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Criminal Libel Arrest for Criticism of Police Officer Was Unconstitutional

Added 05-14-22 12:21:01pm EST - “Louisiana's criminal libel law was repealed in 2021, but even before that it had been held unconstitutional as to prosecutions...” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “Criminal Libel Arrest for Criticism of Police Officer Was Unconstitutional”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

Louisiana's criminal libel law was repealed in 2021, but even before that it had been held unconstitutional as to prosecutions for libels of public officials, and more broadly as to prosecutions for libels on matters of public concern. Judge Jane Triche Milazzo's opinion yesterday in Rogers v. Smith (E.D. La.) held that an arrest for allegedly libeling a police officer violated the Fourth Amendment (and also allowed a First Amendment retaliation claim and some other claims to move forward):

This case arises out of the arrest of Plaintiff Jerry Rogers for criminal defamation. Defendants are St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith, Chief Danny Culpeper, and Sergeant Keith Canizaro in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff alleges that he worked for the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office ("STPSO") from 1998 to 2009 before leaving for other employment. On July 14, 2017, Nanette Krentel was murdered in St. Tammany Parish, and her murder remains unsolved. Plaintiff followed the news coverage of the murder investigation and, based on his personal experience, became critical of some of the actions taken by the STPSO. He began communicating with Krentel's family members by email about his concerns. Specifically, Plaintiff was critical of the lead investigator, Detective Daniel Buckner.

At some point, the STPSO became aware of the emails and began investigating their source. Plaintiff alleges that upon discovering that Plaintiff was the author of the emails, the STPSO sought the advice from the district attorney's office ("the DA") and was advised that Louisiana's criminal defamation law, Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14:47, had been declared unconstitutional as to public officials and therefore charges against Plaintiff would be unconstitutional. Despite this, Defendants arrested Plaintiff for criminal defamation anyway.

On September 16, 2019, Canizaro was granted an arrest warrant for Plaintiff for violation of Louisiana Revised Statutes § 14:47. In the affidavit for the arrest warrant, Canizaro certified that Rogers's emails referred to the lead investigator as "clueless," provided false information regarding the investigator's experience and ability, and made derogatory remarks about him and others. Plaintiff alleges that the affidavit also stated falsely that Krentel's family requested assistance in identifying the author of the emails. The affidavit did not include the DA's admonition.

Plaintiff was arrested on September 16, 2019 and released on bail the same day. Ultimately, the Louisiana Department of Justice declined to prosecute the criminal charge against him….

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