NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The case against an Alabama attorney accused of attacking the husband of a prominent local judge has been dismissed, despite the judge's insistence that he be charged with a felony. A FOX 8 investigation reveals the attorney avoided prosecution after a financial agreement was reached between the attorney and the judge's husband.
FOX 8 obtained a copy of a check from a source. It was made out to Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judge Laurie White and her husband, Tom Wilson, for $25,000. Alabama attorney Joshua Stemle wrote that check. He's was accused of beating up White's husband in their French Quarter courtyard in September of 2015. But, Judge White says she never received or cashed that check because she was not the victim in the case. Instead, White says another check was written to just her husband in the amount of $25,000 for restitution.
Police originally booked Stemle with trespassing and municipal battery - which aren't even state misdemeanors. Judge White was furious about the degree of charges when FOX 8 spoke with her shortly after the attack.
"Now, I'm hopping mad," said White. "I'm not a dummy. I know all the options."
White criticized the NOPD for undercharging Stemle. The Orleans Parish district attorney later upgraded the charge to a felony, and the case eventually was transferred to the state attorney general's office.
Through a public records request, FOX 8 obtained emails between the assistant attorney general on the case and Stemle's defense attorney. They reveal the case was dismissed in August 2017, despite Judge White insisting that Stemle face a felony.
In June of last year, Stemle's attorney, Pat Fanning, emailed Assistant Attorney General Jeff Traylor saying, "Do you have any objection to me going to see Judge White to discuss her position on a reduction to a misdemeanor? If nothing else, I may get the opportunity to be a victim myself when she busts my a** for asking."
Traylor responded, "Best of luck Pat. Maybe you can make a deeper impression on her than I did."
Later that month, Stemle's attorney emailed the prosecutor again, saying, "This is an update to let you know I met with the judge/victim this morning and it did not go well. She is adamant that he plead to a felony but she says she doesn't care about his going to jail."
Stemle's attorney goes on to say, "I'm just trying to see if we can do a plea that will not make him get disbarred."
Then in August, the case took a turn and both sides reached an agreement. Stemle's attorney wrote, "So, I will come to court Friday with the check and the original agreement. Does my client need to be there?"
The assistant AG responded, "Once everything gets to Mr. Wilson then I can dismiss the case by motion. No need for anyone to appear in court."
Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino says the way he sees it, there's nothing wrong or unusual with the way the case was handled.
"From everything that I've seen, it doesn't appear that she was treated in a way that is out of line with the ordinary standards and the ordinary deference that prosecutors give and input that the prosecutors seek from crime victims," said Ciolino.
We reached out to the attorney general's office to request an interview for this story. A spokesperson released a statement saying,
Stemle's attorney had no comment.