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Judge rules against Whittington

VIDALIA — A federal judge has denied one-time sheriff candidate Jim Whittington a new trial for his lawsuit alleging he was the victim of a law enforcement vendetta by former Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell.

A federal jury ruled against Whittington’s federal suit in April, and shortly thereafter he filed an appeal claiming newly discovered evidence. The evidence in question was a videotape made in 2008 of then-candidate for District Attorney Brad Burget speaking about his role as the assistant district attorney in a case against Whittington.

In his appeal, Whittington alleged the video showed Burget committed perjury at trial.

Judge Dee Drell ruled against Whittington’s appeal Friday, writing that the evidence does not prove perjury on Burget’s part.

“The alleged new evidence is not new at all, and Brad Burget’s testimony compared with his statements on the video recording does not amount to perjury,” Drell wrote. “During the direct examination of Brad Burget, plaintiff presented a newspaper article containing the exact quotations at issue apparently extracted from the live forum where the video was made. The content of the video recording was not unknown to plaintiff because he had access to — and actually used — the evidence at issue during trial. In addition, and even more to the point, the content of the video recording does not directly contradict Mr. Burget’s trial testimony.”

Drell wrote that Burget’s testimony at trial was more detailed than his comments made in the recording, but that there was nothing contradictory or substantially different enough to suggest perjury.

Burget responded to the ruling Wednesday by saying that he hopes the public remembers the judge’s ruling rather than Whittington’s allegations, which he called a “baseless attack.”

“My staff and I work daily to instill confidence in the public that the Office of the District Attorney will strive for truth and justice in every case,” Burget said. “While it is not surprising that Whittington would file a misleading and factually inaccurate motion with the federal court, remember that his goal was not to win his motion, (but) rather to make a outlandish allegation about my integrity.”

Whittington said he first heard of the ruling Wednesday and would take a few days to consider his next step. He maintained that every witness except Ronnie McMillin — a former assistant district attorney — lied or withheld the truth at trial.

“I had an inexperienced attorney that didn’t get the case across like it was given to him, and he didn’t take the time to produce the stuff he should have produced in court,” he said.

“Just because a judge denied my motions doesn’t mean I wasn’t right. I stood up for what was right and fought for what I knew they did to me.”

Whittington filed his initial suit in 2008, claiming that he was arrested and maliciously prosecuted in 2003 on trumped-up charges of robbery, stalking and harassment after he allegedly forcibly took two rings from a former romantic partner. His initial bond for the matter was set at $175,000 and Whittington remained in jail for 50 days.

Whittington claimed in his suit the arrest was the result of his embarrassing Maxwell with campaign ads in 2003 alleging that one of Maxwell’s deputies had been arrested on drug charges. Whittington challenged Maxwell for the sheriff’s office in 2003, but lost in the primary.

His bond was later reduced to $30,000, and charges against Whittington were eventually dropped for lack of prosecution.

When he filed the suit, it named former District Attorney John Johnson, who has since died, Judge Leo Boothe and Maxwell, though the courts dismissed all of the cases except the one against Maxwell.

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