Who do you think should manage Ferriday water?|
Story Archives: Drug dealer testimony, jail tapes may result in probe of judge
- 2013 - 300 articles
- 2012 - 856 articles
- 2011 - 635 articles
- 2010 - 1276 articles
- 2009 - 1591 articles
- 2008 - 1763 articles
- December 2008 - 148 articles
- November 2008 - 147 articles
- October 2008 - 183 articles
- September 2008 - 128 articles
- August 2008 - 150 articles
- August 28th, 2008 (Thursday) - 25 articles
- August 27th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 13 articles
- August 24th, 2008 (Sunday) - 1 articles
- August 21st, 2008 (Thursday) - 26 articles
- August 20th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 23 articles
- August 14th, 2008 (Thursday) - 25 articles
- August 13th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 1 articles
- August 12th, 2008 (Tuesday) - 2 articles
- August 8th, 2008 (Friday) - 1 articles
- August 7th, 2008 (Thursday) - 16 articles
- August 6th, 2008 (Wednesday) - 16 articles
- August 1st, 2008 (Friday) - 1 articles
- July 2008 - 143 articles
- June 2008 - 120 articles
- May 2008 - 148 articles
- April 2008 - 147 articles
- March 2008 - 143 articles
- February 2008 - 146 articles
- January 2008 - 160 articles
|Drug dealer testimony, jail tapes may result in probe of judge|
Judge Leo Boothe reduced the 25-year sentence of convicted drug dealer James Skipper to 12 years last week, stating that his decision was due to "startling information" and "saddening developments" that partly involved the other judge in the Seventh Judicial District -- Kathy Johnson.
Due to allegations made in those proceedings, the Louisiana Supreme Court has requested a tape of the hearing. Valerie S. Willard, Deputy Judicial Administrator for the Supreme Court, said Monday that as a matter of policy she could neither confirm nor deny whether an investigation has been launched.
Judge Johnson said Tuesday that "the timing of this event before an election is no coincidence and I do not understand how a sitting judge who has been named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit by Skipper, can hear a criminal case and release him based solely on Skipper's testimony."
According to the transcript of the proceedings, Skipper said in court on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008, that a plot was hatched a few years ago to remove Judge Boothe from his judgeship so that Judge Johnson could be the chief judge. Dist. Atty. John Johnson recommended that Skipper's sentence be reduced in half in lieu of telephone transcripts and testimony filed last week.
On April 11, 2002, a parish petit jury found Skipper, in his second felony offense, guilty of three counts of distribution of cocaine and one count of intent to distribute. Following Skipper's conviction, Judge Boothe initially sentenced Skipper to 80 years -- 25 years on each count of distribution of cocaine, and five years on attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
On Feb. 12, 2003, the sentence was reduced to 25 years.
Representing himself once again in court last week, Skipper said he filed the motion on the docket asking for a modification of his sentence because he was "a pawn for some people's agenda." Those people included, he said, Judge Johnson of Division A; Skipper's nephew, the Rev. Justin Conner; and Gene Allen, the former mayor of Ferriday.
TRANSCRIPTS OF PHONE CONVERSATIONS
The district attorney introduced into evidence transcripts of three telephone conversations between Skipper and Conner while Skipper was incarcerated in the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport. In one conversation the two men called and talked briefly with Judge Johnson.
Skipper said that during his incarceration at Avoyelles he "engaged in conversations concerning my case" with Conner and Judge Johnson and concerning "pleadings' brought before Judge Boothe's court in Division B.
"I was instructed to file motion to produce newspaper articles concerning the district attorney," said Skipper. "Motions to, not more or less a motion, but a complaint to the judiciary committee alleging misconduct by your Honor, Judge Boothe, pertaining to a certain issue that was brought to my attention. I was advised to pursue the recusal issue...because I didn't know exactly how to get evidence into court but was advised how to proffer evidence in after the objection of the judge."
Skipper said he learned later from Richard Ortego of the Louisiana State Police that those conversations were taped. The district attorney said transcripts were provided him by the Louisiana Attorney General a while ago and were kept in his desk drawer until court day last week.
