SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The attorney for the first of four firefighters charged in connection with allegations of criminal activity at a Shreveport fire station says he wants to make sure his client doesn't become a victim of political posturing at City Hall.
"I want to make sure that he's not thrown under the bus in any kind of political maneuver that would protect City Hall," said local attorney John Settle, following the first court appearance of his client, 50-year-old SFD Capt. Derrick Harris.
Harris, charged with one count each of cruelty to the infirm and principal to prostitution, made his first appearance in Caddo District Court Tuesday morning since his arrest on August 2.
The 23-year veteran of the Shreveport Fire Department is accused of playing a role in the hiring of a prostitute for a mentally disabled man who had become a fixture at the station as a "mascot" of sorts. Harris and 3 other firefighters are also accused of cruelty, based on allegations the firefighters subjected that man and another mentally disabled man who frequently hung around the station to cruel pranks and humiliation.
Settle says the firefighters had a long and "very good relationship" with the families of the two alleged victims. "These firefighters sent these kids, now adults, to Disney World. They've done a lot for them. Those firefighters are very close to these individuals."
"We will aggressively defend the case," Settle says of the charges against Harris, and especially his reputation. Hard earned reputation, 23 years with the Shreveport Fire Department and we're confident that justice will be done," Settle says. When asked for clarification on what he meant by suggesting there is a need for his client to be protected from political maneuvering by City Hall, Settle went on to say, "I'm just saying that I think there's a lot involved in this, including the mayor, Captain Harris was the first person, the only black person arrested. I want to make sure that there's no political, being thrown under the bus or put in back of the bus, and that's about all I'll say at this juncture."
Settle points out that Harris was the first arrested and spent the longest time in jail before bonding out, "and we had these other cases kind of coming along and arrests. And generally a case of this nature, they all get together and they work it out and they have one mass arrest and handle everything at one time. But I'm just saying that we're going to make sure that justice is done at the courthouse and it's not done at City Hall."
Firefighter Clint Richardson, 26, and Fire Engineer Billy Glass, 37, were arrested last week, and 34-year-old firefighter Jason Vaughan surrendered at the Caddo Correctional Center Monday afternoon after a warrant was issued for his arrest. All are facing the same charges and all have been released on $105,000 bond.
A fifth firefighter is named in documents obtained by KSLA News 12. That firefighter has not been charged.
Seven SFD employees in all have been placed on leave as a result of the internal investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from another employee. Those court documents say Shreveport Fire Chief Craig Mulford questioned the firefighters about the incident, and then dismissed the complaint as merely a rumor, and that the "reporting party" was a disgruntled employee who was dissatisfied with the administration.
Settle says he has advised his client not to comment on the case. "Needless to say his life has been turned upside down and we're trying to help him get his life back together and continue to serve the city of Shreveport as a firefighter."
He's due back in court on August 28 for arraignment on the cruelty and prostitution charges. Settle says, "He's going to plead not guilty, of course."
Also looking on in court Tuesday morning was former Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche, who is now representing Chief Mulford. Local defense attorney Steve Glassell, who is representing Jason Vaughan, was also in the courtroom.