“Back the blue” is a phrase that broadly means to support law enforcement officers (LEOs). While peace officer is a much better term to describe traditional constitutional policing, it has been supplanted with LEO, a term which to some degree has a different meaning. Back the blue often goes hand in hand with thin blue line symbology, which itself is not without criticism and subject to different interpretations.
Overall, there are very few law-abiding people who don’t believe in the need for a system of law and order. Many blindly and devotedly support police officers as heroes just as there is a similar admiration and respect shown to people who serve in the military. But the field of law enforcement is no different than any other. There are good apples and bad apples. There will always be individuals who are misled or have evil intentions that enter into a field for the wrong reasons. That covers Law Enforcement, Government, the Clergy, etc. It’s up to us to expose and drive those individuals out like St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland.
The new Brady Bunch
Most remember The Brady Bunch, an early 1970’s sitcom. In the criminal justice system, though, the Brady list refers to those who leave a black eye on the institution. The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1963 ruling, Brady v. Maryland, opined that the government’s withholding of material evidence violated the constitutional right to due process. This includes evidence that demonstrates bias or prejudice against a party, motive for fabrication of testimony, poor reputation for truthfulness, past incidents of untruthfulness, prior inconsistent statements, officer presently under suspension, demonstrates the officer has misidentified a suspect in another case, sustains claims of excessive force (if that is an issue in the matter at hand) or supports misconduct in the handling of the defendant’s case.
Prosecutors are governed by special rules concerning professional misconduct. These include: refraining from “prosecuting a charge that is not supported by probable cause” and “timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information…” which “…tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense…” So when a District Attorney’s Office learns of material which has Brady implications, the person responsible may find himself on a Brady list.
The only reason a Brady list is maintained is to remind the District Attorney that opposing counsel is entitled to know if the testimony of a person may not be reliable. The list is needed because these individuals remain working within the criminal justice system despite known issues of credibility which have been previously reported. To see just how pervasive this issue is one only need look at the Brady list from the 16th Judicial District.
The city of St. Martinville demands our attention
Let’s forget for a moment that the Village of Parks is almost entirely without police protection while Chief Reggie Clues(less) is running around campaigning for Clerk of Court and running a business on the side. It may also be amusing to pretend that crime in the City of Breaux Bridge isn’t skyrocketing under the leadership on newly elected Chief “Buzz” LeBlanc, while police morale is sinking to an all-time low (there just may be a correlation there). Let’s also take a short break from Chief Rickey Boudreaux and the City of Youngsville and focus on the City of St. Martinville. Why? Because they demanded our attention.
In January of 2023 we submitted a public records request seeking communication between Mayor Jason Willis and Chief of Police Ricky Martin pertaining to traffic tickets. In response, Attorney Allan Durand indicated that neither the Mayor nor the Chief “remembered such communications,” but that a search would be conducted. A response was expected to occur the following week. However, only after we followed up over a month later did Mr. Durand provide the “answer.” He responded that “the Chief of Police advises that after a thorough search, he can find no record that fits your public records request.” Durand also indicated that the City does not have an “IT expert on staff.” That was on March 17, 2023.
What happened to the IT staff?
Days earlier, on March 15, 2023, we had submitted a different public records request. It sought communication between the St. Martinville Police Department and the City of Franklin for the period of February 1, 2023 through March 15, 2023. A second request was made the same day seeking records of “complaints or allegations of misconduct lodged against LeTroy Johnson during the period of September 1, 2022 through March 15, 2023.” Chief Martin responded the same day indicating that he had not received any complaints against Johnson since his employment began. Regarding the request for e-mail communication Chief Martin indicated “I will have IT go through the email system…” Did the IT staff quit in those two days between Durand and Chief Martin’s responses?
On May 3, 2023 a response would once again be received from Durand, but only thanks to our active follow-up routine. Durand indicated “The Chief informs me that there are no such emails…” Despite this assertion, it was clear that there was communication responsive to our request. How do we know? Because we received it from another source!
This mysteriously missing email prompted our next request: “Can you advise of the record retention policy for e-mail of the City of St. Martinville?” A question which went ignored by Chief Martin and Durand. However the retention policy was later provided by a different City employee. In response to a public records request, she indicated “Records are kept for seven (7) years.” So, is this missing email an oversight? Poor record keeping? Incompetence? Or deliberate attempts to conceal public records?
