Zurik: State Police probe finds apparent cover-up by Edmonson

Did the former head of State Police commit a criminal offense?
Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 at 8:09 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When the former State Police superintendent answered our questions in February, Col. Mike Edmonson wasn't being honest.

That revelation comes from a new report by the agency Edmonson once led.

We questioned Edmonson about a road trip that four of his troopers took to a 2016 San Diego conference - a road trip with a detour to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas strip. In that interview, and in a statement he released later, Edmonson said he learned that four state troopers took that side trip shortly before he showed up for our interview in the French Quarter in February.

But a State Police report obtained by FOX 8 News says that's not true.

It was obvious, the report states, that Edmonson was aware of the side trip. And smartphone texts and photos, sent from the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam to Edmonson by the wife of one of those troopers, appear to support that claim.

One of the texts from the troopers to Edmonson reads, "It's been fun." Later in the exchange, Edmonson texted, "Y'all better get to San Diego."

FOX 8 reported back in February that Edmonson likely was aware of the trip because he signed off on it, according to the signature stamp on an internal document about the trip. But Edmonson still denied knowing, and he apparently went to great lengths to cover his tracks.

According to the State Police report, Edmonson purposefully deleted text messages from Trooper Rodney Hyatt's phone, just days before his resignation as superintendent.

Hyatt said he had text messages between him and Edmonson, exchanged during the side trip. Hyatt told investigators how Edmonson mentioned to him that text messages would stay on his cellphone forever. Edmonson said he would show him, Hyatt said, then the colonel took Hyatt's cellphone and changed the settings so that any text messages older than 30 days would be deleted.

While Hyatt's texts were deleted, Hyatt's wife still had her messages - and State Police included those in their investigative report.

"These recent developments do not come as a surprise to me," says Joel Friedman, a law professor at Tulane Law School who commented in our reporting earlier this year. "When we initially started an investigation of this, I suggested that this kind of constant effort, which was not the first time, was not likely to have happened without the knowledge of higher-ups in the State Police, including the superintendent. And we even had some evidence at the time that he knew about it from documentation that he had signed."

Friedman says the allegations against Edmonson could catch the attention of criminal investigators. "By destroying that evidence, as the report suggests, text messages and other things, that's a potentially criminal problem," he says. "So the fact that he resigned does not necessarily mean the end of the road for Mr. Edmonson, because his actions - if [the investigators] are correct, if he destroyed evidence in an attempt to subvert a criminal investigation - that is a separate crime, for which he could be prosecuted."

When we learned of this side trip that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, Col. Edmonson acted upset and shocked.

"Unacceptable, isn't it?" he told us at the time.

But this new LSP report suggests Edmonson was trying to cover up his knowledge of this trip - a trip that eventually cost him his job.

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