Criminal Justice

Shepherd needs to pull up his big-boy britches

In August 2007, after City Councilmember Oliver Thomas resigned and admittedto taking bribes, his attorney was asked about the possibility of Thomas providing helpful testimony to Federal prosecutors:

[Clarence] Roby, Thomas’ attorney, said his client “has agreed to be transparent and forthright with regards to any relevant and credible information that he might have.” But Roby quickly added: “He can’t make information up if it doesn’t exist.”

You’ll recall that Thomas’ agreement to be transparent and forthright was short-lived:

A former City Council member who pleaded guilty to taking a bribe has refused to cooperate with an investigation into city corruption and should face a stiffer prison sentence, federal prosecutors say.

[Oliver] Thomas met twice with authorities and, during the second meeting, “indicated he did not wish to ‘rat’ on anyone and that his father and aunt did not wish him to be a ‘rat,’” according to a Nov. 13 letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When state Sen. Derrick Shepherd plead guilty to money laundering in October of 2008, T-P columnist Stephanie Grace described his countenance as follows:

Speaking under oath as he pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd was practically a different person than the elbow-throwing, in-your-face politician who burst onto the scene just five years ago.

The Derrick Shepherd in court was contrite. He made no excuses, made no accusations, offered no conspiracies. His usual bluster was gone. He took full responsibility for his actions.

Shepherd’s “no conspiracies, full responsibility” posture was… similarly short-lived.

Today, Fox 8 News reports that “Former state senator seeking shorter sentence blames attorney”:

[Derrick Shepherd’s] motion starts by describing an interview by FBI agents who presented him with a grand jury subpoena.

After that meeting, Shepherd writes he sought guidance from a mentor and friend – U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Roby.

Shepherd says Karen Roby called her husband, attorney Clarence Roby, and said, “do exactly what he tells you.”

Clarence Roby told Shepherd, “the government was on a witch hunt for getting rid of black elected officials and he wanted to beat them.”

Shepherd was convicted of helping a convicted bond broker, Gwendolyn Moyo, hide illegal proceeds and create fake invoices to legitimize the money as payment for legal services.

But Shepherd says Roby prepared and instructed him to create false time sheets, false legal research and false correspondence.

Shepherd writes he was told by Clarence Roby “to make the legal research look dated and copied so as to fool the grand jury.”

Shepherd says Roby “collected and reviewed all of the false documents and he personally presented these false documents to the grand jury in an attempt at subterfuge.”

After Shepherd testified before the grand jury, he says “the government discovered the fraudulency of the documents and indicted [Shepherd] on several counts, citing in the indictment the government’s suspicions about the documents.”

Roby denied knowledge at the hearing. After pleading guilty, Shepherd writes “Assistant United States Attorney Michael Magner stated ‘I am sorry Roby screwed you. I wish you would have accepted the plea deal we offered before.’”

Shepherd says he was not aware of any plea deal. Shepherd says Clarence Roby was offered a deal of no more than one year in prison. Shepherd says Clarence Roby never told him, and eventually Shepherd got about 37 months.

Shepherd would have us believe that, at some point during the past three years, the thought occurred to Roby that perhaps a defendant could “make up information that doesn’t exist.” And after having this sparkling revelation, Roby advised Shepherd to do just that.

Maybe so.

But it’s hilarious to watch Derrick Shepherd, esq. – a tough and talented political operator – portraying himself as a naive little lamb who blindly trusted the Robys to guide him safely through the legal wilderness.

They told me everything would be okay. All I needed to do was create “false time sheets, false legal research and false correspondence” so I could fraudulently prove my innocence, and heroically resist the federal “witch hunt” against black politicians.

But, alas, the bogus records didn’t fool the Feds. And now Shepherd wants to claim that his own lawyer and trusted counselor told him to create false documents that lengthened his sentence. Then, worst of all, his lawyer didn’t inform him of a favorable plea deal for one year – and now he’s serving three!

Why oh why can’t poor little Derrick catch a break?

First he gets indicted for money-laundering, then Jefferson Parish police interrupt him during a lap dance and charge him with hitting his ex-girlfriend and stealing $100. After that, he gets arrested during a traffic stop because of outstanding warrants regarding… more theft and domestic violence charges.

Let’s see: Shepherd avoided warrants related to theft and domestic violence for nearly eight years, while getting elected to higher and higher office, often with the benefit of “wholehearted” endorsements by the local media. When he was accused of new acts of theft and violence, he claimed he was just defending his family from his ex-girlfriend. Then the Feds indicted him for money laundering related to an unlicensed bond broker steered to Shepherd by former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson.

Shepherd ultimately confessed, and assumed total responsibility, but now he claims he was duped into fraudulently defending himself against fraud. It was his trusted lawyer’s idea, you see. Clarence Roby was so hell-bent on Shepherd resisting the federal “witch-hunt” against black politicians, that he wouldn’t even disclose a favorable plea deal to his client. If you think about it hard enough, maybe Shepherd is something of a political martyr.

Poor, ole unlucky Shepherd. If he’s not protecting his family from crazy ex-girlfriends, then corrupt pols are sending him shady bond brokers. If it’s not eight-year-old warrants surfacing at the worst possible time, then his lawyer is “screwing” him with a defense strategy that relies on manufacturing false documents.

I don’t know if Shepherd was inspired by Oliver Thomas’ recent turn to the dramatic, but he’s created one helluva character for himself with this new legal narrative. Casting himself as a naive dupe – afflicted by bad luck and worse lawyers – deserving of reduced punishment… well, to pull that role off in these circumstances, would require the performance of a lifetime.

You know you've hit the big time (or are doing big time) when you're on the side of a Carnival float.

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  • jeffrey

    It’s actually kind of an inspired move on Shepherd’s part. Could we say he is playing the “playing-the-race-card” card?