A former Baton Rouge police officer told a state judge Thursday he is innocent of felony charges that accuse him of falsifying misdemeanor summonses while he was on the force.
Derek Jason Burns pleaded not guilty to one count each of first-degree injuring of public records and malfeasance in office. Both offenses carry up to five years in prison.
State District Judge Chip Moore scheduled a status hearing in the case for June 20.
Burns, 29, was arrested Sept. 6 and fired Nov. 9. He had been with the Baton Rouge Police Department for six years and worked in the prisoner processing unit. The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office formally charged Burns in January.
Then-Police Chief Dewayne White said last year that investigators with the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division launched an investigation into Burns in July after the officer’s supervisor noticed a summons Burns wrote that “just didn’t look right.”
Mayor-President Kip Holden fired White in February, citing a long list of alleged departmental violations.
White’s firing was not lost on Burns’ attorney, Carl Babin.
“He’s the principal accuser, and that principal accuser is no longer employed and is on the bread line,” Babin said outside the courtroom.
Burns issued four false summonses in June to three people without their knowledge, according to an arrest warrant. The police officer forged the victims’ signatures on the summonses, the warrant says. The victims told investigators they had never come into contact with Burns and never signed the misdemeanor summonses, the warrant states.
The summonses were sent to a certified forensic document examiner who concluded all four signatures were written by Burns, the warrant says.
Babin claims the original summonses were shredded and never examined by an expert.
The people whose forged names were on the bad summonses had lengthy criminal histories, White has said.
During the Police Department’s subsequent investigation, investigators found that Burns falsified another misdemeanor summons in March 2012, a warrant states.
Police administrators have declined to speculate why Burns allegedly wrote the bogus summonses. Officers are often paid overtime to appear in court for the summonses they write.