White’s cellphone records in focus
East Baton Rouge Parish officials have filed notice of their intent to appeal a judge’s ruling concerning evidence gathered during the course of a criminal investigation of former Police Chief Dewayne White involving a city-parish cellphone White failed to return after his Feb. 6 dismissal.
The Parish Attorney’s Office said in court documents filed Tuesday that state Judge Chip Moore did not have jurisdiction to bar the city-parish from releasing information contained on the cellphone of Kim McCants, a Zachary woman, who was linked to White.
The city-parish wants the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to overturn Moore’s ruling on the injunction. They also requested a delay of an April 25 hearing that was scheduled to determine whether city-parish officials were in contempt of court for releasing a police report in connection to the investigation.
Moore on April 4 refused to quash a search warrant that police used to seize the phone of McCants, who exchanged thousands of texts and phone calls with White’s missing city-parish-issued cellphone.
The Baton Rouge Police Department ultimately dropped its investigation, and White’s phone was turned over to the court.
At the hearing, Moore also barred city-parish officials from releasing any information obtained from McCants’ phone.
But the following week, the Parish Attorney’s Office responded to a public records request by releasing copies of the police report summarizing the police detective’s efforts to seek the phone. The report included speculation by the detective that White refused to return the phone because it contained evidence of an affair with McCants.
Moore subsequently ordered the detective, members of the Parish Attorney’s Office, and William Daniel, Holden’s top aide, to an April 25 hearing to determine if they should be found in contempt of court for violating his initial orders not to release any of the phone’s contents.
Joseph Scott, assistant parish attorney, said Moore inappropriately issued a civil order when he approved the injunction blocking release of the phone contents, but his jurisdiction in the hearing was bound to the criminal investigation.
“When he ruled against Ms. Craft on the motion to quash the search warrant, that was the action before him,” Scott said. “There’s a fair argument that the action was over and no more should have been done.”
If Moore’s injunction of McCants’ phone is found to be invalid, then the question of whether city-parish officials are in contempt of court is moot, Scott said.
Moore granted the city-parish’s request for a delay of the contempt hearing, until the jurisdictional issues are resolved.
Jill Craft, an attorney for White, said city-parish officials should be held accountable for violating a court order in an attempt to further besmirch White’s reputation.
“This whole ruse is a game created by the Mayor’s Office to try to publicly humiliate Chief White,” she said. “People absolutely have the right to know what went on behind the scenes.”
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden fired White for what Holden described as acts of insubordination and a litany of departmental policy violations. Attorneys are preparing for White’s appeal hearing next month before the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, the panel that could vote to reinstate White with a majority vote.