David Caldwell of the Louisiana Attorney General's office said "the transcripts came out as a tangential issue and an outgrowth of our (Ferriday mayoral) voter fraud investigation. We were made aware of those transcripts and the district attorney was made aware."
The concern, said Caldwell, was that "one judge (Johnson) was speaking with an inmate at the jail and the problem is that there are only two judges in that jurisdiction so if the other judge (Boothe) recused himself" from Skipper's case "it would have come to her (Johnson)."
"That raised an eyebrow as a possible ethical issue," said Caldwell.
Those jail house telephone recordings, Skipper said, involved how to pursue his case, and how to "proffer motions in return," all to advance the ultimate goal of removing Judge Boothe from office.
Skipper said Judge Johnson instructed him to file motions "to produce newspaper articles concerning the district attorney," and "alleging misconduct" by Judge Boothe.
On the fifth day of recusal proceedings in February 2006 initiated against Judge Boothe by Skipper, Judge John Joyce ruled against Skipper, who subpoenaed elected officials and candidates for sheriff from the 2003 campaign for that trial.
Additionally, Skipper told DA Johnson that in the recusal case against Judge Boothe, Skipper unsuccessfully sought "the investigative file of your wreck in which your wife was killed." Skepper said the State Police "wouldn't give it to me."
RECUSAL EFFORTS; VOTER FRAUD
Skipper contended that Boothe could not be impartial and fair in handling his case, alleging that Boothe, Dist. Atty. Johnson and Sheriff Randy Maxwell made a deal with Gene Allen months before he became mayor of Ferriday. Also involved in the deal, he said, were other black leaders, and all parties conspired to release Skipper from prison in exchange for black support of Maxwell in the 2003 run-off election for sheriff. Skipper claimed the group reneged on the deal five months later when he was returned to jail.
Boothe said he had been "mystified" by many of "Mr. Skipper's actions." The judge said he testified in court "that those allegations about these deals or whatever were not only untrue, that they had never been discussed."
Skipper was out of jail on appeal on a $250,000 bond from December 2003 to May 2004 when the Louisiana Supreme Court denied an appeal of his conviction on drug charges. During that time, Skipper campaigned for Allen and was named to Allen's transition team after Allen emerged victorious over incumbent Glen McGlothin. Conner was named administrative assistant for the town once Allen took office.
In April 2005, Skipper, Conner and Henrietta Williams were among seven people arrested for voter fraud in that election, although the number of defendants was eventually reduced to five. The Attorney General's office handled the case.
In May 2005, Judge Boothe denied a request to reconsider Skipper's sentence.
In the voter fraud case, Williams was the only person tried and convicted. She was sentenced in May 2006 by Judge Sharon Marchman to 18 months in prison for filing a false public document in that election -- an absentee ballot. Williams began serving her sentence in March at the Louisiana's Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel.
In July 2006, five months after Judge Joyce ruled against Skipper in his recusal hearing concerning Judge Boothe, three telephone conversations were recorded between Skipper and Conner.
In one taped conversation initiated at 10:04 p.m. July 27, Jim Whittington, a candidate for sheriff in 2003, asked Skipper: "You gonna tell 'em that ya'll mailed the absentees at the post office in Vidalia?"
Skipper: "Fifty three of 'em."
Conner: "Uh s--t."
Skipper: "We put fifty three of 'em in the mailbox over there."
Skipper: "Look, we didn't have but fifty-three absentee mail in ballots, and we took 'em all to Vidalia. And his handwriting all over 'em."
Conner: "All over 'em man. I mean all over 'em."
Skipper: "See what I'm saying. They just aint checked for 'em. They just don't know where to check at."
On the telephone, Conner and Skipper referred to Judge Johnson by the name -- "Little Bird" and "Lady Bird." In a brief conversation Skipper and Conner had with the judge on July 26, she offered no advice to Skipper, but of 20 comments attributed to her, 12 were listed by the transcriber as partially or entirely "inaudible."
"We made an attempt to get the tapes cleaned up but were not able to get them any cleaner," said Caldwell of the Attorney General's office. He said several different agencies were consulted on the matter but without success.
