Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another lost Shepherd

On Friday the local electorate was shocked, shocked I tell you, that another politician admitted to wrongdoing and would soon be sentenced to spend time away from his constituency in the slammer. State Senator Derrick Shepherd, a West Bank official had been indicted over a year ago, charged with money laundering. Despite his protestations of innocence, Shepherd managed to get himself in even more hot water when he allegedly entered his girlfriend's home in the middle of the night and took her cellphone without her permission (see "A Shepherd who lost his way"). Although she recanted days later, police found Shepherd at his residence early the next morning enjoying a lap dance from some, uh...dancers when they came to get his side of the story. Unfortunately they did find at least a grain of truth to the story as well as the young lady's cellphone. Shepherd was incarcerated until he could be arraigned, but his bail from the other federal charges complicated his life. He had to live in a halfway house for a day or so until a judge placed him under house arrest and forced him to wear an ankle device that let authorities know where he was at any time. That debacle cost Shepherd his Senate assignments while he continued to prepare his case against the federal charges. Shepherd was a Judge Advocate General in the Army Reserves. His guilty plea on Friday was made in exchange with U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office dropping five other charges. Had it gone to trial he may well have spent the rest of his life behind bars. Shepherd resigned his seat, lost his ability to practice law and ended his military career on a low note. It is another sad lesson that the electorate has to endure from a politician whose meteoric rise was almost as spectacular as his recent crash and burn. The future seemed full of bright opportunities for Shepherd just two years ago. His sentencing from the federal judge will come in January, but the other mess with his girlfriend has yet to be settled. It is possible that he could have more time tacked on for state charges, although I hope the authorities will cut him a break. He has done more to himself than any punishment that could be dished out by a judge or jury. Meanwhile, one of Shepherd's closest allies is U.S. Representative William Jefferson, who is waging his own battle against federal charges in an upcoming trial in Virginia. Whether Shepherd will be asked to testify against his friend and benefactor is speculation right now, but it is a good bet that Shepherd will be asked to turn state's evidence in order to lighten his sentence. Jefferson, in a runoff with former TV newscaster Helena Moreno, doesn't seem worried, but with family members indicted or already pleading guilty, this latest episode with Shepherd can't be seen as anything good. It will be interesting to see what shakes out with his race. Due to the large black electorate, many experts expect him to win the runoff, despite the aggressive run that Moreno has made, beating seasoned politicians like Troy Carter, James Carter and Cedric Richmond. If Jefferson wins, he still might end up having to give up his seat were he to be convicted in Virginia. It means that the soap opera we call Louisiana politics goes on.

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