Following photo complaint to mayor, police investigate citizen
BATON ROUGE- Law experts are questioning a search warrant police obtained following a citizen's complaint to the mayor about an officer's post on Facebook.
The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity over his uneasiness toward the police department, said he emailed a picture he saw on Facebook showing what appeared to be an officer sleeping and a second officer posing next to him. The man said he believed the officers were out of line.
"I emailed it to Mayor Kip Holden's office and I emailed it there thinking, I kind of believed the police would have just deleted the photo, so I went over their heads," the man told WBRZ in an exclusive interview with the Investigative Unit.
Following the email exchange, the mayor's office sent the photo and the email chain to the Baton Rouge Police Department. The department began an investigation into the unidentified man.
"They told me they were going to press charges for me emailing the photo of the cop sleeping to the mayor's office," he said. The man told WBRZ, he was contacted via email and told he could be charged with defamation. Police were able to identify him by securing a search warrant, gaining access to his computer IP address, phone records, and place of residence.
WBRZ's Investigative Unit obtained a copy of the search warrant, which fails to report what crime, if any, was committed. Federal law states a valid warrant needs to specify the crime to obtain cell phone records.
Police said there have been emails circulating showing officers with their eyes closed. Police believed an officer may have taken the picture then sent it to the mayor.
As police investigated the email chain, the man said he began to question his own position. He asked: "Am I a bad guy or am I a good citizen?"
"Unless there is a some showing that what the individual who took the photograph or video taping was doing, was creating some kind of hazardous situation, was interfering in some fashion, then they have a First Amendment right to do what they are doing. There should be no sanctions of any kind," John Delvin, a professor of constitutional law at LSU said.
After denying numerous requests for an interview with the chief of police, police spokesman L'Jean McKneely commented on the situation.
"We would seize whatever we need to find out exactly what we need to know and to find out if this accusation is actually true," McKneely said.
Police said the photo the man saw on Facebook was a joke and the officer was not sleeping.
"It was really an attempt to utilize the legal process to really further the internal affairs investigation, which are separate and it's really something that probably shouldn't have been done," Southern University professor Shenequa Grey said.
The man said he is considering legal action against the department.
"I felt like I was talking to my high school bully. The picture wasn't lewd at all. It was of a cop sleeping. I was trying to be a good citizen," he said.
The officer who posted the picture to the Internet was counseled. The officer who has his eyes closed was not reprimanded. Judge Anthony Marabella signed the search warrant. He would not explain his decision to sign the warrant when WBRZ asked him for a comment.
Watch the attached video for more on this story.