by Ed Lyon
John DeRosier became Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana’s District Attorney in a 2005 special election. He is a Democrat who opposed the state’s 2018 bill requiring unanimous guilty verdicts by criminal juries and supports continuing juvenile life-without-parole sentences and other criminal justice reform issues.
Notable areas concerning his office are skyrocketing revenues of $1.3 million in 2006 to $6.4 million in 2017, with a marked, yet less-pronounced jump in expenditures from $1.3 million to $5 million annually, leaving a $1.4 million surplus.
It is DeRosier’s methodologies in achieving this fiscal success that has ethics experts from The Southern Poverty Law Center, to New York University’s Erin Murphy who teaches ethics at the law school, seriously questioning his system.
For a price, $8 per hour to be exact, a convictee on misdemeanor probation or a pretrial detainee accused in one of the parish’s diversion programs, can buy their way out of performing the community service (CS) part of their probationary sentence or program.
At first, all of a person’s (CS) could be “bought,” but it is now purportedly only half.
Gift cards from Walmart, Sam’s Club or Toys R Us were accepted until staff complaints in 2012 resulted in accepting money orders and the inception by DeRosier of the nonprofit District Attorney’s Community Assistance Foundation (DACAF). These funds were always supposedly used for community assistance but little, if any, strict line item accounting has ever been associated with these funds prior to or after the DACAF was established.
In one documented case, a diversionary program participant paid $640.00 in gift cards in lieu of his community service under DeRosier’s program.
A Washington Post investigative reporter tracked the final usage of that man’s two $200.00 gift cards and one $40.00 gift card. Four months after giving them to DeRosier’s office, the 3 $200.00 cards were exchanged for six $100.00 cards in Sulphur, Louisiana. Three were used in Sulphur and Lake Charles, 2 in The Woodlands, Texas and one in West Orange, Texas. The $40.00 card was used over four years later in Eunice, Louisiana to purchase “denture cream, two knives, over-the-counter heartburn medication, rice, vanilla wafers, bread, coffee products and K-Y lubricant.”
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