Sen. Troy Brown resigns from La. State Senate
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Embattled Louisiana State Senator Troy Brown has resigned from office he announced Thursday afternoon.
At Thursday's announcement, Brown stated, "In both criminal manners, the judges issued a punishment that is commensurate to the offense. If we did a parallel for what the Senate body is doing on the criminal side, it amounts to an execution."
The Louisiana Senate was set to meet next Monday for a hearing in which Senator Dan Claitor, a Republican from Baton Rouge, said he would call for Brown's expulsion from the Senate due to Brown's abuse against women.
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Brown, a Democrat from Geismar, has pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges involving physical abuse against his wife and another woman.
Brown's attorney, Jill Craft, appeared before a Senate committee Wednesday asking for various records to help defend her client who initially said he would fight expulsion. Craft argued that misdemeanor charges should not be a reason to expel a state senator.
"It's not a question of a misdemeanor. It is a question of beating women multiple times," said Sen. Claitor.
Craft replied that no matter how "horrible" Brown's conduct, "he like every other person in this state or this country has a right to due process." She described the legislative proceedings as a "charade" and a "dog and pony show."
Brown sought intervention from the district court in Baton Rouge, claiming in his petition that he hasn't been given a "reasonable opportunity" to formulate his defense, review any evidence against him or prepare to call witnesses on his behalf.
Judge William Morvant denied Brown's request for a temporary restraining order to block the Senate from moving ahead with expulsion proceedings.
The Senate, gathering as a Committee on Discipline and Expulsion, held an initial hearing Wednesday, refusing nearly all requests for documents and subpoenas that Craft requested. Brown watched the hearing in the front of the chamber.
Craft sought emails and text messages in which senators discussed Brown, including any polling done about a possible disciplinary vote. She asked for criminal records - anything from a misdemeanor traffic violation to a felony - for current and prior members of the Legislature for the last 10 years. She wanted the evidence and a list of witnesses planned for Monday's hearing.
The requests were overwhelmingly voted down. Senators said Craft sought irrelevant documents. They said she was treating the proceedings like a civil trial, instead of a legislative hearing in which anyone can show up to testify and present information.
Claitor said that during Monday's expulsion hearing, he planning to play a recording of the 911 call Brown's wife made to police to report the abuse. In the recording, Senator Brown can be heard cursing in the background. His son can also be heard in the background crying.
A key difficulty for Brown and his lawyer is that the senators are treating this as a hearing, not a court trial. "You all have absolutely no standards, there's nothing in writing. There is nothing that says this is the minimum standard of conduct," Craft said.
"The standard is what we determine as a body is what is unbecoming of a senator," said Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans.
The Senate is operating under disciplinary rules used once before, for the 1981 expulsion of then-Sen. Gaston Gerald, the only other time Senate leaders say they know of a senator being ousted. Gerald was convicted in federal court of extortion and was unable to attend legislative meetings because he was in a Texas prison.
Gerald was convicted of a felony charge. In his petition Wednesday, Brown says other state lawmakers have been convicted or pleaded guilty to misdemeanors but haven't been subjected to possible punishment or expulsion.
"If they want to take domestic violence seriously, then make it a damn felony," Craft said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards released the following statement Thursday:
Issues of domestic violence aren't to be taken lightly, and Sen. Brown's personal matters weren't reflective of Louisiana's efforts to eliminate instances of domestic abuse. Our elected leaders should be speaking with one voice against this issue. Sen. Brown made the right decision for himself, his family and the institution of the Louisiana Senate. I hope he is able to get the help he needs for himself and that his family is able to heal.
Rep. Helena Moreno, who has been outspoken about Brown, released this statement:
I am pleased that Senators showed true leadership by overwhelmingly sending the message to Mr. Brown that family violence and violence against women are very serious crimes. Crimes so serious, that his expulsion was eminent. Domestic violence should never be acceptable or dismissed. Many of us are hoping that Mr. Brown can now take the time to get the necessary help he needs.
Sen. JP Morrell also responded to Brown's resignation, saying:
Senator Brown's resignation allows the Senate to focus on the primary purpose of the special session, which is repairing a $304 million shortfall in our current budget. Also, it brings closure to thousands of victims of domestic violence who have followed this process. The Louisiana State Senate stands with victims of domestic violence and is committed to protecting those without a voice.
Sen. Sharon Hewitt also responded to the senator's resignation, saying:
Troy Brown's resignation marks the end of an embarrassing chapter. Through our expulsion resolution, we demonstrated Louisiana's support for victims of domestic violence and raised the standards of what we expect from our political leaders. We will no longer tolerate the corruption and controversies that have plagued our state in the past. Elected officials should be accountable for their actions and should remain committed to effectively and ethically serving their constituents.
Brown pleaded no contest in January to a misdemeanor charge of domestic abuse battery, arising from allegations he bit his wife's arm. He pleaded no contest in September to a misdemeanor simple battery charge stemming from allegations he punched a girlfriend.
He has apologized and said he's undergone anger management counseling.
Brown was elected to the Senate in 2011. No one will be appointed to his seat. The president of the Senate will call for a special election and set the date.
Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved. CBS News contributed to background information in this report.