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The Louisiana legislature decided to help out its most underprivileged constituents — law enforcement officers — by making it a felony to “attack” them using nothing more than words.
When New Orleans police officers arrived at the scene of a disturbance to arrest an intoxicated man for banging on a hotel’s windows and harassing the employees, the situation devolved into the totally expected.
According to arrest documents, Delatoba was drunk and banging on a window at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon St. around 5:15 a.m. Monday, when a witness who heard the banging told him to stop. Delatoba’s warrant says he yelled at the witness, “calling him a n—–.”
That witness, a security guard who works at a nearby building’s mezzanine, along with a security supervisor for the Royal Sonesta, flagged down two Louisiana State Troopers who then escorted Delatoba to NOPD’s 8th District station, the warrant states. Once at the station, the warrant states, Delatoba began to verbally “attack members of the New Orleans Police Dept.” The warrant states Delatoba called one female officer a “dumb a– c—” and another officer a “dumb a– n—–.”
In a shocking twist, an intoxicated man was rude and uncooperative while being arrested. (Have these cops never watched “COPS?”) So of course the New Orleans police took it upon themselves to be legally offended by the sort of invective they hear from arrestees all the time. The state’s hate crime law expansion allowed them to tack on additional charge after the arrest — a felony with a potential five-year prison sentence.
Fortunately, the district attorney isn’t nearly as thin-skinned as the overprotected cops. This decision was probably preceded by some heartfelt eye rolling and several rewritten statements to eliminate every last trace of derision.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, said Monday (Oct. 24) the police officers Raul Delatoba cursed at were not victims of the crime that prompted his arrest initially. Rather, the “disparaging remarks” to officers were made during or after he was apprehended. The office officially refused the charges about two weeks ago.
After a bit of hindsight, the police department officially agrees with the DA’s decision.
Additionally, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said Sept. 8 that after reviewing the case, it was “clear that the responding officer incorrectly applied” the hate crime law.
But it’s important to note that wasn’t always the case. When the “incorrectly applied law” first came up, the NOPD shrugged and said it was up to the DA to figure out how much bullshit was contained in the bullshit charge.
This is exactly the sort of ridiculousness everyone but the supporters of the bill saw coming. Give law enforcement a law to abuse and they’ll abuse it. The New Orleans police can now arrest people for calling them names — not really the sort of thing the power of law enforcement should be used for. What they can’t do is tack a charge on if they feel insulted in the process of arresting someone for unrelated offenses. At least not in New Orleans. The law is effective statewide, and there’s no guarantee every government prosecutor will view it the way Cannizzaro’s office did.
Hate crime laws are generally vaguely written and overbroad, but ones that append “blue lives matter” wording are even worse. They extend protection to historically privileged and powerful people and make it that much easier to slap “disrespectful” arrestees with felony charges. It’s nothing more than a vehicle for abuse and does absolutely nothing to foster a healthy relationship between police officers and the communities they serve.