The Investigators: Misuse of Position?

PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - The 9News Investigators is looking into a dust up in West Baton Rouge Parish between sheriff's deputies and a judge, who's had his own problems.

Lead investigator Kiran Chawla spoke exclusively to Judge Robin Free and the deputies with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, who are at odds.

People speeding along US 190 and I-10 in West Baton Rouge is why deputies take part in the Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (L.A.C.E.) program.

"It's a safety program to reduce speeding and traffic fatalities," said Col. Richie Johnson with WBRSO.

Johnson oversees LACE, saying it is a legal program that started in the 80s and has successfully reduced the number of fatal crashes from speeding.

However, that program has been questioned lately, so Johnson put out a memo to all West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputies who take part in L.A.C.E.

"In an attempt to further clarify our position concerning the numerous bizarre encounters and accusations with one of our local citizens in the last month..." the memo read in part.

Who is that local citizen?

"It refers to Judge Robin Free," Johnson said.

It is the same judge who is currently serving a one year suspension for his actions in court.

"It was brought to our attention that a family member of his received a ticket and we had no knowledge of that until we went and did some research," Johnson added.

The ticket was given by deputies working with the L.A.C.E. program. The 9News Investigators spoke to some of the West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputies who say they encountered Judge Free. Some had no idea who he was when they say he showed up in his white truck.

"Then I asked him who he was," the second deputy said. "He said, 'I'm Robin Free.'"

"He starts screaming and cussing that I don't need any help and uh … holding the phone up in front of his face," the first deputy stated. "I mean, he's constantly screaming and cussing us out."

"He just kept on going on about how it's illegal and the feds were currently investigating it," the first deputy stated.

Judge Free gave a phone interview to respond to the accusations.

Did you guys ever have a conversation as far as the L.A.C.E. program being illegal?

"Hmmmmmmm .... Hmmmmmm.... No. Not that I can recall," Free replied.

Never did you say anything about that?

"About the L.A.C.E. program being illegal?" Free asked.

Yes, that what they were doing ...

"Or about, or about or about the quota systems being illegal?" Free questioned.

Well, did you talk to them about a quota system?

"Hmmmm ... Kiran, I don't want to say anymore right now because I, I, I feel like I, I, I don't want to try this in the media," Free said.

The deputies said Free accused them of operating on a quota system, having to write 1.2 tickets an hour. However, both deputies said West Baton Rouge writes tickets only on officer discretion, not based on a quota.

Officials said Free showed up to US 190 in Erwinville on more than one occasion, flashing his lights to warn others of officers with radar.

Did you go on 190, flash your lights, trying to tell people they were up ahead?

"No," Free said.

When they're saying that they saw you doing that, are they lying?

"I disagree with them," Free responded.

"I don't understand why we would just want to make something up like this," the second deputies said.

Free said he was just sitting in a parking lot, but one deputy said when he went around to check the license plate on Free's truck.

"It was either a day planner or binder, something like that, blocking the license plate," the first deputy said.

Did you ever cover your license plate with a note book?

"No," Free answered.

Okay, because they are saying that as well.

"I don't understand. Let me, let me, let me … I don't want to discuss any of the facts right now. I would just say that I, I disagree with the facts as they state them," Free said.

Deputies said the judge told them when he eventually returns to court after his suspension is over, he would shut down the program and put the deputies on the stand.

Did you use your position as the judge to drive to intimidate West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputies?

"No - in no way shape or form," Free said.

But did you ever tell them at any point that when you get back on the stand that you were going to put them on the stand?

"No," Free answered.

"I did not intimidate anyone. I had no intentions of intimidating anyone. Never tried to intimidate anyone," Free added.

"It's not character of a judge. I mean, if you're a judge, you shouldn't act like that," the first deputy said.

"I don't think we should have to be. We should, we shouldn't have to be working and have our own judge trying to, trying to ruin his own, you know his own district. He shouldn't be out there in the first place … that, he just shouldn't be there," added the second deputy.

It's why the memo was sent to deputies letting them know that if things get out of hand and laws are broken, the deputies can issue a summons or make an arrest regardless of who the person is.

Free is currently serving his second suspension. He'll return to the bench in July.

The Louisiana Supreme Court had no comment on this case.

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