Former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard has spent the past two years in federal prisons doing janitorial and landscaping work, taking real estate courses and teaching civics to other inmates. He emceed the prison Christmas show while incarcerated in North Carolina.
But there have been darker moments, as well.
In Atlanta, Broussard was locked up at least 23 hours a day, taking his meals through a slot in a metal door. Every few days during his three-week stay there in the winter, he was locked down for 72 straight hours without heat or hot water.
These and other details emerged from a court filing this week by Broussard’s lawyer, who is asking a federal judge to reduce the 46-month sentence Broussard began serving on May 6, 2013.
Broussard, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy, wire fraud and theft, has seen his recent attempts to have his conviction overturned denied. Now he has asked U.S. District Judge Hayden Head to reconsider his sentence.
Excluding the more drastic measure of seeking to vacate the conviction “should ameliorate the court’s concern over the fact that Broussard never moved to withdraw his guilty plea,” attorney Arthur “Buddy” Lemann III wrote, making reference to a key sticking point in his previous attempts to get Broussard freed.
Lemann wrote that Broussard spent the first year in prison not as expected in Pensacola, Florida, where his mother could have visited him, but in Butner, North Carolina.
The switch from his original assignment was the result of medical care required because of a recent prostate cancer diagnosis, and in Butner, Broussard was put into a low-security facility instead of the camp he was eligible for.
There, Lemann wrote, Broussard was often shackled and strip-searched for his many trips to the medical facility and was more vulnerable to the aggression of other inmates. It also meant he got a lower commissary allowance.
“Almost every aspect of prison life, from inmate housing, access to facilities on the compound and treatment by prison guards and personnel, was harsher on the defendant at the ‘Low’ than it would have been if defendant would have been incarcerated at Butner Camp according to his camp eligibility,” Lemann wrote.
In Butner, Broussard completed continuing education courses in real estate, entrepreneurship, and sales and marketing. He was a volunteer course instructor and taught three, eight-week courses to other inmates on civics, world affairs and current events.
He took a typing class and joined the Speech Club.
Lemann wrote that Broussard completed courses that “encouraged inmates to address major life issues from the perspective of their own religious tradition and personal value systems to prepare them for release into their communities” and “focused on group sharing of past mistakes and making new commitments of taking responsibility for self and family in re-entering society.”
He read “The Road Less Traveled,” “Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul” and “The Purpose Driven Life” and acted as an usher during Sunday services.
His two stops in Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida, on his way to Pensacola, were especially difficult, Lemann wrote.
While he was never cited for disciplinary action, he spent those stops in a special unit for inmates serving disciplinary punishment.
Two of the 72-hour lockdown stints were back to back, and once when it was below freezing outside, with no heat or hot water in his cell, Broussard had only a stained sheet, a thin blanket and a “filthy, cracked mattress” in his cell, Lemann said.
He had to use a sleeveless T-shirt for a towel.
When he got to Pensacola, Lemann wrote, Broussard became active in Bible study, joined the choir and began tutoring and handling mail for a fellow inmate who couldn’t read above a first-grade level.
He continued to do janitorial work in the food service department but was also part of a field crew at Eglin Air Force Base.
From 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Broussard cleaned bathrooms, trimmed weeds, picked up litter and used a pressure washer.
He is currently a captain’s orderly, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, mopping and taking out the garbage Monday through Friday, Lemann said.
Lemann said Broussard has been paying $500 a month toward his required restitution and has paid his initial $200 assessment. He is also making his monthly alimony payments.
“While defendant’s debts exceed his ability to pay timely, he has not filed bankruptcy and attempts to address his creditors as best he can each month,” Lemann wrote.
Upon release, Broussard plans to return to Kenner, moving in with his 90-year-old mother, who lives alone and needs care.
“Defendant fully intends to become a productive and contributing member of society,” Lemann wrote.
Under his current sentence, he is due to remain in jail through fall 2016.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.