We’d like to offer up a big scolding post about corruption in Baton Rouge and how it has seeped into virtually every aspect of government in town, and how if something isn’t done the city is going to degrade into a Jackson, Mississippi in a short time, etc. But we really don’t need to do that, since we can just point you toward the Advocate’s article about how mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s ally Cleve Dunn has been named in a class action suit alleging he colluded with Judge Trudy White to screw families of accused criminals.
With the help of a local judge, a pretrial services company in Baton Rouge has held hundreds of inmates “ransom” in recent years by requiring they shell out hefty fees on top of their court-ordered bail before they can be released from jail, according to a new class-action lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed late Monday by the ACLU of Louisiana and the Southern Poverty Law Center, accuses the company, Rehabilitation Home Incarceration, of violating state and federal racketeering laws by “extorting” an initial $525 payment — and hundreds of dollars in subsequent fees — from defendants assigned to pretrial supervision.
“Those who cannot afford the fee languish in jail for days, weeks or even months as their loved ones scramble to assemble money to pay off RHI,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit, which names East Baton Baton Rouge Parish as a defendant, claims local jail officials have been complicit in “wrongfully detaining” inmates before they have paid RHI for their pretrial supervision.
The lawsuit also alleges RHI has benefited from its political support of 19th Judicial District Judge Trudy White, who according to the lawsuit has “indiscriminately” ordered hundreds of defendants to complete services offered by the family-owned company — including electronic monitoring — without even inquiring about their financial resources. The company, which does not have a formal contract with the court, provides its services through “an informal agreement” with White, the lawsuit alleges.
Founded in 1993, RHI has supervised “thousands of clients” in East Baton Rouge, Orleans, Ascension and Tangipahoa parishes, according to its website. The lawsuit describes RHI officials as “political allies” of White who supported her successful re-election bid in 2014. RHI is led by Cleve Dunn Sr., whose son once reportedly ran White’s campaign.
The lawsuit, citing court records, says White, after winning re-election, ordered more than 300 criminal defendants to complete RHI’s services in 2015 and 2016. It’s unclear whether any other judges in the 19th Judicial District are sending business to RHI.
Reached by phone Monday, White refused to comment on the racketeering lawsuit. Dunn, who unlike White was named as a defendant in the litigation, could not be reached for comment.
We’re the last people you’d expect to see hailing the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center for anything, as those organizations long ago perverted any positive role they might have played in the legal process in favor of a nonstop partisan leftist agenda. That this case fell to them is problematic, to put it charitably, because it shouldn’t be a civil suit but rather a criminal investigation and indictment brought by the District Attorney, Attorney General or, most notably, the U.S. Attorney – who is supposed to be the go-to guy where it comes to public corruption.
Why Trudy White, given her never-ending string of judicial abuses, is still on the bench is something we can’t explain. The Louisiana Supreme Court has already suspended her once, and since she returned to action six months or so ago she’s even worse than she was before. They’re not going to do anything about her?
The guts of the case indicate how wide-open this scam is.
The lawsuit raises a number of allegations first reported last year by WAFB-TV. In many cases, White assigns defendants to undergo pretrial supervision even before they have appeared before her, the lawsuit claims, and “does not ask arrestees any questions before assigning them to RHI, such as whether an arrestee can afford to pay bond or RHI’s initial or monthly fees.” According to the lawsuit, White does not allow arrestees to be heard at probable cause hearings and assigns arrestees to RHI supervision “without conducting an individualized determination of the need for, or the conditions of RHI supervision.
“Rather than conduct these inquiries, Judge White signs an order making RHI supervision a condition of release on bond, without instruction about the terms of this supervision,” the lawsuit says.
RHI, in turn, instructs jail officials not to release pretrial inmates ordered to undergo its services until RHI has received payment. The lawsuit says jail officials have violated inmates’ rights by detaining them “beyond expiration of a valid order of confinement, without probable cause.”
The lawsuit says RHI, despite charging “significant fees for its supervision,” does not typically require supervisees to make “substantive reports” to their monitors beyond complying with a curfew. The lawsuit also alleges that Dunn and RHI monitors “routinely threaten” program participants with re-arrest if they fail to make monthly $225 payments, a practice described in the lawsuit as “an unlawful use of fear.”
It’s not like White and Dunn can say these are all lies. We’ve got contacts among the legal profession in Baton Rouge, none of whom will go public on the issue out of fear of reprisals by White since they have to practice in front of her, who have privately confirmed this has been going on forever. It’s one of those “You should do a story on this, but no, I won’t go on the record as your source” type of things.
But everybody knows this is going on. And everybody knows Dunn is the one raking money in off the judicial system thanks to his having installed White on the bench to serve as a bird dog for his business.
So it was hardly a surprise that it was Dunn who pulled in the most lucrative of all the BRAVE contracts which made so much news last week, catching $17,500 to run a taxi service for that program’s participants. The documents released on his arrangement showed that he was originally in line for as much as a $33,000 three-month no-bid contract to run that taxi service, but that got cut down to the maximum-sized contract that wouldn’t go in front of the Metro Council for approval.
The only other additional take we have is to wonder how we’re going to teach underprivileged kids in North Baton Rouge about the capitalist system and the creation of wealth when the “businessmen” they see are people like Cleve Dunn who rig the judicial system so as to suck blood out of poor people who get accused of crimes. Everybody else thinks the essence of capitalism is you figure out how to provide a product or service people want cheaply and effectively, and the reward for that is lots of happy customers and a growing business. What those poor kids see is the “businessman” who’s making money gets to make it because the crooked judge tells people to pay him or else they’re going to jail. Maybe the people paying Cleve Dunn ought to be in jail, but that’s beside the point – when you hold this guy out as a “business leader” and his business is crooked government contracts, don’t be surprised when the people don’t have much regard for business.
Cleve Dunn doesn’t need to be a political insider in Baton Rouge. And Trudy White doesn’t need to be a judge. Not one more day.
And we need a tiger of a U.S. Attorney in Baton Rouge with lots of coffee, a fast computer and a closet full of fresh file folders. We needed that six months ago. Faster, please.