DESOTO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - The request was “unusual” according to Bossier City Marshal Jim Whitman. And likely “illegal” he said, if deputies in his cyber-crimes unit carried through as initially requested.
The questionable request: Charles Adams, the Chief Judge of the 42nd Judicial District Court in DeSoto Parish, needed help bypassing the security passcodes on three cellphones and analyzing information possibly stored on the devices.
But the request, made by a judge outside Whitman’s jurisdiction, was done over the phone and it wasn’t served with a court order authorizing a search of the phones.
So, while a deputy from the Bossier City Marshal’s Office went ahead and traveled to DeSoto Parish to collect the phones, Whitman says the passcodes were not broken, and the devices remain secured in his office under lock and key.
“We don’t go into them until we get a court order saying to do it,” Whitman said.
KSLA Investigates contacted Chief Judge Adams, asking if he could explain why he asked the Bossier City Marshal’s office to conduct a search and seizure over the phone, without a written order.
“I cannot explain that to you, no sir,” said Adams.
KSLA Investigates has learned the cell phones belong to two DeSoto Parish government officials, Cloyce Clark an Assistance District Attorney and Kem Jones, an investigator in the district attorney’s office.
The devices were confiscated Monday morning by Chief Judge Adams, following a hearing suspending a grand jury convened to investigate allegations of police misconduct and possible criminal activity by members of the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, related to an overtime ticket writing program called L.A.C.E.
One week earlier, District Attorney Gary Evans subpoenaed two former high-ranking deputies to testify before the grand jury.
But when Desoto Parish Sheriff Jayson Richardson learned about the proceeding, he filed a motion with Chief Judge Adams, asking the judge to remove Evans from the investigation.
According to Richardson’s motion, Evans was trying to use the grand jury to influence the upcoming election for Sheriff in DeSoto Parish. Richardson, is currently running against Mansfield Police Chief Gary Hobbs for the post.
While Evans denies his investigation is politically motivated, Chief Judge Adams agreed to suspend the grand jury, until a hearing scheduled for Friday, October 12, at which time the court agreed to hear testimony and rule if Evans could move forward with his investigation.
But at the end of the original hearing on Monday morning, Adams was told that Clark and Jones, who both work under Evans, may have taken pictures and recorded the hearing on their phones.
District Court rules prohibit the recording of any court proceeding in DeSoto Parish.
KSLA Chief Investigator Stacey Cameron was in the courtroom during the proceeding and witnessed Chief Judge Adams confiscate one of Clark’s phones and two belonging to Jones. However, all three devices were locked, and as a result, Chief Judge Adams ordered Clark and Jones to turn over their codes.
The two men refused, and in a motion filed with Chief Judge Adams, asking for a hearing before the court, arguing that the Constitution prohibited Adams from compelling them to turn over their passcodes.
Speaking to KSLA Investigates, DeSoto Parish District Attorney Gary Evans said both men’s phones contain privileged and confidential information related to various cases being handled by his office, as well as matters pending before Chief Judge Adams. For that reason, Evans did not believe Adams should have unfettered access to the phones.
While Chief Judge Adams granted Clark and Jones request for a hearing on the passcode issue, Adams also contacted the Bossier City Marshal’s Office that same day, requesting help in accessing and examining the phones.
Because he was out of the office on Monday, Marshal Whitman says he was unaware what was going on, and assumed the call and request for a forensic examination of the phones came from a law enforcement agency in DeSoto Parish.
Whitman says he called DeSoto Parish Sheriff Jayson Richardson on Tuesday. At that point, Whitman said he learned it was Chief Judge Adams who wanted the phones examined, not the sheriff’s office or another police agency.
Whitman says he then contacted the court in DeSoto Parish, informing Adams that he could not search the phones without a proper court order.
Shortly thereafter, according to Whitman, Chief Judge Adams faxed his office an order.
But instead of complying, Whitman says he called his lawyer and on advice of counsel decided to wait.
“All I got was a fax, and I am not doing anything off that,” said Whitman.
Wednesday sources informed KSLA Investigates that Clark’s and Jones’ phones were in Whitman’s possession in Bossier City and that Chief Judge Adams had issued an order authorizing a search and seizure, without filing that order on the record.
Through an open records request with the DeSoto Parish Clerk of Court’s Office, KSLA Investigates obtained every court record filed in the case, now captioned IN RE: CONTEMPT OF CLOYCE CLARK, III AND KEM JONES, NUMBER M1065.
Records turned over to KSLA Investigates did not include an order to search Clark’s and Jones' cell phones.
KSLA Investigates then hand delivered a second open records request to Whitman and obtained a copy of the fax sent to the Marshal’s office at 4:16 p.m. Tuesday by Chief Judge Adams.
Titled “ORDER TO SEARCH CELL PHONE” and signed by Adams, it orders that Clark’s and Jones’ phones “be retrieved, analyzed, stored and delivered to this court.”
However, Whitman told KSLA Investigates that his office would not bypass the security passcodes and search the phones until Chief Judge Adams held a hearing and he got a legal order.
“You just don’t do anything like that,” Whitman said. “It would be illegal for us to enter them without a proper court order.”
After reviewing the faxed order, KSLA Investigates called Chief Judge Adams at home on his cell phone.
“That is part of a search warrant,” the judge said. “And I cannot comment about something that is or is not part of the record. This is an ongoing investigation.”
When asked about Marshal Whitman’s concern that the initial request to search the phones came by phone and would have been illegal if carried out at that time, Chief Judge Adams said he had no comment.
According to court records, Clark and Jones have now been ordered to appear before the court on Friday and show cause why they should not be held in contempt for allegedly recording proceedings in Chief Judge Adams’ court.
District Attorney Evans tells KSLA Investigates that Clark and Jones did not violate any court rules that were currently in place during the original hearing Monday morning.
Currently, court is scheduled to convene at 1:00 p.m. Friday, October 12 in the DeSoto Parish Courthouse Annex, where Chief Judge Adams is expected to hear arguments and rule on all the motions pending before his court.