Boothe files motion based on new evidence from DA

Published 12:08 am Saturday, October 6, 2012

VIDALIA — A motion was filed last week asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to review new evidence and reconsider charges aimed at removing a local six-term judge from office.

Seventh Judicial Court Judge Leo Boothe’s legal counsel filed a motion Sept. 25, stating that new evidence in the form of an affidavit submitted by District Attorney Brad Burget undermines one of three charges in connection to a 2002 criminal case.

The affidavit submitted by Burget states that during the late summer or early fall of 2008, Boothe showed him a series of correspondence between he and then inmate James Skipper.

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“This information was of interest because I too received a letter from inmate James Skipper,” Burget said in the affidavit. “I immediately shared all the above information with then District Attorney John F. Johnson.”

The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana’s argument claiming Boothe engaged in improper ex parte communications states that Boothe didn’t report a series of letters that were exchanged between he and Skipper with the district attorney’s office or another state agency.

Boothe claims the new evidence proves he did communicate the existence of the letters to the state and disproves the commission’s charges against him.

“As such, justice requires that Mr. Burget’s testimony be taken and the matter be remanded to the commission for reconsideration of the charges and the commission’s recommendation of discipline,” the motion stated. “The commission should be ordered to receive Mr. Burget’s affidavit into evidence for the reconsideration.”

The affidavit also states that Burget was never interviewed by any investigative agency regarding his knowledge or involvement in the matter.

Since proceedings between Boothe and the commission were confidential until the commission filed a public report, Boothe’s motion claims that Burget wasn’t aware of the allegations.

In the case 2002, Boothe granted a motion to reduce Skipper’s 25-year jail sentence to 12 years with credit for time served.

The sentence reduction in 2008 came after Skipper argued family hardship in the local court.

Skipper was originally found guilty of cocaine distribution in 2002 and sentenced 25 years for those charges.

The case ultimately wound up being reviewed by the commission, which claimed that Boothe committed three violations during the case.

One of the violations, engaging in improper ex parte communications, stemmed from several letters sent between Boothe and Skipper in 2008 while Skipper was in jail.

The two other charges filed in the commission’s report included having the reconsideration hearing without jurisdiction and failing to recuse himself.

The commission recommended in its report to the Louisiana Supreme Court on Aug. 7 that Boothe be removed from the bench and be ordered to reimburse and pay to the commission $11,731.79.

On Sept. 7, the commission and Boothe’s legal counsel both appeared before the Louisiana Supreme Court for oral arguments.

The court heard the arguments, but did not issue any type of opinion or ruling on the matter.

Louisiana Supreme Court spokeswoman Valerie Willard said Friday that Booth’s motions are still pending and there has been no ruling on the case overall. A ruling usually takes between eight and 12 weeks to be delivered.