THE INVESTIGATORS: DA's office was not aware Judge White reduced Franklin's bond

Judge Trudy White
Judge Trudy White

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The man accused this week of killing Zachary police officer and firefighter, Chris Lawton, has been denied bond this time around. He's the same man who was able to bail out of jail again and again after five different arrests in 2017.

"There was no bond hearing," said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore.

Moore says in November of 2017, when Albert Franklin was arrested on a slew of charges, he, nor anyone in his office, got an alert that Judge Trudy White was going to reduce the bond. "Judges can change their bonds, but normally, once there's a change like that, people are notified," said Moore.

Instead, Moore did not find out about the bond reduction until Franklin was released. "Not until it was all said and done and he was released," he said.

Franklin's bond was set at $88,000 for various drug and gun charges and resisting an officer. That bond was set by one of Judge Trudy White's commissioners. The very next day though, Judge White reduced the bond by $79,000, down to just $9,000.

"That is a very dramatic reduction and that, in my view, is unusual," said Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.

"Surely, everybody would like to know when a change is being made, what's the reason for the change, particularly in a significant bond and a significant offense and that's why generally these are done by motions or somewhere in court on the bench on the record and that didn't happen in this case," said Moore.

There was no bond reduction hearing. Nobody from the DA's office was present when all of this happened and it did not happen on the record. "That's not how the system is supposed to work when it's working in a fully functional manner," said Ciolino.

Ciolino teaches ethics in New Orleans. He says the way the process is supposed to work is a motion to reduce bond is filed by the defense attorney. Then there's a hearing where the defense presents its side, the prosecution presents its side, and both sides show any evidence they may have.

"Everybody wants to know why people are doing things for what reason to make sure if either side wants to object one way or the other. We all have our say in what's going on, but eventually, the judge makes that decision. The judge has discretion to set bond," said Moore.

The 9News Investigators went digging further into Franklin's past. We found he's been in and out of the system most of his adult life, with charges going back to 2004 in more than just East Baton Rouge Parish. We also found cases in West Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes.

Since Franklin was 19-years-old, he's acrued numerous traffic and drug charges. He's from St Helena Parish. His record there, we found out, includes:

  • Possession of schedule II (July 2004) - pleaded guilty
  • Theft (July 2013) - dismissed
  • Burglary (May 2015) - dismissed
  • Second degree battery (February 2015) - pending
  • Illegal possession of stolen things (April 2015) - pending
  • Aggravated assault with a firearm (March 2015) - pending
  • Looting (August 2016) - pending

The last four charges are pending because Franklin has a hearing in St. Helena Parish on April 23 of this year.

This criminal history is just for one parish, but Ciolino says Franklin's entire adult history should have been taken into consideration for bond. "That factor is one that should have played a more significant role in the decision whether to set bond in this case and once that decision had been made, the amount that bond should have been set at," said Ciolino.

"His bond was initially set at $88,000, which is a sufficient bond to cover him and hopefully keep him in jail for the offense for which he had been charged given his past history. We were surely satisfied with that bond," said Moore.

After Monday's death of the officer, Franklin was arrested on numerous charges, including first degree murder of an officer. The full list of his charges includes:

  • First degree murder
  • Hit and run
  • Aggravated second degree battery
  • Aggravated assault with a firearm
  • Felon in possession of firearm
  • Criminal damage to property

This time around, Moore filed a motion to revoke bond, saying, "The state submits that the defendant's bonds should be revoked because the defendant has continued to commit criminal activity while released on bond. The defendant is a danger to the safety of others in the community."

Franklin did not go before Judge Trudy White this time around either. He appeared before Judge Beau Higginbothom, who denied him bond. He even added a note to notify him if the bond is changed, meaning the bond cannot be changed without his knowledge.

A call to Judge White was not answered or returned.

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