Thirteen months after Baton Rouge lawyer Joel Porter filed a federal defamation lawsuit against a city police cold-case detective investigating the 1985 murder of Porter’s wife, he now claims two other detectives falsely arrested him last year for allegedly violating a protective order.
Porter alleges the actions of Baton Rouge police detectives Justin Becnel and Brannon Ogden, in concert with those of former client Ashley Noella Smith and cold-case detective John Dauthier, were part of an orchestrated attempt to discredit him and undermine the defamation suit he filed against Dauthier in January 2014.
In his latest federal suit, filed Feb. 11 against Becnel and Ogden, Porter contends the protective order that was later dissolved never should have been issued in the first place, and he also says he should not have been arrested for allegedly violating the order.
Porter argues that Smith, who obtained the protective order, was motivated by money, and Becnel and Ogden by a desire to help out Dauthier.
The suit seeks damages for alleged false arrest and imprisonment, defamation, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“The suit seeks to vindicate Mr. Porter’s civil rights, which were violated,” Stephen Irving, who represents Porter, said Thursday. Irving said he was limited in what he could say about the pending litigation.
Dauthier said he could not comment on the suit, and Baton Rouge police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
Porter’s latest suit states that Smith alleged in November 2013 that an unknown person was following her in a dark blue Dodge Avenger. Smith met with Dauthier and other Baton Rouge police officers on April 2 at Dauthier’s urging, the suit alleges.
“Some or all of the officers present, and Dauthier himself, had an agenda to protect and help Dauthier ... and to assist him in his efforts to try and undermine the federal lawsuit Porter filed against Dauthier by attempting to publicly discredit Porter,” the suit charges.
Five days later, on April 7, Smith filed for a temporary restraining order against Porter alleging he was the unknown person in the Avenger, the suit says.
“Ashley Smith made this allegation as a part of a scheme to obtain money from Mr. Porter, whom she knew to be a high profile attorney,” the suit alleges.
Smith’s attorney, Jill Craft, said Friday that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Ms. Smith has not sued Mr. Porter for any money. The only thing she sought was to be left alone,” Craft said. “Since obtaining her protective order ... Mr. Porter has sued her in various forums seeking money from her. Not the other way around. Ms. Smith continues to try and rebuild her life wanting only to be left alone to do so.”
Becnel and Ogden, who were assigned to investigate Smith’s claims against Porter, never phoned or visited Porter regarding her allegations, Porter’s suit says.
“Had they contacted Mr. Porter they would have quickly learned that Ashley Smith’s story was a total fabrication and her scheme would have been exposed,” the lawsuit says.
They contend the Avenger belonged to a woman and Porter never owned, drove nor had possession of it.
“The officers took Ashley Smith’s word without corroborating or fact checking anything. Had the officers investigated the assertions about the vehicle and discovered that these claims were indeed false, Mr. Porter would not have been subsequently arrested,” they argue.
Smith also claimed at the April 2 meeting that Porter had stalked her in Beaumont, Texas, on March 25 and March 26, the suit says, but Porter was in a jury trial at Baton Rouge state court from March 24 through April 2.
“Again an opportunity to expose Ashley Smith’s scheme was missed or intentionally ignored,” the suit charges.
A restraining order was issued April 7 and Porter was arrested April 16 for violating the order because one of his attorneys had contacted Smith, but his suit contends he had not been personally served with the TRO at the time of his arrest and there was no show cause hearing to determine whether a violation had occurred.
City Court Judge Yvette Alexander, who issued the order, determined at an emergency hearing on April 16 that Porter had not violated the order when one of his attorneys reached out to Smith because she was serving as her own attorney at the time, the suit notes.
Retired Judge Luke Lavergne dismissed the protective order May 12.
Smith obtained a second protective order in May, but East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court Judge Pamela Baker dissolved it in October after extending it several times. The judge stated in October that the evidence indicated Porter and Smith had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship while she was his client.
Porter, 57, has repeatedly denied ever having a sexual relationship with Smith, 26, who has claimed Porter represented her in legal matters in exchange for sexual favors, then later stalked and harassed her.
A defamation suit that Porter filed against Smith is pending in Baton Rouge state court.
Porter’s suit against Dauthier accuses the cold-case detective of “defamation by innuendo” for allegedly providing “an array of false and scandalous” statements to media sources, including The Advocate. Porter, for example, claims the detective falsely accused him of running from the police in connection with the collection of his DNA on March 7, 2013.
Porter claims Dauthier had no basis to stop him near the merger of Interstates 10 and 12 on that day and collect a DNA sample from him, and the officer used “unlawful, excessive, unwarranted, and unprovoked” force on him.
Porter further states in the suit that he had an “ironclad alibi” the night of Denise Porter’s stabbing death and the investigation of him is “groundless and baseless.”