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Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- A Grand Isle police officer patrols along Louisiana 1 in Grand Isle Friday, June 24, 2016.


A Jefferson Parish judge on Tuesday acquitted a former Grand Isle policeman of charges that he forced an 18-year-old man to pay for a nightclub's broken glass door under the threat of jail, according to officials on both sides of the case.

The verdict in favor of Cameron Westbrook came at the end of a one-day trial in front of 24th Judicial District Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach.

It closed the books on a case that led to the arrest of half of the island's police force a little more than a year ago.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office initially arrested Westbrook, 29; ex-officer Tyson Gravette, 34; and former Lt. Elgene Gary, 74, in June 2016 on suspicion of threatening to jail 18-year-old Blaine Kiff if he didn't pay for a door that was broken at the popular Club Oasis.

Sheriff's deputies also arrested the club's owner, Karrie Mulac, and an employee, Tasha Eschete.

But prosecutors filed charges only against Westbrook and Gravette, accusing the pair of misdemeanor false imprisonment of Kiff.

Gravette pleaded guilty, agreeing to spend one year on probation and to surrender his certification to work in law enforcement, something the state rarely takes away from police officers.

Meanwhile, Westbrook chose to be tried by Kovach rather than a jury, maintaining he never pressured the victim into paying for the door. "That wasn't the situation at all," said Joseph McMahon, his attorney.

Kovach ruled that prosecutors failed to prove their case. Her decision spared Westbrook from facing up to six months behind bars or a maximum fine of $200.

"My client believed he was innocent from the beginning," McMahon said. "He's happy with the verdict."

McMahon said Westbrook is no longer working in law enforcement and has been seeking employment in other fields, including the offshore industry.

Authorities long resisted revealing specifics about the accusations against the officers or the two women.

The Sheriff's Office, then under the command of Newell Normand, early on would say only that the arrests sprang from a probe accompanying a raid months earlier on the Grand Isle Police Department headquarters.

The raid took place amid allegations that local officers had failed to store evidence properly and had sought to thwart undercover drug investigations on the island by the Sheriff's Office.

All three cops were dismissed from their jobs, decimating the ranks of a tiny department charged with protecting the island's 1,300 residents and thousands of vacationers throughout the year.

Before the arrests, the department had seven officers, including an assistant chief who was forced to retire after authorities said he inadvertently drove over a sunbather on a beach in April 2016. The woman was badly injured but survived.

The Sheriff's Office later loaned personnel to Grand Isle so there would be enough officers available to respond to 911 calls. The department's chief at the time, Euris DuBois, then retired in July 2016 and turned the reins over to Laine Landry, who ultimately hired 10 new officers to replace the prior regime's remaining members.

Landry has said his officers took over patrol duties from the Sheriff's Office in September 2016.

Correction: This post initially said Westbrook and the others were arrested in September 2016, but it was in June 2016. 

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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