A month after Skipper's conversations were taped -- August 2006 -- charges against he and other voter fraud defendants were dropped. A complication involving the state's lead witness reportedly derailed the case.
SKIPPER'S REJECTION OF 5-YEAR DEAL
Skipper in court last week said that if a "certain person ran against (DA) Johnson," Judge Johnson planned to run against Boothe in the 2008 election. That "certain person" was Jack McLemore, he said.
Skipper said Judge Johnson and Conner "knew there was going to be a possibly three-man race or a four-man race" for DA, including McLemore, while Ronnie McMillin, then an assistant district attorney, "would run against" Boothe.
On the transcript of the jail house recordings Conner told Skipper that Judge Johnson "don't want to lose me."
Skipper answered, "Uh huh. 'Cause she know now, you'll get on her."
Conner replied, "S--t, I'll get in on her. Cause let me tell you something, she called me two or three times a week."
Skipper asked Conner why McMillin was demoted as 1st assistant district attorney.
Conner: "Well, he do it to discourage Ronnie Mack, cause..."
Skipper: "...Ronnie Mack's planning to run against Leo. See, y'all gonna blister Leo...with these recusals."
Skipper also testified that Judge Johnson told him to enter his pleadings in her division -- A -- so she "would either rule on it or refer it to the proper division if she couldn't rule on it. I was told that if it was something that required Judge Boothe ruling then she would have to refer it there but if I got it filed in her division she would consider it."
Both the DA and Judge Boothe said Skipper's testimony cleared up a mystery as to why Skipper turned down a five-year plea bargain when his trial was beginning on April 8, 2002.
On that day, said Skipper, his attorney, Derrick Carson, presented the deal as jury selection was set to begin. But Skipper said he was "cut off from speaking with Derrick," by Conner, who advised him not to take the deal. DA Johnson asked if Conner interfered "between you and your attorney?"
"Yes sir," answered Skipper, "and Gene Allen was there also. Derrick brought the plea in, was trying to tell me what it was, but Gene and Justin was in the room. I sent Gene back up to talk to you (DA) and ask you could I speak to my wife and my family before I accepted this plea. At that point, Justin interjected and said not to take the plea and I didn't take it."
Skipper said he "was advised by Gene Allen that I wouldn't return to prison and I believed him." He said Conner's advice not to accept the plea "wasn't out of concern but out of his agenda..."
Skipper was prosecuted in that case by former Asst. Dist. Atty. Ronnie McMillin. In that case, it was pointed out that Skipper had previously served nine years in federal prison in Texas for distribution of cocaine.
DA Johnson said when the plea deal was offered he "knew in my heart that I could not understand why he would turn down such an attractive offer at that time. But now with the advice and the testimony and the transcripts of these tapes, I can understand that perhaps he was used as a pawn in the general scheme of things..."
While the district attorney said he "was not justifying what Mr. Skipper has done as far as the criminal offense," he felt Skipper "was being used" and recommended that his sentence be reduced from 25 years to 12.
Justin Conner said Tuesday that the court proceedings last week "were strange. I didn't know anything about it. It was all political. They waited until the political season to bring this up" to "hurt Judge Johnson politically."
He said the phone conversations were recorded for the voter fraud investigation and those transcripts were provided to the District Attorney's office by the Louisiana State Police two years ago.
"Ortego gave it to them," he said, adding that Judge Johnson "made no promises about anything."
Conner said he expects Skipper to drop his lawsuits and judicial complaints soon and that "the community will see James Skipper" returning "some favors."
When asked about Skipper's allegations in court, Gene Allen said, "I have no comment. I know nothing about it."
For the past years, Skipper has been one of the most prolific litigators in the parish, having filed scores of documents and pleadings both in criminal and civil court involving hundreds of pages. Since 2005, more than 150 documents -- letters, exhibits, subpoenas, transcripts and motions -- have been filed in his case in criminal court.
(See transcripts of conversations from Avoyelles Correctional Facility on the website: www.concordiasentinel.com.)
|Frank Morris Murder Series|