The recent indictment of Shreveport Fire Chief Craig Mulford on 5 counts of malfeasance in office has raised many questions, –both in and out of the legal community on several issues. Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott is up for re-election this fall, and his record (or lack thereof) of white collar prosecutions is questioned by many in Shreveport. The Mulford case may deflect some of this criticism, and then it may not. Many believe Scotts’ office is expending an inordinate amount of energy on all the firefighter cases, including Mulford.
Mulford was indicted by a Caddo Grand Jury on 5 counts of malfeasance in office stemming from the alleged abuse and prostitution scandal at Shreveport Fire Station # 8 last summer. He was charged with one count each of (1) failing to report adult abuse against a mentally challenged man; (2) failing to report to law enforcement about alleged prostitution and undertaking a “sham investigation” in order to conceal the fact that prostitution had occurred; (3) refusing to allow a Shreveport fire captain to speak with an FBI agent and a Louisiana State Police officer; (4) instructing his employees not to talk to law enforcement without getting his permission first; and (5) telling two Shreveport fire captains that he had alerted human resources and the City Attorney’s office about the alleged prostitution when in fact he did not.
The malfeasance statute (LA. R.S. 94:134) is broad-based; malfeasance is committed when a public officer or employee intentionally refuses or fails to perform any duty lawfully required of him or intentionally performs such a duty in an unlawful manner. The statute is intended to protect the public by deterring public officers and employees from abusing their position of public trust. It was deliberately designed to be expansive; and it does not specify any particular duty or duties that can be prosecuted. (It would be difficult if not responsible to construct a definition of “duty” which would encompasses all the derelictions of duty that the statute seeks to prohibit). To get a conviction, the state must prove an affirmative duty by statute or law on the defendant as a public official and that the defendant intentionally performed, or failed to perform, that duty in an unlawful manner.
Many courthouse observers question the diligence of Caddo District D.A. Scott in the prosecution of white collar crimes, and especially against black citizens. Some say that Scott’s definition of “white collar crime” means a caucasian male wearing a collared shirt. Several high profile public officials, with well publicized questionable activities, have seemingly not attracted any attention by Scott. A partial listing of notables includes Marshal Charlie Caldwell, Caddo Commissioner Michael Williams, Mayor Glover’s involvement with Calvin Grigsby, among others.
Scott has been campaigning for re-election since the day he took office in 2008, and he rarely misses any political events. (As many say, where 3 or more or gathered Scott will be there). Its an old rumor that Scott has cut a deal with Second Court of Appeals Judge James Stewart to stay out of this year’s election to allow Scott to serve a second term. The most frequently discussed scenario is that Stewart will retire in the next few years from the Second Circuit bench and then segue to Scott’s office as First Assistant. Then Stewart, a former Assistant Caddo DA, would have a secure launching pad to become the first African American District Attorney in Caddo Parish.
Scott’s office dropped the ball on the prosecution of an alleged fraudulent housing case in a case recently dismissed. Many believe that his prosecution of Lola May, former Executive Director of Queensborough Neighborhood Association, is reflective of a go soft approach on white collar crime. Scott allowed May to plead to a minor charge along with an agreement that May would resign her job and not run for public office.
Unfortunately, many believe that graft in Shreveport is a way of life, and the failure of criminal prosecution reflects an attitude of disinterest by law enforcement. Now that Scott’s office has discovered the malfeasance statute maybe more white collar offenses will be sent to the grand jury. Assuming Scott is re-elected (there are rumors of an opponent) hopefully he will not have a skin color bias in prosecuting (or not prosecuting) white collar crimes. If neighboring district attorneys like Richard Johnson (DeSoto) and Schuyler Marvin (Bossier/Webster) have not been shy in addressing public graft, neither should Scott.