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Cops Search Computer for Defamatory Statements -- About Their Police Chief

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on August 12, 2016 1:57 PM

After a blogger accused the sheriff's office in Terrebone Parish, Louisiana of improprieties, sheriff's deputies quickly seized the computers of the suspected blogger, a former sheriff's deputy himself, accusing him of criminal defamation. "If you're gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I'm gonna come after you," Terrebone Sheriff Jerry Larpenter told the local news station, WLL-TV.

Now, a Louisiana judge has issued a search warrant, allowing those deputies to take a "look-see" into the suspected defamer's computer. Ethics attorney and Loyal Law Professor Dane Ciolino described the ruling as "extraordinary," adding that "[i]t's amazing we're having this conversation in Louisiana rather than in Iran."

Let's Have a "Look-See"

According to WWL-TV, Judge Randall Bethancourt of Terrebonne Parish approved the search warrant in accordance with applicable criminal defamation statute. The suspect in the midst of all of this controversy is former Dep. Police Officer Wayne Anderson.

Anderson's troubles began when an insurance agent came across a series of blogs on ExposeDAT accusing the agent of collecting broker fees from the Houma Sheriff's Department even though the insurance matters were largely handled by the Sheriff's wife. The allegations were wrong, the insurance agent said -- and he knew that because the agent's partner had the broker contract with the Sheriff's office.

On Tuesday, a raid was conducted that resulted in the seizure of Anderson's personal computer; and approval for the "look-see" came quickly.

Fighting Back

A couple of news outlets in the area have reacted negatively to the court's decision to allow the "look-see." Anderson's lawyer has fought back too, arguing that legal precedent has already settled the question; and that the search warrant was approved erroneously. He argued that Louisiana's defamation statute has previously been found to be unconstitutional when it relates to public officials or matters of public concern.

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