Nov 7, 2013|
Angela talks with attorney Eric Hessler, who represents O.P.P. whistleblower Bryan Collins, about his client's experiences and the courage it takes to be a "whistleblower."
We're discussing the hot topics of the day with co-host of First Take, Todd Menesses.
Angela discusses the shooting in Lafayette and says farewell to WWL as she hands her timeslot off to Scoot.
What's trending in sports, news, and entertainment?
Angela talks with WWL-TV investigative reporter Katie Moore and Tulane law professor Tania Tetlow about the city's backlog of uninvestigated rape cases.
Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
And we welcome you to a another spectacular day now it's cool now -- really thinking fall. And doesn't that make you happy. We have three I think very interest in shows ahead -- we're going to begin with one. That well I know you've seen his picture on the front page of the newspaper. A 45 year old man who relatively late in life decided to get into law enforcement. Four years ago he became a deputy at the Orleans parish prison. Today he is deciding if people ever go back to work there. Were talking about Brian Collins. Who released information about what he sought to jail to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Department of Justice got involved and -- other's consent decree on the prison. It really started with one man who says his conscience couldn't take what he was seen anymore. Brian Collins as a whistle blower but in the minds of many he is nothing short of a hero. Today we're talking with Brian Collins attorney Eric Kessler. About what is next for his client. And what it takes to be a whistle blower and I really appreciate you. Eric Kessler joining us thank you and I'm sorry that your client couldn't be here because I think people would love looked talked to some time. Investment and let me just say to anybody out there who's listening this is. This is a very interesting case it is. Maddening in the sense that we have invited to share many times c'mon he's promised that he will. And on keeping them to that promise and I'm disappointed that can't -- today because I think that it would be very interesting conversation. But were were also talking about the bigger issue of being a whistle blower and which takes a lot of guts. But let's start with your client. And kind of take its back it correct me if I was wrong he decided he had a career and other things besides he wanted to get to law enforcement so. But joined the sheriff's office. That is correct he -- now line. Almost 49 years old he was a deputy for four years. He's always wanted to be in law enforcement but is prepared to other places. And when he finally. Decided act on -- he joined sheriff's department. And immediately. On. Being placed in into the the jail system he recognized. The deficiencies that that are now finally. I've been addressed by the consent decree and and and a concern them greatly concerned manic and a concern and can now and down. Reported each and every instance. To supervisors into the prison officials. And when he saw nothing of any meaningful. Nature being done. After several years he he continued reported but -- he felt the need to go for it. When you say some of the instances we're talking about rapes were talking about fights were talking about. Drug paraphernalia. Unfortunately if you name it it's probably occurred there and and yes all of those type of things. And again he did report but there was no and no investigation and related to anything result kind of seemingly swept under the rug. And and his conscious -- allow him to. Mom to let that happen. After awhile. -- three -- to use. Getting to be labeled as a troublemaker or pain in the behind. That certainly occurred. And. I'm. That that does occur but he but he he continued to do it he didn't let him beating down they created a very hostile work environment. Which which worsened. As. As. Via consent decree started to gear up. -- You know there are some very graphic that instances of things you've watched that just work. Inhumane is being kind but just unacceptable. Behavior in any condition much less -- person. But. Ultimately he took a photograph. After photograph of a sort of a blood splattered. -- he did and that was against the rules. -- Yes it was it was it was unfortunately it's relatively common. For deputies to carry their cellphones. Into the prison even -- prohibited. It's it's allowed. And I unfortunately in in this particular instance -- decided that I guess who want to take action because of the photograph. Contradicted the public its stance on of them Orleans parish sheriff's office when he said that it was a minor superficial incident. And superficial injuries occurred as I think this. And let's go about their two but this was a yen and alleged stabbing of a man twenty times. I believe 2727. Times and the sheriff says it will investigate but it was too superficial. Right seven time. Right entries are superficial. The photograph obviously. It is contrary to his description the wounds. Contrary -- description the ultimate charges -- brought or contrary to that script. And that's what would deputy Collins had been seen during his entire four year tenure with the sheriff's department. So nobody knew at that point that he had taken pictures and published. And than. -- Immediately. The very next day after the publication came out com. Supervisors and at the roll call. Began to threaten. To find out you know -- make life miserable for any deputy that they've they've found. There are many many threats on the markets there on the radio. But they made it quite clear that there was going to be retribution for a for embarrassing the -- They didn't know at that point to him. I'm I don't I don't know that they did I would. Have to believe they must a suspect in because they they had been on his integrity he had to know of his diligent. And had to recognize the fact that. That done. That he was very very concerned about conditioned because he's always written them written reports notifying them of every instance including this. So the bottom line they finally narrowed it down to him and then confronted him. They did there was an investigation. The investigation. Cut into that the