A prosecutor who wears a concealed handgun to work, trains with a Sheriff’s task force and conducts searches with law enforcement recently pulled a weapon on another man when he came upon a domestic dispute between the man and his wife. The prosecutor was fired from his previous job for providing a false justification for eight fully automatic rifles in a request to a federal agency. But no one seems much concerned that the line between lawyer and police officer is a little blurry when it comes to to this northern Louisiana prosecutor, least of all his current boss.
Assistant District Attorney Lea Hall was asked to resign from his long-time post at the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office in July 2012 after submitting a request for eight M-16 automatic rifles that contained false information. According to statements made by Hall, he was filling out a request to the Louisiana Federal Property Assistance Agency (LFPAA) when he came to a section asking him to explain his request for the automatic rifles. Unsure of what to write, he called on his colleague Hugo Holland, another assistant district attorney, who drafted a response that Hall then submitted. Holland and Hall said the weapons were needed because,
“This office recently staffed a Special Investigations Section which handles predominantly high profile and dangerous drug offenders. We routinely participate in high-risk surveillance and arrests (sic) activities with the Shreveport Police and Caddo Sheriff, and do not currently have the funds to provide patrol rifles to those involved in these high risk activities.”
The problem with this justification is that it wasn’t true, according to the Caddo Sheriff and Shreveport Police, who refuted the claim that Caddo Assistant District Attorneys “routinely participate in high-risk surveillance and arrests”.
When an investigation was launched by the Louisiana State Inspector General, fingers were pointed and Hall conceded that the form contained “inaccuracies.” Nevertheless, Holland and Hall maintained that the weapons were appropriate for use by Caddo DA investigators and ADAs who “face harm.” The former Shreveport Police detective-turned-investigator at the Caddo DA’s office, Don Ashley, who was the first to blow the whistle on the shady acquisition, disagreed, alleging in a civil lawsuit he later filed against the Caddo DA for wrongful termination that in fact the DA’s office engaged in activities that went “beyond what he believed to be the prosecutorial mission of the district attorney.”
The Inspector General recommended that Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott “consider appropriate measures to ensure the truthfulness and accuracy of all documents that leave the [Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office] in the future.” Once the report was issued, Scott promptly fired Holland and Hall. (Holland is now back at the Caddo DA’s office on a contractual basis.)
Hall was taken in by the Claiborne District Attorney’s office, where he continues to treat his role as extending beyond the prosecution of cases in the courtroom. According to Bienville-Claiborne-Jackson District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, Hall “goes into the field a lot” to assist with investigations, and Claiborne Sheriff Ken Bailey says he can recall at least one occasion where Hall was present during a search, though “he was uncertain of Hall’s role at the scene.”
Vickie Welborn at The Shreveport Times interviewed Hall’s boss, Stewart, who told her that he sees no potential conflict with Hall being involved in the collection of evidence that could later come up in a case for prosecution in his office.
In addition to his time “in the field,” Hall has also begun training with the Sheriff’s task force – perhaps not unlike the weapons training Hall used to engage in with other law enforcement on weekends while an assistant DA in the Caddo office.
When Hall pulled a gun on a co-worker’s husband in the Claiborne DA’s office in February, no one raised an eyebrow. The husband had instigated a domestic dispute at the office, leading Hall to draw his weapon before 911 arrived on the scene – actions Stewart deemed appropriate under the circumstances.
Appropriate, maybe. But what should we make of Hall bringing a gun to work in the first place? When Vickie Welborn investigated how many lawyers carry concealed handguns in district attorneys’ offices in northern Louisiana, it turned out the answer is not many. The District Attorneys of Caddo, Bossier-Webster, and DeSoto Parishes all said their assistant DAs do not carry weapons – even the ones acting as part-time investigators.
Perhaps that’s just what makes Lea Hall unique. He brings more to the table than the average prosecutor – guns, for one thing. His boss, Stewart, certainly values his contribution.
“I have no issues with Lea,” Stewart said. “He’s just been a blessing to our office. He’s a wonderful prosecutor. And, as far as I’m concerned, I have the utmost confidence in his actions.”