It was April 10, 2011 around 11:15 p.m., Springfield Police Officer Ryan Weaver pulled over Tyra Jones for allegedly driving the wrong way along Highway 22 in Livingston Parish.
Officer Weaver suspected alcohol and took Jones to the police department. Records show Jones blew twice above the legal limit -- 0.185
Officer Weaver said Springfield Mayor Charles Martin soon showed up at Town Hall asking him for "help with the matter."
According to an Inspector General's investigation, on two later occasions, the mayor and police chief both met with Officer Weaver. The officer said told investigators "the mayor asked if he would have a problem if the mayor "took care of his friend" and "reduce the DWI to a reckless operation citation."
The officer said, fearing retaliation, he agreed to the charge being reduced to reckless operation.
Kiran: Any response as to what happened that day?
Chief Jones: No, I can't. I make no comment on that per our attorney's orders.
Kiran: Did you order your officer to downgrade the charge?
Chief Jones: No comment.
Kiran: Are you supposed to be on the job if you've been indicted on four felony counts?
Chief Jones: I'm innocent till proven guilty.
The mayor was not at Town Hall. We called his cell phone and got his voicemail. He did not return our calls.
The State Inspector General's office is investigating if the mayor and chief used their positions in return for a personal favor. Part of their case is a recorded phone call between the arresting officer and the chief. In that call, the chief told Officer Weaver he had just spoken to state investigators. He said he told them that reducing the DWI charge was the mayor's decision.
"The mayor told them that he pretty much was the one that did it and I told them, you know, that, I mean just answer their questions and be truthful with them," said Chief Jones to Weaver.
In that same call, the chief told Officer Weaver that he told investigators he did not believe they had broken any laws by reducing the DWI charge.
"I mean, I didn't lie to him. I told him. I said, 'Look dude.' I said, 'I can tell you right now I ain't lying to you. We were under the impression that it was legal to do so. If we made a boo boo, we'll do what we gotta do,' and, I said, 'but apparently you're here so it is a boo boo, and I can assure you it won't happen again'," said Chief Jones.
The list of court dates in this case is as follows:
- July 19, 2011 - Mayor & Chief arrested (Judge Drake)
- July 12, 2012 - Mayor & Chief indicted on malfeasance in office, obstruction of justice, criminal conspiracy, injuring public records (Judge Drake)
- August 1, 2012 - Mayor & Chief arraigned and pleaded not guilty (Judge Drake)
- September 27, 2012 - State continued (Judge Drake)
- December 10, 2012 - Pre-trial conference scheduled ( Judge Drake)
- March 21, 2013 - Court continued (Judge Gaidry)
- May 16, 2013 - Motion to suppress was scheduled to be heard but the court continued (Judge Gaidry)
- July 25, 2013 - State & Defense continued (Judge Winsburg)
- November 14, 2013 - State continued (Judge Gaidry)
- February 12, 2014 - Court continued (Judge Bennett)
- May 5, 2014 - Court continued (Judge Bennett)
- June 12, 2014 - Court continued (Judge Bennett)
- August 7, 2014 - State & Defense continued (Judge Bennett)
"Two years, it's time to get the thing tried," said David Caldwell with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office.
Because District Attorney Scott Perrilloux recused himself from the case, the Attorney General's office took over. Caldwell says the reason for the delay is there are several parties involved --- two defendants, their attorneys, the state and four different judges.
"For a good year of the case, we've kind of been waiting to get a judge that will hear both defendants," said Caldwell.
So is this a case of two high-ranking politicians getting special treatment?
"Our office is called into these kind of cases specifically for the reason so the public can be confident there's no appearance of impropriety. I don't know these people. Nobody in our office knows who they are so they're going to get a fair trial," said Caldwell.
The next scheduled hearing is supposed to be Aug. 7, 2014, but that too has been continued.