Guns, Drugs and Popeye’s Fried Chicken Ruled Orleans Parish Prison!!
The above title isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s poetic license. Have you have seen the viral videos shot on a smuggled cell phone depicting Orleans Parish Prison House of Detention inmates guzzling a tall boy Budweiser, shooting up heroin, snacking on Popeye’s fried chicken, snorting coke, and brandishing a pistol, all without any Criminal Sheriff Deputies present. The videos were shot in 2009 and they are very unbelievable, sad, and insane. This put Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman on the hot seat again, to say the least. The videos were released as evidence of OPP mismanagement in a hearing held by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to determine if the city should be part of a federal lawsuit against Gusman filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of abhorrent conditions at the jail.
Mayor Landrieu today, April 9, 2013, formally filed to place Orleans Parish Prison in federal receivership in control of all aspects of OPP.
Gusman called the move a blatant political attack and said Landrieu is picking fights rather than trying to fix the city’s financial woes. The city faces the possibility of incurring millions of dollars in costs to pay for federal consent decrees to both the Orleans Parish Prison and to the New Orleans Police Department.
This consent decree is about a lack of funding, Gusman said. Contrary to Mayor Landrieu’s blatant lie, his administration has not invested any money in the infrastructure of the jail or in retaining deputies.
Landrieu has said the city can’t afford to pay the price tag. The city’s position is that it should be exempt from the lawsuit, but Gusman had the city added since they finance his jail.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Gusman said he closed the House of Detention in 2012 because of its state of disrepair and abhorrent lack of proper security measures. The truth is, the chief reason he closed the House of Detention because federal officials stopped housing their prisoners there.
Gusman has made some really lame excuses about why he didn’t remember the videos. He claimed they were shown to him on a really little TV. OK, I remember lots of cool videos I’ve seen on my cell phone! He also said they were locked in a safe he didn’t have the key to. However, when the feds asked for them, he produced them almost immediately. Gusman also said he forgot about the videos.
Orleans Parish mayor Mitch Landrieu chimed in with his own statement, That’s a pretty good one, huh? I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s just quite amazing. It just lets you know the entire management system is in disarray.
The scenes were captured in 2009 on a cell phone smuggled into the House of Detention in New Orleans, a decrepit lockup pressed back into service after Hurricane Katrina. The video’s release during a federal court hearing this week sparked a new demand by the city’s mayor for the federal government to take over the Orleans Parish prison system and a round of I-told-you-sos by advocates for the inmates held there.
In addition to the displays of contraband, the inmates in the now-shuttered facility show themselves dishing out soup from bins in grungy, overcrowded cells and sleeping on mattresses laid on floors. One holds up huge glue traps he says are used to catch nutria, a rat-like pest that has infested much of southern Louisiana and notes that the jail was supposed to have been closed.
How did all this contraband find it’s way into the House of Detention? Turns out two inmates named Arthur and Lester found a way to get out of jail each evening unseen after night roll call and return each morning before the am roll call. They were able to jimmy a broken fire escape door, and left and returned as they pleased. The door had been ineffectually fixed with a pair of shackles through the cell bars and the door handle, but the inmates picked that lock, as well as their cell door lock. The fire door had no alarm!
The authorities are closing in on Gusman.
Two former high-ranking members of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office have been charged in federal court with taking kickbacks and rigging bids for contractors who deal with the city’s jail. John Sens, who was the purchasing director at the sheriff’s office before being demoted amid the federal probe, and then resigning last week, and Col. Gerard Hoffman, the director of maintenance, were charged in bills of information. That is a clear signal that both are cooperating with authorities.
The men were charged with conspiring to commit bribery in a program that receives federal funds.
Sens, the brother of Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens — who is in turn a very close friend of Sheriff Marlin Gusman — is the point man for Gusman’s fund-raising operation. In that role, he frequently tapped contractors at the jail to make contributions to Gusman’s campaigns. Sens was reassigned to “security and administrative duties.”
Gusman has insisted that his hiring of John Sens had nothing to do with his relationship to the judge, who along with Gusman was a top aide to former Mayor Marc Morial. Hoffman, who began working for the sheriff’s office in the 1970s, recently retired.
Court documents accuse the men of being a part of a scheme to rig bids at the parish prison with two men identified only as “Businessman A” and “Businessman B.” The events outlined in the charges occurred between 2011 and early 2012.
Sens is accused of taking various gifts, receiving free work at properties he owned, getting $25,000 in work on a pool at his home in Waveland, Miss., and accepting payments, including $30,000 in cash.
A separate bill of information says Hoffman also received gifts and free maintenance work at properties he owned, including $2,500 in electrical work at his home. He also was given a trailer and a storage container worth a total of $5,000.