release of the photograph was probably. What's -- certainly more in depth and then investigation. Of the crimes that were Kern in the crimes that deputy was reporting. And at some point they did question him about -- -- at -- and another point he is asked to leave. He just doesn't he just doesn't know him that's not that's that's certainly. Not true he's not the type of person that would walk off of his job. He did not walk off of his job. He was. Either spot reported to work on October 30 Wednesday afternoon. Quite honestly he connects me to stately. Because he feared he was going to be arrested he was here and from other deputies that he would be -- You arrested for taking action. He wasn't quite sure nobody's ever nobody ever told him to do but to. Possibly malfeasance that was one of the threats. So regardless. He reported to work and he was turned away Indies and India. The instructions he was given was you cannot return to work until you submit to an interview with -- which is a special operations. This is approximately 615. That night. I contacted us and he the next morning. And was informed that town. He was affect an investigation there are very very. Unclear as to what the allegations for. And I was told that it was an administrative investigation he wasn't entitled to an attorney door his interrogation. I took issue with that and I was told that -- which the legal department and get back to. And a cup until yesterday have never heard. Things have happened since there was -- the newspaper article with his pictures and now he has. Face forward and that people know who you who -- And -- initially did he was told not to come back but now as of yesterday invasive welcome home. And so many words design does that make it might sound. And it certainly concerns of me and him. -- -- publicly accused him of filing a law publicly accused him of abandoned his post. Hand. And now they just seemed pointing back if that was true but I don't think I'd want that type of employee worker from me. Of course it's not true and they know it. Okay we're talking with Eric Kessler who -- the attorney for the whistle blower. At the Orleans parish prison stay with this were gonna continue I'm Angela went -- anyway. We're talking with Eric Kessler who's the attorney for Brian Collins. The man I'm sure you -- on the front page of the paper who is labeled the whistle blower for the Orleans parish prison. Talking up after four years of work there. Think some horrific things which has Eric Kessler has just said he constantly complained about and tried to bring to their attention and and to -- they would do anything and what -- really saying is he would he would say this is what I just saw and they would say okay we'll check into it and nothing was ever done. For the most part yes. And and again those kinds of infractions were everything from. Having phones when they shouldn't to. Beatings rapes. And correct. You know you see inmates which cellphones and had reported. Ended the response was certainly. Not. Adequate if even got one. Same thing about. Narcotics usage that suspected that smell marijuana on a tear the column next four. And assistance and in investigating. And far too often it would get no assistant was always there and when something was done it was always too little too late and and it and it about it and -- realize that's not the way it should be done that's not the way he was trained. But -- sheriff's office but that was a reality. -- a repeat that we have invited -- Gutman on many occasions. And we have invited him specifically for this conversation and non. It's he says he's not gonna do it this time we look forward to that opportunity. So with that he's not here. Perhaps you could say. What you know has been the response of the share to this particular. Situation. The response has been to try and discredit. Deputy Cox. That's the only response I've seen I'm sure that there are here on the consent decree and the monitors. We'll address the problems that -- that we're gonna find my deputy counts. Hopefully I'm sure they will and hopefully things will change but. It takes somebody like deputy columns to to to step forward. And and confirm and verify. These instances and end when he did. You know they try to take it set off for. Right now he is debating he has been told that he can come back as of yesterday but. What is his mindset right now. Well obviously he's he's concerned. We don't know what the motives are. He he knows that. He has been in them. Deputies have have told him look they're out to get you. He has heard his -- years from supervisors at that we will find out who did this it won't be forgotten. You won't have a career in law enforcement when we find out who it is. And that concerns -- concerns me a it's kind of like a fox. Invites and chickens back into -- out when he came in and you wonder. What's gonna happen if he goes back. Did he ever -- to use that there was a sense among other deputies there. Feelings similar to him sort of discussed. Definitely and him and you know but it's a fear of speaking out for for deputies I have I have received phone calls from the deputies regardless egyptians suspect has become public. They have the same fears. And rightfully so after what has publicly been done to deputy counts. Does she feared for his life now now he doesn't com. He he has nothing but praise for his other deputies and and most of most of the other deputies in regard to their feelings and their ability to do the job. But. There's institutional problems that that the limit what they can do communism was one deputy per year. And he is certainly not adequate one deputy cannot control anything that occurs inside themselves and got a call for of the deputies. And -- their response it is is just less than adequate for all kinds of -- The consent decree. To remedy that kind of thing. The consent decrees to remedy. What is termed as unconstitutional. Violations -- constitutional violations in regards to. Two prisoners and in the prison conditions. And and that's what that's designed to do it. I'm sure manpower would be addressed so. Under the consent decree will there be someone who can go -- there on a regular. Daily basis and just monitor. I'm sure that in fact I know