AMITE — The Louisiana Supreme Court will decide who will preside over a criminal case against a Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center secretary, accused of illegally recording her supervisor’s conversations, now that a judge has recused himself and all of his colleagues in the judicial district.
State District Judge Bruce Bennett recused himself and the five other general jurisdiction judges of the 21st Judicial District Court from hearing Joy Chauvin’s case.
Chauvin faces one count of interception of wire, electronic or oral communications for allegedly bugging her boss’s office in an attempt to prove she was being targeted for a retaliatory dismissal. She has pleaded not guilty.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Tom Hogan, had argued that the judges as well as the District Attorney’s Office should not preside over the case because they appoint members to the Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission, which oversees the detention center.
The Louisiana Supreme Court will appoint an ad hoc judge to preside over the case, including the pending motion to recuse the District Attorney’s Office.
The 21st Judicial District judges previously recused themselves from hearing a related civil case, in which the detention center’s former payroll clerk, Casey Sclafini, claims she was forced to quit her job after she contacted the state Inspector General’s Office about possible payroll fraud at the facility.
Sclafini’s tip to the Inspector General’s Office kicked off the investigation that ultimately led to Chauvin’s arrest.
Chauvin told investigators that she thought the detention center’s management had pegged her as the whistleblower and planned to fire her, according to an affidavit of probable cause for her arrest.
Chauvin told investigators that she knew her supervisor, Joseph Dominick, director of facility management, had reviewed her work emails and learned of her contact with the Inspector General’s Office. When the investigators pressed Chauvin as to how she knew, she told them she had placed a recording device behind a picture frame in Dominick’s office, according to the affidavit.
Investigators found recordings and the device at Chauvin’s Mandeville home. The recordings, made on Aug. 26 and Aug. 27, included the voices of at least three staff members, a private computer technology contractor and an unidentified person, according to the affidavit. The affidavit does not detail what was said on the tapes.
Chauvin was arrested six months later, on Feb. 26.
The Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center serves both the 21st and 22nd Judicial districts, which include Livingston, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
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