech. In any event I hope he likes New Orleans. Because unfortunately for him, he and his big mouth are likely destined to spend time in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana defending any of a number of actions either brought by the target or the United States for violating the target's civil rights.
What about the Judge you may ask? 1983 carves out an exception for judicial acts. And it is a good thing he's immune. Because, according to one of my little lawyer friends down there, the target got a hearing for the purpose of getting the warrants rescinded and at the conclusion the Judge wouldn't do it.
A common misconception held by young students, and Sarah Palin come to think of it, is that private entities can violate your First Amendment rights. For the most part this is not true. If I write a letter to the editor complaining about my boss at the lumber yard, and he fires me, that doesn't violate the First Amendment. No. Your rights of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment are implicated only if the government kicks your door down and confiscates your printing press.
Kinda like what went down in Houma the other day.
Just when you think it can't happen in this country, it happens.
Just a little something else to think about on Election Day.