Louisiana Senator Resigns Over Domestic-Abuse Charges

NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Louisiana Sen. Troy Brown resigned his seat Thursday, two days after filing for a temporary restraining order in an attempt to block the Senate from expelling him.

Brown, a Democrat, said in his motion for temporary restraining order that he knew his colleagues wanted to expel him following two misdemeanor violations related to domestic abuse charges in four months. Brown pleaded “no contest” to each.

“Never in the history of Louisiana nor, upon information and belief and therefore petitioner alleges, the history of the United States has any duly elected, sitting state senator or legislator been removed from his or her position as a result of a no contest plea or misdemeanor,” Brown’s motion, filed Wednesday, said.

Brown’s filing was in response to two bills introduced the day before by state Senate colleagues who aimed to remove him from the body.

“Unfortunately, recent events have caused me to relinquish my dream in favor of the greater goal of preserving the integrity of the Louisiana Senate,” Brown wrote in his resignation letter. His resignation was effective immediately.

Brown and his attorney, Jill Craft of Baton Rouge, argued in the court document that many senators have had previous misdemeanor violations in the past, but none were ever threatened with expulsion.

Only once in the history of the Louisiana Senate, in fact, according to Brown’s injunction, has any senator ever been expelled from the Senate. That was Gaston Gerald, who while spending five years in a prison in Fort Worth, Texas, for extortion continued to receive his Senate pay – despite his being able to attend the meetings.

Brown’s request for injunction highlighted that Gerald was removed for his multiple absences from meetings – and “NOT because he was a convicted felon.” (Emphasis in original)

Brown resigned his seat Thursday during a press hearing in Craft’s office.

Craft said during the hearing that for now Brown plans to drop any legal action against the Senate.

Brown’s court hearing on his request for the temporary restraining order was set for Feb. 23, four days after his scheduled expulsion hearing.

Last month, Brown pleaded no contest to domestic abuse on his wife in their home in Ascension Parish. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a $300 fine and 64 hours of community services, but Judge Frank Foil suspended all but two days of the jail sentence.

In September, Brown pleaded no contest to a simple battery charge in a domestic-related incident that took place in New Orleans, with a woman who described herself as Brown’s “side friend,” meaning his girlfriend outside of his marriage. Brown served no time in jail for that violation.

Several senators had argued it wasn’t that Brown faced misdemeanor offenses, but that the offenses were for domestic violence.

“It’s not a question of a misdemeanor; it is a question of beating women multiple times,” said Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who also sponsored the resolution to expel Brown.

But Craft was adamant during the press conference that if the Senate thinks domestic violence is a bigger issue than other misdemeanor crimes, such, as, say, driving under the influence, then it is up to the Senate to change that.

“If you are going to define it as a misdemeanor, lay it on the same ground as all other misdemeanors,” Craft said. “If they want it to be a more serious offense, then damn it, make it one.”

At the conclusion of Brown’s resignation, he thanked many people, including Craft, and including his wife, who was not present.

“Many people, especially my Senate colleagues, may think my wife is probably in the hospital or something,” Brown said. “But let’s be realistic, my wife and I, we are fine.

“I would ask that my Senate body, as well as the House members, in the future, please give your fellow colleagues the respect to allow them to live their private life and deal with their private affairs on their own rather than make things a public spectacle as I have dealt with for these many months,” Brown added.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, told The Times-Picayune after the hearing that the chamber is already taking action to get rid of evidence of Brown. His access card to the Senate parking area and Capitol were canceled just a few hours after he resigned. Alario said staff was also working on taking his name off the Senate website and the electronic board in the chamber that records senators’ votes during session.

Several senators expressed relief they weren’t forced to actually kick Brown out of the Senate – though they said they had been prepared to do so.

“Troy Brown’s resignation marks the end of an embarrassing chapter,” Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, a Republican, told The Times-Picayune. Hewitt had sponsored the bill to get rid of Brown. “Through our expulsion resolution, we demonstrated Louisiana’s support for victims of domestic violence and raised the standards of what we expect from our political leaders.”