Kenrard D. Broussard was four years into an 18-year prison sentence on cocaine charges when two of the narcotics officers who arrested him pleaded guilty earlier this year in a broad federal probe of abuse and cover-ups at the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office.
Now Broussard is back home, his case dismissed along with more than 100 others in the fallout of the investigation into Sheriff Louis Ackal and his deputies.
Ackal is fighting charges in the beatings of inmates and arrestees that prosecutors say he encouraged or ignored, but nine deputies have pleaded guilty to allegations of abuse. They also have admitted in some cases to falsifying paperwork and lying in court depositions to cover-up wrongdoing.
The acknowledgement of the falsehoods as part of their guilty pleas has called into question hundreds of the mostly drug cases the deputies investigated.
"I think these officers' arrests show that no one is above the law and no one is above breaking the law," said defense attorney Harry Daniels III, who handled Broussard's case and several others where testimony by the now-convicted deputies was key.
Since the first guilty pleas came down in the federal case in February, Iberia Parish prosecutors have tossed out roughly 107 pending criminal cases involving those deputies, said 16th Judicial District Attorney Bofill Duhé.
And defendants who have already been convicted have won new trials or dismissals after raising the issue of the deputies' reliability, according to court records.
Duhé said his office began working earlier this year to identify every case involving the deputies who pleaded guilty, going back to when Ackal took office in 2008.
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The District Attorney's office sent letters to all defense attorneys who worked those cases to alert them to the federal investigation, should the attorneys want to use that new information to challenge a conviction or pending charge, Duhé said.
"You would rather be over-reactive than under-reactive, because a lot of times you might be dealing with a person's freedom," Duhé said. "... If these officers were involved in a case in any way, shape or form, we sent a letter."
Most of the more than 100 dismissals were done without any request from defendants or their attorneys, Duhé said.
He said his office reviewed all pending cases to determine which ones were too weak to pursue without the testimony or evidence tied to the convicted deputies.
"If I pulled their role out of this case and put it on the side, what do I have left?" Duhé said.
Some of the cases involving the deputies, though, are still active.
"Certainly, there are cases we have not dismissed because we felt there was sufficient corroborating evidence to support them," Duhé said.
Still uncertain is the fate of defendants who were convicted on the now-tainted word of the deputies who pleaded in the federal case.
Many drug cases depend on an agent's testimony — he saw the defendant sell the drugs, he found the drugs in the defendant's car, he made the undercover buy — and when an agent's truthfulness is in doubt, the entire case can fall apart.
In the case of Broussard, a 40-year-old former Carencro Middle guidance counselor who was serving 18 years in prison for possession of cocaine, prosecutors dismissed his charges earlier this year after a judge granted his motion for new trial.
Broussard, who was a first-time offender, faced a particularly harsh sentence because he was arrested within 1,000 feet of a school zone and had more than 200 grams of cocaine, about $20,000 worth.
"In this case, Broussard was convicted on the testimony of documented liars," Daniels wrote in court papers filed to void his client's 2011 conviction in a case where deputies Byron Lassalle, Wade Bergeron and Jason Comeaux were key in the investigation.
All three deputies pleaded guilty earlier this year to abusing inmates, and federal prosecutors allege they concocted a false story to cover up the abuse when questioned in a lawsuit filed over the inmate beatings.
"I always thought something was wrong with these officers. Handling cases with them, they could never keep their stories straight," Daniels said. "But we couldn't actually put our hand on it to say this guy is a liar. ... We just knew something was not right with them."
One of the Iberia Parish cases now being questioned involves 36-year-old Anthony Daye, allegedly beaten during an April 2011 shakedown at the Iberia Parish jail that is at heart of the federal investigation.
Daye is challenging the conviction and life sentence he received as a repeat offender after a 2012 drug trial that relied heavily on the testimony of Lassalle and Comeaux.
Had jurors known about Lassalle and Comeaux's crimes, "the verdict would almost certainly have been different," New Iberia attorney Richard Spears wrote in a court filing seeking a new trial for Daye.
Regardless of the outcome, Daye will likely remain in prison, at least for the near future, because he has a pending second-degree murder charge.
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Spears said he is researching about 25 cases involving the convicted deputies.
"I probably have 7 to 10 pending cases that were thrown out because of those officers," he said.
Daniels, a Baton Rouge attorney who keeps an active criminal defense practice in his hometown of New Iberia, said Broussard's case is one of at least 15 convictions and pending charges he has challenged based on guilty pleas of the deputies.
In one case, prosecutors dismissed pending drug charges against a defendant after Daniels filed motion to keep certain evidence out of trial — evidence a judge had earlier ruled admissible based on the testimony of deputy Lassalle.
In another case, a defendant who had received a life sentence in 2011 on a drug charge when sentenced as a repeat offender had his prison term cut to 30 years. A deal to reduce the sentence was made last month after Daniels filed a motion for a new trial.
"We basically went back and looked at every case these individuals have been involved in," Daniels said of the deputies. "Each case was different."
Ackal, one of his top supervisors, Gerald Savoy, and former Capt. Mark Frederick are currently set to go on trial Oct. 31 in the federal investigation.
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Ackal faces a long list of allegations, including encouraging excessive force by his deputies, interfering in internal affairs investigations and having internal affairs records destroyed.