Deputy sues ex-judge about racial slurs in text messages

Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Black Louisiana sheriff’s deputy has sued a white former judge, saying a racial slur in her private text messages defamed him and has hurt his ability to do his job since being made public.

Assumption Parish Deputy Erick Taylor filed a federal lawsuit Friday in New Orleans against Jessie LeBlanc, who resigned as a judge in February, The Advocate reported.

As a judge, LeBlanc “harassed, humiliated and attacked him, which caused damage to his life, family, profession and reputation,” the lawsuit states.

LeBlanc “will vigorously defend these allegations and, particularly, the allegations relating to her performance as a Judge,” attorney Jill Craft said in a written statement to the newspaper.

LeBlanc’s resignation came two days after a television interview in which she acknowledged and apologized for using the slur to describe Taylor and a Black law clerk in a string of texts to the parish’s chief deputy about the end of the chief deputy’s eight-year affair with the judge.

Between May 23 and June 4, 2020, three suspects used the judge’s words to question Taylor’s authority and the validity of his actions as a law enforcement officer, the lawsuit alleged.

He said a disturbance suspect defiantly criticized him June 4 for not doing anything after the judge called him the slur. The suit also alleged that a suspect at a traffic stop May 23 told Taylor, “I will stand right here and watch you because I don’t trust you. That Judge already said that you were dirty.”

LeBlanc sent the messages in a December 2018 conversation with Bruce Prejean, then chief deputy in the parish. It became public in February 2020, months after the first news reports about their affair and while the judge was resisting calls to step down and directly respond to allegations about the affair.

Craft said LeBlanc has repeatedly apologized for comments made in private and in anger, and said they were not reflective of her.

“Ms. LeBlanc paid a heavy price for the relationship and for the comments made well over a year ago,” said a statement to the newspaper. “She has atoned and continues to atone for her failings, but she, in no way, compromised her service as a Judge.”

Taylor’s suit also said LeBlanc questioned his credibility and some of his warrants, and signed a warrant for his arrest after he failed to show up for a trial. Taylor had told prosecutors he would be out of town for a training conference, according to the lawsuit.

Craft said LeBlanc was just doing her job as a gatekeeper when she rejected the warrant applications from Taylor.

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