Judge: Turn over documents in missing pills case if no arrest by May

Judge: Turn over documents in missing pills case if no arrest by May
Shreveport PD's old property room reportedly did not have functioning security cameras.
Shreveport PD's old property room reportedly did not have functioning security cameras.

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A judge has given the Caddo District Attorney's office until May to charge someone in the theft of 14,000 narcotics pills from the evidence room at the Shreveport Police Department. If no one is charged by then, Caddo District Judge Craig Marcotte says he will order the release of documents related to the case.

That ruling came after a bench trial Monday in Caddo District Court in a lawsuit filed against the DA's office by Shreveport Police Association President Michael Carter, who claimed the DA's office denied his public records requests and unlawfully refused to release documents related to the police department's internal investigation into the missing pills.

Acting-District Attorney Dale Cox denied the allegations in the suit, which was filed in October 2015.

The pills, which had been confiscated in a late 2011 drug bust, were confirmed to be missing after a tip led to an audit of the evidence room in May 2012. That led to an internal investigation, with assistance from the FBI. The findings of the internal investigation were handed over to the District Attorney's office, where the late Charles Scott was in charge at the time.

The redacted documents that have been released show that investigation pointed to Sgt. Troy Skeesick, a 21-year veteran of the department and a Street Level Interdiction Unit supervisor who worked in and around drugs as part of his daily routine at the time the pills disappeared. The internal investigation concluded that Skeesick had a known drug problem and was likely the person responsible for stealing the pills.

Skeesick quit his job as an officer with the department in October of 2012, just 3 months after the conclusion of the investigation is dated.

Since that time, no one has been reprimanded or arrested and no prosecution has been initiated relating to the theft of the pills, which had an estimated street value of more than $110,000. The pills were never recovered. The statute of limitations to prosecute anyone for the theft of the pills expired in May of 2016.

Court documents filed in October by Carter's Attorney Pamela Breedlove say the DA's office initially produced some of the documents, but with redactions, because there was "was still the possibility of prosecuting unnamed individuals for unspecified crimes."

In January, the DA's office continued to argue that the documents should not be made public because the case is still open. In court Monday, Caddo Assistant District Attorney Tommy Johnson testified that their office can still charge someone with possession with an intent to distribute. Johnson, who is representing the DA's office in the suit, also said that the statute of limitations on that charge will be up in May.

In court Monday, Breedlove argued the DA's office has done nothing on the file since 2012. Carter testified he had sent letters both Charles Scott and Dale Cox when he became acting DA asking them to invoke a separate independent investigation as well as requesting that a grand jury be convened.

Johnson argued Carter had no right to tell the DA's office what to do.

"You don't know what is going on in the DA's office," Johnson told Carter.

Carter replied his suggestion was merely a request. Johnson explained in court that the DA's office does not have to tell Carter what they are working on in regard to the missing pill investigation.

Breedlove said evidence involving the pill theft was destroyed at the direction of SPD administration.

On the stand, Assistant District Attorney Ed Blewer acknowledged that evidence had disappeared.

"With respect to packaging materials, it was quite surprising they were no longer in existence."

In fact, according to the DA's investigative report, the DA's office became aware the evidence was gone on December 4, 2014.

While at the property I learned from [redacted name] that all evidence related to this case, bottles, evidence bags, and stickers had been destroyed. [name redacted] advised that he had received an order from the SPD administration to destroy the evidence in this case.

Breedlove asked Blewer if anybody from SPD was charged for destroying evidence, he said, "No."

During cross-examination, Johnson asked Blewer if he had ever been asked to shelve the case by a DA, or told to do nothing. Blewer said, "No."

According to Blewer, the reason no one has been charged with the crime is because "the case was not provable beyond a reasonable doubt" and was a "circumstantial case." He went on to say he believes the case should be held open because additional evidence can come in.

"I don't believe the term 'sit on' is appropriate in this case," Blewer said, emphasizing they are still looking for more evidence.
Blewer went on to testify that there may be an inmate at Caddo Correctional Center who may have information that could lead to an arrest.

Blewer said he is no longer in charge of the case, but insisted there were plans to charge someone.

"It was always the plan to prosecute with possession with intent to distribute if we could get over the hurdle of proving beyond a reasonable doubt."

Carter countered that claim in his own testimony, saying District Attorney James Stewart told him otherwise in the Fall of 2016.

"I'd been told by the Caddo Parish District Attorney and his deputy that this case was closed on September 8, the case had been prescribed, there would be no further charges."

In fact, Carter said, Blewer's testimony that another charge being possible was news to him.

"Today we get to court and they've got an Assistant District Attorney in court saying the case is not prescribed and there is still one more charge they've never mentioned in the last five and a half years."

Carter said in five and a half years he never expected a prosecution out of the case and that 3 different District Attorneys would decline to prosecute.

"This is a serious case of police corruption. This should be a shame to the entire Caddo Parish and Shreveport Police Department."

Carter feels the DA's office let the case sit for four years and expire to the point that nobody could be charged with the theft of the pills.

"The Shreveport Police Officers Association led this challenge to make sure this didn't get covered up or swept under the rug," Carter said. "The documents are going to prove to my members and everyone else, that this case could have been prosecuted and it wasn't, because they chose not to prosecute it, and that is a serious thing."

After the court hearing, Carter told KSLA News 12 he doesn't believe anybody will be charged with possession as Blewer claimed on the stand. But if it happens, he says the police association will be satisfied with that part of it.

"This was a multiple-tiered case that was failed on multiple levels by three different district attorneys," added Carter. "That is very disappointing."

At the end of the hearing, Judge Marcotte requested all of the unredacted documents for his review, including the DEA report and Skeesick's medical records, since he was the primary suspect based on the findings of the investigation.

After hearing all of the testimony and requesting all of the documents for his review, Judge Marcotte issued his ruling. If no one is charged by May 11, 2017, he will order the DA's office to turn over certain documents without redactions.

Carter sees the ruling as a win, even if the release of the documents won't be immediate.

"We were ambushed today with a separate or possible other charge that has never been discussed before by the Caddo Parish District Attorney's office," Carter said. "I think the judge is trying to act in due caution with that, we appreciate that. We understand what he is doing. We'll wait until May the 11th, but by May the 11th, we certainly expect everything to be finished."

In addition to the unredacted copies of all documents, Carter's suit also asks that the DA's office is ordered to pay his attorney fees and costs and pay daily penalties allowed by law for failure to produce the documents requested under public records laws.
The next court date has not been set.

Read Carter's lawsuit here.

You can read the full 2012 police investigation report here. The notes and marks on the pages were not made by KSLA News 12.

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