The word came down late this afternoon – no true bill on Josh Johns and a reduced count of misdemeanor simple battery for Jordan Jefferson.
LSU head coach Les Miles immediately reinstated both players to the Tiger football team.
Had Jefferson been charged with simple battery from the start – which a friend of mine who’s a judge at the 19th Judicial District Court at which the case was adjudicated (my friend wasn’t involved with the Jefferson or Johns cases, so you’ll know) says is common practice when there’s a bar fight – he would have already returned from a suspension at LSU.
Actually, my judge friend says what usually happens when there’s a bar fight is that you get a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace, not simple battery. Simple battery is the worst-case scenario in a bar fight unless you pull a knife or something.
There was never any evidence to support a conviction for 2nd-degree battery, which is what the Baton Rouge Police Department tried to charge Jefferson for. That was ludicrous. Every attorney in Baton Rouge could have told you it was nuts for the BRPD to have done that.
Things have worked out fantastically for LSU in the first four games of the season with Jarrett Lee at the helm, and we’ve had a great discussion about that fact in our other thread on this subject this week. Nobody should want Lee to give up the starting quarterback job at this point, and Miles isn’t even considering such a change now. Things have happened how they’ve happened, and if that means Jefferson goes down as a Drew Bledsoe (Tom Brady) or Wally Pipp (Lou Gehrig) then that’s life in the big city. LSU head coach Les Miles should perhaps try to find a way to get Jefferson involved in the offense, but unless Lee’s play drops off he has to stay atop the depth chart.
But the Lee-Jefferson question, fascinating though it might be, really isn’t the issue that folks in Baton Rouge should be focused on at this point. Because that issue is at least in hands we can consider capable. Miles has handled personnel issues properly enough that there’s a reason to believe he can handle this one.
The issue we should concern ourselves with here is why it is that Baton Rouge’s police department, which is presiding over one of the worst crime rates in the South in a city which has no business being even above average, is wasting time, money and publicity carting off four dozen pairs of shoes for DNA testing for a bar fight. Or attempting to reconstruct the Lincon assassination over a bar fight.
Now that Jefferson’s charges have been busted down to what virtually anyone involved with the criminal justice system will tell you is what they always should have been from the beginning, it’s time to start asking questions about the management of the Baton Rouge Police Department. What are the qualifications of Dwayne White, the city’s chief of police who had never been a police chief before? Several law enforcement professionals I talked to expressed dismay upon his appointment in May of this year, and his performance during this imbroglio has been nothing short of embarrassing. I’ve even heard talk that morale in the BRPD is quite low at present due to a leadership vacuum.
Who appointed White as the chief of police? That would be Baton Rouge mayor-president Kip Holden, who knew previous police chief Jeff LeDuff was leaving and failed to conduct a national search for the job in an effort to actually improve the BRPD with strong leadership before hiring White. This would be the same Holden whose commitment to proper funding of law enforcement has been shown to be severely lacking. And it would be the same Holden whose endless attempts to stick the taxpayers with the bill for his monuments to himself ended in yet another ignominious humiliation when the Metro Council walked out of a meeting to fund a library improvement and a concert venue earlier today.
This is what a failed mayor looks like. It manifests itself in failed leadership all the way down the line. And while Jordan Jefferson might not be a direct victim of that failed leadership, he’s a victim all the same.
Holden has been on the job in Baton Rouge for nearly two full terms. He originally presented the citizens of Baton Rouge with something worthy of approval. Those days disappeared when Holden’s former chief of staff Walter Monsour rode off into the sunset and since that time he has been an unmitigated disaster atop city-parish government. And as a result we have the spectacle of the Shady’s bar fight case casting Baton Rouge in a poor light when the city should be basking in the glow of LSU’s No. 1 national ranking.
This is a flashing red light shining in the face of the voters in East Baton Rouge Parish. Shame on those voters if they can’t recognize that giving Holden a third term next year is a mistake worthy of Dwayne White’s BRPD.