HOUMA, LA (WVUE) - Attorneys for a Houma police officer say his Constitutional rights were violated by the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office - all because of a website.
According to his attorneys, Officer Wayne Anderson is on administrative leave and had his home searched Tuesday and his cell phones and computers seized by sheriff's deputies because of a blog called ExposeDAT. The author says it's "Terrebonne Parish's Underground Watchdog Group." You'll see several local politicians are named on the blog, including Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove and Sheriff Jerry Larpenter. It also questions insurance work that Houma businessman Tony Alford does for the Sheriff's Office.
"I think there has been a history in this parish of attempts to intimidate people so that they do not exercise their First Amendment rights," said Anderson's attorney, Jerri Smitko.
According to the search warrant obtained by FOX 8, deputies were looking for computers, phones or any other electronic devices that may be used to post information to the internet at Anderson's home as part of a defamation investigation.
"Unfortunately, Wayne is the victim here of a search that was illegal, there's no other way to put it," said Anderson's attorney, Matt Ory.
"In speaking with one of the deputies, they indicated to me that they had done a subpoena to Facebook and a subpoena to AT&T and as a result of those, targeted Mr. Anderson's house for the search warrant," said Smitko.
But Anderson's attorneys say their client is not even behind the blog and has never posted to it. They say that's irrelevant, though, because what's written on "ExposeDAT," is protected First Amendment speech.
"Even if he did, he was completely within his rights as a citizen to speak out on matters of public concern. That's what the First Amendment is all about," said Smitko.
Tulane law professor Joel Friedman agrees.
"I think this is a classic case of speech that's of a public concern, it's alleged corrupt activity in the Sheriff's Office," said Friedman.
We went to the sheriff's office to try to get answers. We asked to speak with Sheriff Larpenter, but his chief of detectives came out to talk with us instead. He gave us a new release from Larpenter that says their criminal investigation is based on a complaint filed by Tony Alford on behalf of himself and his business.
We called Alford about this story but he has not gotten back to us yet. The Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office is releasing very few details, other than to say their defamation investigation is ongoing and they won't release any additional information until the investigation is complete and possible criminal charges are filed.