ASHLEY SUIT AGAINST CADDO D.A. SCOTT
Two upcoming elections could be adversely affected by litigation currently pending against Caddo District Attorney Charles Rex Scott. Don Ashley, an investigator with the Caddo D.A.’s office, was fired by now D.A. Scott on March 2 of last year. Ashley filed a whistleblower suit against Scott, which is set for a jury trial in July of this year before Caddo District Judge Roy Brun.
According to his lawsuit, Ashley was persuaded by then Caddo Parish District Attorney Paul Carmouche to retire from the Shreveport Police Department in 1994 and hire on as investigator in the newly formed Homicide Screening Section. In 2009 ( the year Carmouche retired and Scott became the district attorney), Ashley assumed the position of chief investigator for the D.A.’s office; in addition to investigative work, Ashley was responsible for supervising other investigators in the D.A.’s office and handling related administrative duties.
Ashley’s pleadings state that between 2009 and 2011, he became aware of certain activities in the D.A.’s office and by some of its assistants that went beyond what he believed to be the mission of the district attorney’s office. These included the acquisition of weapons, the active participation by certain assistant district attorneys in traditional police activities and the participation by certain assistant district attorneys in other activities. Ashley voiced his concerns to Scott, his staff and directly to the assistant district attorneys involved.
In February 2012, Ashley learned that the D.A.’s office had purchased eight M-16 fully automatic weapons (machine guns) and that delivery of the machine guns to the D.A.’s office was imminent. He also learned that the weapons had been purchased without the knowledge and approval of Sheriff Steve Prator: (Ashley contends that the Sheriff’s consent was required by Louisiana Law.) Ashley voiced his concerns about the machine gun purchases to a number of D.A. staff members and supervising attorneys.
According to Ashley, his voiced concerns were meet with vague, conflicting and what he believed to be untrue responses. Ashley spoke directly with Sheriff Prator about the machine guns, and confirmed that Prator had no knowledge that they had purchased. Ashley contends that not only did Prator not approve of the D.A’s office acquisition of the machine guns, but also that Prator believed that the acquisition of the machine guns, under the circumstances, was a violation of state law.
On March 2, 2012, (some three days after Ashley spoke to Prator about the machine guns) Scott fired Ashley; Scott stated that Ashley’s employment was being terminated because “he had gone outside the office” by disclosing the machine gun purchases to Prator. Not surprisingly, Scott has denied having made this statement.
Ashley contends that his firing was a direct reprisal for disclosing to Sheriff Prator that the D.A.’s office was acquiring the machine guns. Ashley further contends that his termination violated Louisiana’s Whistleblower Statute, which entitles him to recover damages resulting from the termination, – – including compensatory damages, back pay, benefits and reinstatement, along with reasonable attorney fees, court costs and legal interest.
Scott’s answer to Ashley’s lawsuit alleges that Ashley disagreed with the D.A.’s acquisition of the guns, and denies that Ashley voiced any concerns regarding any alleged illegality regarding the gun acquisitions. Scott’s pleadings assert that there were “legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons” for the personal actions taken by Scott, i.e. the termination of Ashley.
The lawsuit is only part of the “militia gate” story, and more will be reported in the future, including the subsequent termination by Scott of the two assistant district attorneys directly involved in the machine gun caper. Additionally, the inspector general’s report in the acquisition of the guns as well as potential political fallout by the participants will be reviewed. And to top it off, Scott will seek re-election next year and one of his assistants, who may have been involved in militia gate, is thinking of running for district judge.