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|Judge says charges against him 'wrong'|
The Louisiana Supreme Court will hear arguments on Sept. 7 concerning a recommendation from the Judiciary Commission that Seventh Judicial District Judge Leo Boothe be removed from office.
In a 70-page report, the commission accused Boothe of four counts of misconduct, all involving the case of James Skipper of Ferriday, who was convicted in 2002 on drug charges. His sentence was later reduced by Boothe and Skipper freed.
Boothe said he has done nothing wrong and launched a website (www.leoboothe.com) last week "to present the truth." He alleges on his website that Judges Kathy Johnson of the Seventh Judicial District and Sharon Marchman of the Fourth Judicial District in Monroe are "close friends" and that proceedings to remove him from office were based "on the grounds that I had granted the defendant's (Skipper) motion to reduce his sentence in an effort to harm Judge Johnson politically."
He said "this is a complicated matter but I intend to post depositions and other material on the website now that the proceedings are public record."
Johnson said Monday that she and Marchman knew each other professionally just as she, Johnson, knows other judges in the state.
"We aren't close friends," she said. "I don't know her husband, have never visited in her home and I don't have her telephone number."
The Sentinel was unable to reach Marchman for comment.
The Judiciary Commission reported that its case "against Judge Leo Boothe...originated with the publication of three newspaper articles in The Concordia Sentinel newspaper on August 21, 2008, and an article printed in The Town Talk....on September 21, 2008. The articles reported events that occurred during a hearing (Reconsideration hearing) held on August 13, 2008, before Judge Boothe, on a motion (Reconsideration Motion) to reconsider the criminal sentence imposed on James Skipper."
The report noted that Skipper had been convicted in April 2002 of three counts of distribution of cocaine and one count of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute.
"As reported by the articles," the report continued, "Judge Boothe originally sentenced Mr. Skipper to serve three 25-year and one-five year sentences, all to be served consecutively, for a total of eighty years. That was reduced to a total of twenty-five years when Judge Boothe later made the sentences concurrent. At the conclusion of the August 2008 reconsideration hearing, Judge Boothe reduced Mr. Skipper's sentence yet again, to twelve years, which resulted in Mr. Skipper being entitled to immediate release.
"The newspaper articles reported that Judge Boothe reduced Mr. Skipper's sentence based on the transcript of a recording of a telephone conversation that occurred in July 2006, during Mr. Skipper's incarceration, among Mr. Skipper, his nephew, Justin Conner, and Judge Kathy Johnson, the other judge sitting on the Seventh Judicial District Court bench..."
Boothe alleges that the conversation between Johnson, Skipper and Conner focused on discrediting him so that Johnson could become chief judge of the Seventh Judicial District.
The Judiciary Commission has filed four charges against Boothe.
Count 1 alleges Boothe had no legal basis for the reconsideration and reduction of Skipper's sentence in 2008.
Count 2 alleges that in 2008 Boothe became aware that Skipper would allege a conspiracy by others to damage Boothe's reputation yet presided at that hearing instead of recusing himself.
Count 3 alleges that Boothe testified he did not authorize investigator Lillian Pugh to sign a $250,000 unsecured personal surety bond for Skipper yet failed to correct her action and "safeguard that this would not recur" thereby "making yourself responsible for her conduct as if you had directed her actions."
Count 4 alleges that Boothe had exparte communications through letters with Skipper while Skipper was in prison and met with ministers who were lobbying on Skipper's behalf yet failed to recuse himself as mandated by the judicial code.
"The Supreme Court will hear the recommendations made by the Judiciary Commission," according to Valerie Williard, Deputy Judicial Administrator. "The commission's recommendations are not binding. Only the Supreme Court can make a decision."
Willard said the high court will likely hear arguments, take it under advisement and ruled later. She said among the options are that no action could be taken or that Boothe could receive a public censure, suspension without pay or removal from office.
Boothe said he could have retired and avoided legal expenses involved in his case, but decided to not "to take the easy way out."
"The people have been good to me and my feeling is they deserve to know what this is about," Boothe said.
Boothe said that a Hearing Officer concluded in February that only one count had been proved against him.
"The Hearing Officer cleared me on everything except one error of law," Boothe said. "This was a full scale due process hearing where the Hearing Officer was drawn at random and presided and he correctly discerned that I am not guilty."
In May, the Judiciary Commission subpoenaed Boothe, Judge Kathy Johnson, Skipper and Conner and found that four counts had been proven and voted to recommend discipline to the court.
"I could not call witnesses," Boothe said, "could not object could not cross examine, could not present any evidence to testimony. This commission then substituted their own findings for the impartial randomly selected Hearing Officer and recommended these charges to the Supreme Court."
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