BR eyes settling suit stemming from probe of former police chief _lowres

Kim McCants ORG XMIT: BAT1402061541071874

East Baton Rouge Parish government is preparing to pay $35,000 to the former paramour of fired Police Chief Dewayne White who filed suit after her cellphone was seized and text messages were made public amid a probe of the ousted top cop.

Kim McCants, who lives in Zachary, filed a federal lawsuit against the city-parish and Baton Rouge Police Department in February, claiming her messages were made public in an attempt by city officials to embarrass and intimidate her and White.

The Parish Attorney’s Office is now recommending that the Baton Rouge Metro Council approve the settlement. The council is expected to vote on the matter at its Oct. 22 meeting.

“The recommendation by our office to settle the case is a business decision based on the always present risk of an adverse judgment and the amount of exposure which, in this case, would also include attorney’s fees,” acting Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson said in an email.

McCants’ attorney, Jill Craft, said she doesn’t want to comment until the settlement is approved, adding only that she’s hopeful the council will vote favorably on the measure. Earlier this year when the suit was filed, Craft said: “Ms. McCants’ rights were shockingly trampled by the very people elected and appointed to serve and protect us. Ms. McCants’ hope is that this will never happen to another person. She wants the truth about what happened to be told and those responsible held accountable.”

Mayor-President Kip Holden fired White on Feb. 18, 2013, for what was publicly described as insubordination and department policy violations. Holden also accused White of refusing to return a city-parish-issued cellphone. White, also represented at the time by Craft, initially fought his termination and accused Holden of micromanaging his office and kowtowing to the whims of the police union.

The suit claims that during the course of White’s ugly, weekslong public battle with the mayor to keep his job, city police opened up an “investigation into every aspect of Mr. White’s life, including into his personal life.”

The lawsuit acknowledges that White, a married man, was engaged in a “personal relationship” with McCants but said it ended in 2012. The suit accuses city officials of seeking evidence related to their extra-marital relationship in order to publicly discredit the former chief.

The suit says police “stormed” into McCants’ home on March 26, 2013, and seized her cellphone.

Police said 3,047 of the 3,059 texts sent from or received by White’s phone were to a phone that belonged to McCants. Of the 337 calls, 285 of them were to or from McCants’ phone, the warrant says.

The suit accuses the Mayor’s Office and the Parish Attorney’s Office of conspiring to release the contents of the phone to the media in the form of a police report, despite a district court judge’s ruling that the messages shouldn’t be released.

“Under the plan, defendants would then accomplish their goal of publicly humiliating both Petitioner and Mr. White for having an affair and, further, including any and all humiliating and embarrassing text messages and the personal and private contents which could be located on Petitioner’s cellphone to specifically damage her,” the suit states.

Asked for comment about the claims, Batson said, “We have denied all of the allegations in the petition.”

The Advocate, along with other media agencies, filed public record requests in April 2013 for a police report related to the missing cellphone. However, minutes before the records were expected to be released, Craft obtained an emergency order from a district judge blocking the report’s dissemination.

A redacted version of the police report later was released to the media, with the text messages blacked out. But it included information that described McCants’ relationship with White and GPS data pulled from the phone indicating White was at McCants’ home.

The suit says the phone’s contents were “deliberately” placed on a law enforcement-accessible database, “open to view by thousands of people” who viewed, scanned, screen-shot and emailed the report to the public and the media, the suit said.

White initially took his appeal to the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board in hopes of being reinstated. But he dropped the appeal weeks before his scheduled hearing in April 2013, saying he no longer wanted to work for Holden’s administration.

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