the monitors have have toward the prison have. I've spoken to two deputies. Column and have seen conditions firsthand. Deputy columns to my knowledge. And belief is the only deputy that spoke about. The the abuses that -- on not -- nationally by deputies. But but the abuses of of of prisoners' basic constitutional rights and -- Consumer stories you have he has or her really appalling. Well certainly the one that we all remember in the newspaper says that for older man who wanted to go to the bathroom and it would lend them the bathroom. And he had to take things in his own hands which is. Records beyond Third World. In him. And that was his that was his life twelve hours a day for four years you can imagine. The -- takes on not only him but the individuals and he's he's sworn to protect and he took it seriously. When we come back we're gonna talk about the whistle blower laws if there are such laws but what protection does a whistle -- And and certainly if anybody is listening and has a situation in your own workplace where you think things are either illegal or wrong. What actions you can take we'll be right back this is Angela on WL. We're talking with Eric Kessler about John. About being a whistle -- really he has a client that we've talked extensively about who has blown the whistle on the Orleans parish prison. But let's talk more in general we could about whistle blowers. Because it doesn't have to be something with government can be with and what is the criteria. Four for are there any protections from whistle -- There are of their you know individual states have state law they have the federal civil rights laws. And and like. -- to pay an OSHA has has specific whistle blower laws a lot of it's specific to India. The area or that. The government the portion of government. And that done that's affected. And Louisiana as. Generally weak state laws. In this particular instance the consent decree does have a provision it. That come provides for protections for for whistle -- of those provide information about about. Violations of the consent decree and and protections you mean not losing your job. Com it's designed to to hinder that. To you could certainly lose your job if you do something. You know wrong and and -- you claim they use you know if -- being retaliated against you have to prove your case. But unfortunately in a situation like this. You know deputy Collins will -- more likely than not a town you know suffer the consequences and then have to. Have to make it could go forward with the civil action to to -- it. So to make that little clear you're saying. He's in gonna come down hard on him and he says. I'm. More likely than -- That there RD calmed down hard and marry me his. Made his ability to do his job. Probably. Impossible at this point. So oh he will ultimately saying you ruined mine my career. Well. That's I guess that would be in layman's terms that would be it mania First Amendment protections he has. -- protective speech and I was there there's issues that will be will have to look at. Panda you know it is certainly a public interest. That they spoke about so so I think I have some protection under the First Amendment the consent decree and and but it's a shame that this is what it's come to -- when he stood up and did what was what was necessary it was right. For somebody out there who might be in a similar situation and perhaps none as dramatic as this one. But who was trying to build up the guts to say I wanna do the right thing. What what advice would you have for that person. -- Notify. Via. Business that that these are the abuses in and don't keep it to yourself don't go outside notify them give them a chance to to rectify document. -- your your activities. And and and seek the advice of an attorney before. You know you're doing the right thing. And in -- responsible. Employer would would address those concerns at least investigate. And -- and hopefully you know that that would -- and you should give them the opportunity to address that they can't fix it if they don't know about it. Deputy Collins for four years notified them of these these products and response was very lackluster -- at least. And he felt necessary go to someone else. But never once he not -- -- reports open outside that he report to to the sheriff's department. In in a way she broke the law and taking the photograph. If that was the rule he broke the rule but what you're saying is is that everybody -- -- My information is an awarding a warden took a picture of the -- and then. That night with his cellphone -- The deputies turned a cellphone does is autism may sound because that's probably the most reliable means of our. Communication they had it. So anyways. That the wardens and who moved my information knew about it a lot of for the most part. And it's one of those things where. Nothing was done until they didn't pick and choose who they want to do something to. Did your client ever given any thought of just instead of going to the southern poverty law route. Just going to FBI. Not really because what he was always he was reported to the sheriff who has. That the responsibility. For the care and custody and control of the of the prisoners. And end with irresponsibility is a responsibility to do an investigation. Her two to investigate to stop it wasn't any was witnessed an abuse by the guards. He was that. The that the conditions were deplorable. And and very little was being done about it. And he even. It was so wasn't actually criminal acts that he saw as in me and you mean is -- Mason. -- but if you -- prisoners. Who are fighting or there doing things against the law with drugs whatever our rates whenever. That is a lack of control. No doubt so where would that fall under falls under the responsibility of the share. Now we've seen what happens when that responsibility. Isn't lived up to the federal government has stepped. And and and they have -- So hopefully things will can. Stay with this we're talking whistle blowing right to. We're talking with Eric Kessler who has been an attorney for Brian Collins the whistle blower in New Orleans parish prison. So what is the status right now where -- He has been invited. For lack of better term. To report back to work. I