Despite this video of prominent attorney's DWI arrest, prosecutor throws out charges
DENHAM SPRINGS – Despite police body cameras capturing a bumbling and stumbling area attorney having a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit, the city prosecutor in Denham Springs refused the charges the WBRZ News 2 Investigative Unit uncovered.
Alton Shelby Easterly was arrested on Christmas Day 2016 when police said they saw the car he was driving swerving from lane to lane. In video of the arrest obtained by WBRZ through a public records request, officers' body cameras recorded Easterly unable to perform tasks in a sobriety test in a parking lot following him being pulled over.
As it becomes obvious Easterly will be taken into custody, he begins to drop the names of city officials, including city prosecutor Blayne Honeycutt.
In a police report on the arrest, officers involved wrote that when they asked Easterly if he understood his rights, he stated, “call Shannon Womack.” Womack is the chief of police in Denham Springs.
Also, officers wrote, Easterly said, “'I have nothing to say, call my attorney Blain (sp) Honeycutt.'”
As the city prosecutor, Honeycutt prosecutes traffic offenses – including DWIs – in the city of Denham Springs.
When the case made its way to Honeycutt, documents WBRZ obtained show Honeycutt refused the charges against Easterly and did an informal pretrial diversion for him. Honeycutt said he has made a similar decision before since there is no formal pre-trial diversion program in the city. Though, the city's chief was not too happy when he learned of the deal.
While Womack would not do an interview on TV, he said he stands behind the work of his officers and was shocked that, despite all the evidence, the decision was made to refuse the charges.
"I'm not saying it wasn't good, we don't do pretrial diversion," Honeycutt told WBRZ. "We informal[ly] pretrial people,” he explained.
But, there are lingering questions about how the case was handled. Documents filed with the clerk show what Honeycutt worked up for Easterly wasn't signed by a judge.
"There's plenty of people who get speeding tickets all the way up to DWIs, and they don't get this kind of favorable treatment from the prosecutor," Ken Levy said. "It looks like their connection and friendship and their legal relationship got this guy off the hook and it's not fair. It's at least the appearance of favoritism and corruption."
Easterly and Honeycutt are connected through campaign contributions. When Honeycutt ran for judge in Denham Springs recently, campaign finance reports indicate Easterly donated $2,500 to him. The race was the focus of another WBRZ Investigative Unit report when Honeycutt was caught on camera tearing up his political opponent's campaign signs. Honeycutt lost the election.
In the DWI case, Easterly's blood alcohol content registered a .181 – more than twice the legal limit.
Honeycutt stands by his decision on the case.
NAKAMOTO: Was this a political favor?
HONEYCUTT: Not for me.
NAKAMOTO: Why was the DWI not good, if he was a .181 breathalyzer and failed field sobriety tests?
HONEYCUTT: I didn't say it wasn't any good. Sometimes we PTI people because we don't have a formal PTI program.
Another area district attorney questioned the case when WBRZ met with them and discussed the situation. In fact, they said the district attorney in Livingston Parish should bring charges against Easterly. A spokeswoman for Scott Perrilloux's office said the DA will look into this.
While Honeycutt said Easterly enrolled in an informal pretrial diversion, a check with those familiar with the court system in Denham Springs said there is no such thing.
When reached on the phone, Easterly said, "no comment."
If you would like to watch the full body camera video, CLICK HERE.
Desktop NewsClick to open Continuous News in a sidebar that updates in real-time.
Famous replica ships 'Nina' and 'Pinta' dock in Baton Rouge
Tom Hanks' WWII drama to film in Baton Rouge
Winter weather causing sugarcane woes in South Louisiana
Iberville Parish spends thousands to house inmates during jail renovations
Trial begins for man accused of killing girlfriend's abuser