Prosecutor won’t seek defamation charges

District Attorney Scott Perrilloux confirmed Wednesday he will not prosecute three criminal defamation cases brought by Livingston Parish Council members against a former parish worker.

The Sheriff’s Office issued court summonses to Royce McLin in August after three council members accused him of making defamatory statements about them on Facebook.

Cindy Wale, Chance Parent and James Norred made the complaints upon which warrants were issued.

McLin maintained his innocence at the time and again on Wednesday.

Perrilloux said Wednesday he won’t bring a case against McLin because of the unconstitutionality of the criminal defamation law as it applies to public officials.

“Our research clearly indicated that both the U.S. Supreme Court as well as the state Supreme Court has declared that statue for the most part unconstitutional,” the district attorney said.

The District Attorney’s Office’s analysis dealt strictly with whether the case could be prosecuted, and determined it could not, Perrilloux said. He said the summonses have never led to formal charges against McLin by his office or a grand jury.

Defamation is usually handled as a civil matter, he said.

Craig Freeman, a lawyer who teaches media law at LSU, confirmed that the criminal defamation statute has been found unconstitutional, particularly as it involves public officials.

He said be believes Perrilloux did the proper thing in not prosecuting a case under that statute.

“I’m really happy that the district attorney made that decision,” Freeman said. “It would cost taxpayers a tremendous amount of money” in a case that couldn’t be won.

The state Supreme Court found the statute unconstitutional in 1973 and again in 1981 in cases involving public officials, Freeman said.

Multiple attempts to reach the three council members Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Each of the affidavits by the council members state McLin’s computer was analyzed by State Police and “the identity of the fake Facebook account was found to be Royce McLin.”

Each of the three council members said in their affidavits that they wished to pursue criminal charges against McLin.

The affidavit by Norred states the Facebook comment about him asserted he was affiliated with a group that uses hats and robes.

He says in the affidavit that he believes the group to which the comment refers is the Ku Klux Klan.

The affidavit by Wale states the Facebook comment alleged she had committed “some type of adultery.”

The affidavit by Parent said the Facebook comment referred to him as a homosexual.

McLin said the Facebook post doesn’t make those allegations, but asks questions about the council members.

The case file from the District Attorney’s Office shows that the Facebook post asked questions about the three council members, but did not specifically state the conclusions reached by the council members.

McLin said there is no evidence that he made the posts, because five other people have access to his computer.

“It was a political witch hunt targeted at me,” McLin said. “It has caused me months of misery.”

McLin said he was released from his job as a parish road inspector around the time that investigators seized computer equipment from his home.

That equipment has since been returned, he said.