certainly take issue with the fact that he ever left port he was told to leave he was told not to return until he submitted to a an interrogation with special operations to group division. Which still hasn't been done because of his constitutional protections of against which. Described as a criminal investigation. The most common in Iraqi the only because it's confused so you still don't come back until you have this investigation. That two of you opted not to do that because. It was a criminal and you thought there was nothing criminal about this one. No -- and he he. The sheriff's office make from allegations and courses again as of citizen. He still has a right remain silent. And not answering questions in that regard. That's certainly what we chose to do so we have. So I haven't believed that that -- allegations are merited -- warranted. But out of an abundance of caution that that's that's the advice that that he received from me -- advice he took. We don't know the status of any investigation. We don't know what. That if there's been any investigations made against -- partner initiated against it this. Supervisors who made those threatening comments that roll call -- -- who who the red ones and and make sure never worked in law enforcement again. Those are openings at that concerns me greatly. In regards to his his return our ability to return and his ability to to to work under the conditions that they've created. And I have no I've yet to receive any answers. In that regard. That the supervisors called people together this is before they knew it was him and just sort of read everybody the riot act look sheriff is mad about this that this photo gun mount. And whoever did this isn't big time trouble that kind of. That riff on how did it. And if we -- -- find out who did it and you know learn learn at what stage -- it would occurred Bonnie while stayed on as -- And a you know you people -- malfeasance. Very very serious. Threats to to all the employees. And they meet and they -- -- he subsequently and initiate an investigation finalist. The that the threat of you'll never be in law enforcement again means that if this is malfeasance in your convicted of that Manuel would never have the opportunity to go back. How -- -- there but other law enforcement agencies. I would I would think that that certainly was part of -- The other part may be that. That. You know institutional type. Belief that mean law enforcement there is a hate. Code of silence. You know way back when there may have been. I think that. That has been shown not to be the case. And in recent history shows that we have police officers routinely. Turn in and -- the police offices. For violations. Testifying in court and I think the sheriff's department believes that they can control that and -- in force. And -- people to cover up crimes that are currently in jail and that didn't work deputy counts. Tell me about these letters. -- again a letter that we received. From a sheriff's department at that insinuate. That he did not report it to raise its work. Place. That's completely incorrect. And it basically says he's encouraged to return to work. He never left work he was forced out he was told not to come back and in news. And and subsequently they have created via an environment where I personally don't believe. It's it's safe for him to work. Prefer from a professional standpoint a personal standpoint it's almost. It's almost he kind of gotta ask yourself just common sense tells you why do they were fighting now want him back to work. What -- his thoughts at this point on. Keeping in law enforcement if not there's someplace to obviously have an interest to. To -- four years ago. Rank and and. He hasn't been this way he knows that he's lived up to is his nose and his obligation. And his responsibilities. And I'm I'm proud to represent I think he's he's not the lesson here. I would I would you know sometimes you skeptical when a guy watching your office and tells you Colombian retaliated against because of this of that -- out to get -- because of did this and I did that and you guys as you said you gotta investigate. And the and you know -- deputy Collins is he's the real the he did -- right thing and you know unfortunately he's he's gonna pay a price from and how this turns out he's got to pay a price and that's it's it's unfortunate. But I hope it doesn't sound like -- think that other deputies policy see this and and and continuing in the footsteps -- that. Deputy -- has its path that he's taken his goal was clearly. Just needs to be cleaned up. Com well of course in the -- he. He tried to -- do his job and he'd he didn't get. What he perceived to be much support. Have overheard other deputies talking. And a restaurant the other day and they know I was but I heard overheard lemon and a there are supportive of an unfortunate when -- said that these -- you know it's it's a BC would have it has happened to. And a that's kind of -- that's kind of what. Public employees. -- -- pressure they're under when they when they go against a government. Stay with us we'll be right back just a very interesting conversation about John. Brian Collins -- man who has the whistle blower against the what he saw at the Orleans parish prison. And when he saw was pretty terrific and this is a story that will continue I appreciate Eric Kessler his attorney being on with this and sort of where do you go from here. -- well we're gonna try and do everything we can today to help deputy -- out of out of this a situation that but he didn't create. But that he brought forward. Don't say this. That -- at the time spent with with Brian Collins. Interviewing him and investigate his claims. He's a remarkable man and it may only Martin's. Report in the times Picayune. Pretty much captures this is essence and who were greater than we can protect his integrity. Went in with -- need to come out -- Well again I appreciate you spending time with us and at any time he he can come on we would love to have him as well and will be following what happens. Thank you so very much thank you the next hour is going to be also very interesting -- to meet a woman who was homeless on crack. Is no longer in is gonna tell us about issues facing homeless women.