I-TEAM: Legal analyst questions if former officer was adequately charged in battery case
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Troy Lawrence, Jr., the former Baton Rouge Police officer who resigned amid a flood of allegations of misconduct was arrested Wednesday, September 20, 2023 and charged with simple battery. Now a legal analyst questions if those who arrested him went after the appropriate charge.
“It must be nice to have a backstage pass to do whatever you want. That’s the optics,” said Franz Borghardt. “I’m not saying that’s what happened but that’s just if I’m John Q or Susie Q taxpayer and I see this, it’s like man, it must be nice.”
The WAFB I-TEAM has exposed a number of questionable interactions by that same officer over the last three years. He was heard cursing out a teen following a traffic stop on New Year’s Day 2020. He also turned off his body camera before snatching a woman out of her car at the tail end of a fender bender.
According to internal affairs paperwork, Troy Lawrence, Jr. was also accused of trying to fight his supervisors on two separate instances while working extra duty in Tigerland back in 2021. The same former officer was also accused of punching and pulling a man’s hair while trying to get him into the back of a unit in late 2022.
Most recently, he has been tied to three federal lawsuits— including one tied to an incident where he allegedly yanked a man out of his car after demanding that he leave the front of a hospital in October 2022, a separate situation where he arrested Jeremy Lee back in January 2023 before allegedly beating him inside the Brave Cave, and another situation when he was accused of taking a grandmother to the Brave Cave in April of 2023. That woman claims she was stripped naked and endured a body cavity search by a female officer while inside the facility.
Lawrence faces the battery charge for a separate incident from August of 2023. According to a news release from BRPD, the former officer allegedly dry stunned a man with a stun gun while the man was handcuffed in the back of a patrol unit. The man apparently was not given enough time to respond to verbal commands before Lawrence is accused of giving him the business end of that stun gun.
The former officer was issued a summons and allowed to go free on that simple battery charge but the WAFB I-TEAM questioned why he wasn’t hit with the more serious felony charge of aggravated battery. According to Louisiana law, someone qualifies for the felony if they use a dangerous weapon during a battery.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Borghardt what his thoughts are on why the simple battery charges were chosen instead of the aggravated battery charge when there was a weapon involved in the encounter.
“I think that speaks for itself and I think that’s part of the problem,” said Borghardt.
Borghardt calls it questionable and says it sends the wrong message, especially given the former officer’s history of alleged abuse.
“Some people get different shakes of justice than others…that’s the optics,” said Borghardt.
The legal analyst says if anyone else used the same weapon on someone they would likely be arrested, have to pay a bond and face the more serious felony charge. It’s unclear why it’s different for the former officer but it’s worth noting that his father, Troy Lawrence, Sr., is a high-ranking deputy chief with BRPD.
“I mean, they can provide and explanation although I don’t know if they can provide an explanation if that makes sense. Any explanation they give for not charging a felony when it’s a felony is just going to reaffirm their decision,” said Borghardt.
WAFB has learned the charges were brought through a city ordinance instead of through a state statute, which Borghardt says means it’s up to city prosecutors to pursue stronger charges.
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