Shenanigans continue in St. Martinville
Interestingly enough, the more requests we sent the stranger things became. On May 16, 2023 we asked for “complaints or allegations of misconduct lodged against Cavan Zacherie during the period of September 1, 2022 and May 15, 2023.” After a week without receiving responsive records we amended our request for “Any and all complaints or allegations of misconduct lodged against Cavan Zacharie.” Then the word games began.
Chief Martin responded the same day: “Sorry, I thought you received a response already. I was advised by my Deputy Chief [Cody Lapeyrouse] we have not received any complaints against Sgt. Zacharie.” Martin would go on to indicate that this was for the dates of the first request. Then when asked about the broarder request Martin responded: “We haven’t had any since his return in early 2023. He previously resigned and went to work for New Iberia Police Department, before coming back.” Again, he failed to properly address the request for actual records. This prompted yet another follow-up on May 26, 2023, in which Chief Martin now indicated his Deputy Chief [Cody Lapeyrouse] advised of the following complaints:
On 10/17/2023 [2022?] I received a complaint from Corrina Simon and Darries Ledet against Sgt. Zacharie. The complaint was unfounded and resulted in charges of filing a false report against a law enforcement officer on Simon and Ledet.
I received a complaint from a call for service on 9/12/23 [09/12/2022?] from Jason Nelson on Sgt. Zacharie. The nature of the complaint was Nelson stating he felt Sgt. Zacharie was acting like he was the person committing the crime and did not want to do anything about used condoms, beer cans, and litter in the area. This complaint was unfounded. Sgt. Zacharie was verbally counseled regarding making sure his body camera is active when handling complaints.
As of this writing, Martin and Durand have failed to provide any documents regarding Johnson or Zacharie. Why the interest in these two? Well past performance is the best indicator of future performance. It was just a matter of time before something bad happened. And it did!
LeTroy Johnson and Cavan Zacharie
If we are to believe the responses from Chief Martin both individuals appear to have stellar employment records. As it turns out, LeTroy Johnson is part of the 16th JDC Brady Bunch. Johnson was charged in Iberia Parish with domestic battery prior to being hired by the St. Martinville Police Department. At the time, he was employed as a law enforcement officer in Iberia Parish but was subsequently fired.
Cavan Zacharie, on the other hand, was involved in a federal civil rights suit filed against the City of St. Martinville by Jacob Cheatwood in March of 2021. That case has since been resolved. A year prior, a complaint was filed against Zacharie for drinking alcohol in public, while in uniform and on-duty. Strange how Martin doesn’t have a record of that either.
Then, in January of 2022 a complaint was filed alleging Zacharie had injured public records and was harassing / retaliating against a co-worker. Chief Martin has no record of that either. Then there is the February 2, 2023 complaint given against Zacharie by his estranged wife – and taken down by his good friend LeTroy Johnson! Again, Chief Martin has no record. But is Martin to blame or is it his Deputy Chief Cody Lapeyrouse’s fault?
Deputy Chief Laperouse is also part of the 16th JDC Brady Bunch. He was convicted of civil rights violations while he was employed with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office. It just so happens that both Lapeyrouse and Martin worked for that agency at the same time. Laperouse is the individual observed in e-mails providing complaint information to Chief Martin.
Another ‘missing’ complaint!?
More recently, and predictably, both Johnson and Zacharie have found themselves in the middle of yet another complaint. It is alleged that in April of 2023 Johnson and Zacharie responded to a disturbance complaint in which a woman decided to leave her home to keep the peace. Johnson and/or Zacharie allegedly told the female subject that they would pay to get her a hotel room. The money was allegedly sent to her via CashApp and she allegedly checked herself into a hotel in Lafayette, Louisiana. It is also alleged that Johnson and Zacharie both visited the hotel and engaged in sexual acts with the subject and another female.
What will come of this? If the past is any indication – nothing. It will be swept under the rug, not investigated, concealed from public disclosure or, if it ever sees the light of the day, a decision to make it all go away will likely be made at the Cigar Club!