Church Point: Magistrate verdict under scrutiny

   

Last week, Church Point Police Chief, Dale Thibodeaux, suddenly exited the Church Point Magistrate Court and withdrew all of his staff. Casual inquiries with local law enforcement suggest a defendant was being charged for disobeying a stop sign and driving with a suspended license. Magistrate Brad Andrus suggested the defendant didn’t want to take the plea offer from the prosecutor. When she agreed, he rendered a not-guilty verdict.

In text messages (contains strong language) acquired by Citizens for a New Louisiana, Blair Meche asked Andrus to disappear several tickets for herself and friends. On June 17th, Andrus replied to repeated messages by saying, “Ok just tell [Javonta Lazaro] not to show up, I’ll reset it and then I’ll do what I can to make it go away.” Then, “[Heidi’ Meche’s] ticket will be dismissed.” When a question arose about a warrant eventually being issued for Javonta, he goes on to explain how his process works.

What people hear in court and what I do are two different things. Don’t believe what people say because here’s how it _ works. We are a small court in a small community. I don’t like outwardly showing favoritism so here’s what happens I do verbally issue the warrant on someone but on my sheet ( which is where the buck stops and starts) I don’t issue it so it makes people think I issued a warrant but in reality I did not and in this case I did not. I don’t know what else to say … l’m a man of my word and I did exactly what I told you I would do. No warrant. Period.

Earlier today I stopped by the magistrate court in Church Point to review the dockets for myself. I had hoped the dockets would reveal who was supposed to show up in court in June. From there, I would determine if a warrant had been issued for anyone who did not show up. The clerk there was very nice. She explained that the court was non-recording, but would do whatever she could to help with my research. However, when Mr. Lazaro’s name came up, I was informed that a public records request would be required before we could proceed.

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it was difficult to track down anyone for comment. When I called on Magistrate Brad Andrus’s office in person earlier today he was not available. However, we did receive a statement from David Stanley – the Acadiana Representative for the Louisiana Union of Police Associations. He said,

In this case it appears you have a trier of the facts that has a lack of integrity and is not independent. These two things go to the very heart of the judicial code of conduct. Police officers are out, working our streets, going into complete unknowns on every traffic stop to enforce laws legally passed by an elected government. The very least they can expect is an unbiased court system to hear the testimony before making a decision. The magistrate in this case is already making decisions before hearing testimony. He should immediately resign and allow the Town of Church Point to find an unbiased magistrate so their judicial system can work as it was intended.

At the end of the day today, we are left with more questions than answers. We understand that, as explained in the text message, a verbal warrant was issued, but there was no paperwork, and therefore no actual warrant issued. However, memories are one thing and documents are another. Will those documents reveal if the subjects of these text messages appeared in court? If so, what was the outcome? If not, were warrants issued for their arrest?

To get at answers to those questions, we plan to fax in our public records request as instructed. Expect a follow up article on this some time after the Thanksgiving holiday.

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