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District Attorney John DeRosier

In Louisiana, we are used to prosecutors who insist defendants are guilty when they are not.

But Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier just turned convention on its head by suggesting that, although former State trooper Jimmy Allen Rogers admitted two felonies, there was no proof that he pocketed a single illicit penny.

Rogers lost his job in 2015 when an internal investigation determined that he had falsified 74 traffic tickets. But he was charged only a couple of months ago, and then not at the instigation of any law enforcement agency. The Metropolitan Crime Commission got its hands on the investigative report that led to Rogers' departure from the force, and urged DeRosier to prosecute.

Former State Police trooper pleads guilty to falsifying traffic tickets, gets probation

Rogers was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to return $2,500 he had been paid for what DeRosier called “theoretically bogus” hours of overtime. The bogusness is termed theoretical because, although the evidence shows that Rogers wrote the tickets earlier in his shift than he claimed, it is only conjecture that he called it quits for the day while still officially on the clock.

So said DeRosier, although the whole world knew that Rogers was entering later times on his citations just so that he could knock off early and still get paid. Otherwise, he could have had no conceivable motive to commit the crime of “injuring public records.”

After his guilty plea, Rogers went online to admit screwing the taxpayer and lament the fraudulent tickets he wrote when working for the Local Agency Compensated Enforcement Program.

District attorneys pick up the tab for cops to work overtime for LACE and issue tickets that give erring motorists an option to avoid prosecution by paying a fee, typically $175. The profits from what amounts to a sale of indulgences — the euphemism is “pre-trial diversion” — make up a considerable proportion of the district attorney's budget in several parishes. LACE tickets were worth $4.4 million to DeRosier's office last year, for instance, so he might have appeared ungrateful had he rejoiced at Rogers' fall from grace.

James Gill: When it comes to improving road safety, Louisiana's pretrial diversion program is a big racket

Far from it. Not only did DeRosier stress that prosecutors could not prove Rogers was fiddling his timesheets, but he pointed out that he was suffering extra punishment because he could now never again work in law enforcement. DeRosier did, however, stop short of apologizing to Rogers.

Rogers was one of four current and former troopers arrested in April and booked with falsifying timesheets — the other three await their day in court — and many more may have gotten away with claiming pay for hours not worked. State troopers are not tracked by GPS but are trusted to radio in their whereabouts, so temptation is ever present. Rogers got caught because the times recorded on his dashcam video did not correspond with what he wrote on the tickets.

Such comparisons are too time-consuming to be routine, and it must be all the harder for troopers to resist temptation when they know their role is strictly to make money, and they don't have to write many tickets for the DA to show a profit on his investment. Troopers might reason it makes no difference if they make their quota in two hours or eight, and they might as well go home and crack a cold one as soon as they have made it.

Every police department in the land will deny setting quotas for traffic tickets, but the public has remained unconvinced. Rightly so, Rogers now says. District attorneys purportedly count on two tickets for every LACE hour they pay for. Troopers would be seen as traitors, moreover, if they worked a full shift, according to Rogers.

Some Louisiana troopers have logged hours that suggest their social lives must be somewhat lacking. Between his LACE and regular shifts, the best-paid cop in Louisiana, trooper Daryl Thomas of Baton Rouge, pulled in more than $240,000 last year.

That has been reported so often that it is evidently regarded as excessive, although a cop who worked the hours Thomas claimed would probably do more good than any vice president. Thomas, however, is one of the quartet arrested in April for timesheet fraud, so maybe his life was more leisurely than he let on.

There won't be much sympathy for him; this time investigators have plenty of proof that he was goofing off on the public dime.

Email James Gill at Gill1047@bellsouth.net.