Derrick Shepherd has carried on well the long standing tradition of crooked Louisiana politicians from Huey Long to Edwin Edwards to “Dollar” Bill Jefferson.
In April of 2008, the Feds indicted Shepherd, a state representative, on three counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. They accused Shepherd using his law office to launder $141,000. The Feds say he kept of $65,000 of the laundered cash.
At first Shepherd accused prosecutors of pursuing an indictment against him after he refused to give them dirt on other elected officials. But eventually he had little choice but to plead guilty after one of Shepherd’s co-defendants struck a plea deal with prosecutors and agreed to cooperate.
In October of 2008, Shepherd plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison in February 2010, serving time both behind bars and in a halfway house before being released in March 2012.
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Just months before Shepherd plead guilty in federal court, he was arrested in July after a domestic violence incident involving his jilted lover. His estranged girlfriend accused him of breaking down her door at three in the morning attacking her. She says it was the third time he had attacked her. Shepherd was subsequently placed on house arrest, stripped of his legislative committee assignments, and forbidden from practicing law.
If you believe our leaders should be held to the highest of standards, since they are typically given the most potent of power, then Derrick Shepherd should never be allowed to run for office again. Nor should he be a part of governing in any way. In other words those who do govern should not have him as a part of their inner circle.
It obviously raised eyebrows last week when Shepherd showed up for a meeting called by New Orleans Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell. Cantrell’s meeting was supposed to be with several members of the New Orleans legislative delegation. The Advocate reported a rumor that Shepherd would be a part of the Cantrell administration had been spreading in political circles. Cantrell’s transition team was asked multiple times over several days about those rumors. The transition was also specifically asked to explain Shepherd’s presence at the meeting and was given multiple opportunities to say that he would not be playing a role in the administration. In response to those questions, a spokesman for the transition would say only that no hiring decisions had yet been made. He did not directly address Shepherd’s presence at the meeting.
But after several days had passed and a number of stories were published questioning whether Shepherd would be a part of the Cantrell administration, the mayor-elect removed all doubt.
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“His presence at the meeting was solely of his own accord. Shepherd does not now nor will he ever have any role in my transition or in my future administration,” Cantrell said.
When asked before Saturday about whether he would be playing a role in Cantrell’s administration after she takes office in May, Shepherd responded, “I defer all question to Madam Mayor-elect.”
We’ll never know for sure if Cantrell was considering Shepherd for her team and changed her mind after the media questioned the decision. But this we do know. Shepherd is still politically ambitious. He signed up to run for his old House seat in 2015 but was disqualified since he was a felon. Shepherd challenged the constitutionality of a law prohibiting felons from running for office, pointing out that the language passed by the voters differed from the wording that had been approved by the Legislature. He won the case, but months after the election had passed without his name appearing on a ballot.
State lawmakers have yet to remedy the problem, so at this point Shepherd is free to run for office. And the fact that he appeared at Cantrell’s meeting shows he still has some political clout and friends in high places.
I suspect we have not seen the last of Derrick Shepherd.
Dan Fagan is a former TV and radio broadcaster who lives in Metairie. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.