Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott bears the responsibility of allowing citizens who betray the public’s trust, steal and cheat the weakest in our society and get paid for work not completed to plea bargain felony offense to misdemeanors and perhaps even get their jobs back in the public sector.
Sheriff Steve Prator conducted what appears to have been a thorough investigation of criminal acts, yet the full power of law enforcement is lost when the District Attorney uses his discretionary power to justify allowing the investigation to stall before justice is given to those who have been harmed. The case was so simple the public will probably be left to give restitution to the guilty.
Bessie Broadway, a blind 80-year old Shreveporter is labeled as “poor, elderly and handicapped.” Broadway was one target of fraudulent repairs that Shreveport Community Development paid local contractors $25,000 to repair her porch, bathroom and replace her air conditioner and heating units. The work was never completed, and the inspectors who signed off on the “completed” project were given a slap on the wrist. Bessie Broadway lives today in an home that taxpayer money was allocated to improve and make her senior years more comfortable. The contractor total billing was between $94,000 and $567,000 from January 2008 through the time of their arrest in August 2009, according to authorities.
An investigation by Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator determined specific legal violations. A decision was make to arrest the contractors and the inspectors who worked together to steal public funds and take advantage of some of our most vulnerable citizens. The arrests were the result of a careful analysis of the charges, the facts from the investigation and what was believed to be a clear understanding of the laws that were violated. To the sheriff, and his staff, this was a clear case of stepping though the laws, the actions of the contractors and inspectors and tracing the funds along the path from grants, decisions to allocate the money, contracts signed, inspection documents executed and payments made. The case was so obvious that the public perception was “it’s about time that the crooks were caught stealing and it was about time they were punished.”
As Bessie Broadway said, “they were paid to fix this. And the mayor promised it would get done, but they did nothing!”
Caddo Sheriff’s investigators thought they had a very clear and clean case; seven arrests were made with felony charges attached. However, Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott states that the felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors for the two businessmen and the inspector’s charges were just dropped. The names and photos of those originally charged and the complete story can be found on the link at the bottom on the KSLA website.
Proof is in the democratic process of making a case stick in court. Essentially, legal maneuvers and time was on the side of the defendants. The public was “stuck” with another case that could not be completed in the courtroom.
The public now must ask the question: “How the District Attorney failed in the prosecution of a case where the evidence, at the outset, appeared overwhelmingly to prove the state’s case?” and the next question is “How many other appearances of ‘Slam Dunk’ justice have slipped at the courthouse doorway?”
A cursory look at high-profile cases and the seeming embarrassment in Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott’s execution of his duties brings us to several examples the public should reexamine. Some of these cases were accurately reported in various media outlets, and the problems either remain or the evidence still exists and would be in play with a renewed investigation. Two blaring examples are the expense of public funds for personal expenses by the Shreveport City Marshal, Charlie Caldwell and the expenditure of city resources on the development of an unapproved access road and other developments to benefit developer Jim Larkin along the right of way of State Highway 3132 at Flournoy Lucas. Both of these projects were investigated by entities and handed off to the public officials to be vetted.
Again the problem appeared to be the absence of will in the Caddo District Attorney’s office to pursue the crimes associated with these activities. Not only was there no will to investigate, but the pattern of a failure to look into the alleged crimes seems to be the pattern of the whole department in addressing internal issues.
When questions regarding the purchase of automatic weapons by the Caddo District Attorney’s office alleged to give them “firepower equal to the criminals they have to serve with legal papers or question regarding open investigations,” the result of being caught was to just pass the weapons on to another government agency. All paperwork regarding both of these events was made public through public records requests. And this information, in some cases, was only released under court order.
The public deserves officials who will execute the duties they are sworn to carry out. More questions need to be asked and more answers need to be provided. The nagging question of those of us who sit in the back pews is “Why would a good man allow evil to fester under his nose?” Our answer is to question who is really pulling the strings in the office, because it’s not the Charles Scott we thought we knew.
According to the release from the sheriff’s office, “Supervisors in the Community Development Office allowed (CONtractors) Brown and Alex to work in the Limited Repair Program even though their applications were never approved or disapproved by the city.” Inspectors listed and charged originally with felony offenses: