A Baton Rouge Soap Opera (Starring Sheriff's Deputies) Comes Here
|Photo by de*|
A Baton Rouge family recently escaped here to get away from the local cops, whom they claim maliciously prosecuted them repeatedly after the family tried to expose corruption at a homeowners association involving payouts to a deputy.
According to a civil rights lawsuit filed by Robin, and her son, Trace Williams, against the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and the Riverdale Commons Homeowner's Association in Louisiana federal court:
Two years ago, Robin and Trace Williams began poking into how the homeowners association was spending the monthly dues after residents began complaining that their roofs, which had supposedly been repaired, were still leaking. When they asked association treasurer Joni Karras, also a defendant in the lawsuit, to see the financial books, as allowed under the association bylaws, Karras told them she did not know how to print the documents and would get back to them.
At the same time, Karras allegedly also "unilaterally" decided to close out an association bank account holding nearly $8,000. The Williamses then sent out letters to other homeowners saying Karras was refusing to let them look at the records and appeared to have taken control of the association's money.
Several months later, Karras allegedly gave her stepfather, a captain at the sheriff's office, $400 of the association's money. Then Karras allegedly used association money to repair the condo of the woman who replaced Karras as treasurer just weeks afterwards.
It was around this time, in April 2008, that arrest charges started mounting up for the Williames. First, deputies charged Trace Williams with criminal trespass stemming from an incident where he was taking pictures of Karras improperly spending association money. Trace Williams subsequently filed a fraud charge with the sheriff's office, but investigators did nothing. Robin Williams then went to the main sheriff's office to file an internal affairs complaint, but was told she had to file it at a different substation. There, deputies did not help Williams file a complaint, but rather issued her a ticket for disturbing the peace.
That was only the beginning.
On the night of April 23, 2008, two men knocked on the Williamses' front door. When Trace opened it, the men pushed their way inside, punched Trace in the face and left. Trace positively identified one of his attackers to sheriff's deputies, but the man was never charged with assault. Trace and Robin Williams then took their complaints directly to the sheriff himself. Despite assurances from the sheriff that he would look into the matter, he did nothing.
Two days later, the sheriff's office charged Robin Williams with attempted murder. Karras had claimed that she was doing association business when Robin Williams tried to run her over with a car.
The sheriff's office charged Trace Williams four more times in the ensuing months, once for fighting, once for disturbing the peace and twice for not being a responsible dog owner.
Eventually, Robin and Trace Williams prevailed in court in all eight of the cases against them, including the attempted murder charge.
In late May 2008, the Williamses went once again to a homeowners association meeting to ask to see the financial records. Karras was there and called the sheriff's office. Five squad-cars immediately arrived and a deputy threatened the family with yet another arrest if they continued to speak.
Shortly thereafter, Robin and Trace Williams decided to flee the city and move to Houston.
Robin says that she would like to return to Baton Rouge but is "terribly frightened of defendants' flagrant abuse of government power."