by Douglas Ankney
More than 100 criminal cases in Louisiana’s Iberia Parish have been thrown out due to a federal investigation into Sheriff Louis Ackal’s reign.
And now hundreds more may also get the boot. First Assistant District Attorney Robert Vines sent “Brady letters” (named after Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)), informing defense attorneys that after the investigation it was discovered that several of Ackal’s employees “engaged in improprieties and criminal activities while employed.”
Ackal and several of his employees were indicted on charges stemming from the beatings and subsequent cover-ups of at least five pretrial detainees. Former deputies Jeremy Hatley, Bret Broussard, Robert Burns, Wesley Hayes, Jesse Hayes, Jason Comeaux, Davis Hines, and Byron Lassalle all pleaded guilty in federal court between February and March 2016 to charges that included felony deprivation of rights under the color of law and making false statements.
In February 2016, former deputy Wade Bergeron was convicted of felony deprivation of rights under the color of law and was later sentenced to 48 months in federal prison.
In October 2016, Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy was convicted of the same offense and later sentenced to 87 months’ imprisonment. Ackal was acquitted in November 2016.
The Brady letters included information that undermines the credibility of the State’s witnesses, i.e., the deputies. Most of the cases involved were drug possession/distribution, but at least one murder, an attempted murder, and some other violent cases were under renewed scrutiny due to the sheriff office’s misconduct. Any pending cases that had no corroborating evidence beyond the deputies’ testimony would not be prosecuted, according to Vines.
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