NEW ORLEANS — Jacques Morial, a New Orleans-based political consultant, recently settled his Jefferson Parish traffic court case after being arrested last year on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Prosecutors never charged the 55-year-old with DWI because he passed a blood alcohol test that was administered by the Kenner Police Department last year.
Morial took advantage of a Louisiana law that allows those accused of misdemeanors to plead guilty and have their convictions set aside.
Morial soon paid $383 to cover a fine and court fees, and his convictions of running a red light and reckless operation of a vehicle were set aside March 17.
But that was not the end of the story.
A month later, Morial filed a federal lawsuit against the Kenner Police Department, alleging that the officer booked him on the DWI count, though he registered a .053 percent on the breathalyzer. The legal limit is 0.08.
According to the suit, Andrew Shea, a Kenner police officer, “knowingly, intentionally, maliciously and falsely manufactured the charge of DWI for the sole purpose of arresting and incarcerating” Morial.
Although he blew below the legal limit, Morial was fingerprinted and booked after being pulled over near Louis Armstrong International Airport.
The suit said Morial spent 11 hours in jail and suffered “severe emotional distress.”
Morial claims in his suit that he was going to the airport to pick up a friend. During the field sobriety test, Morial told the Kenner police officer that he had physical limitations that would make it difficult for him to walk in a straight line. The field sobriety test was then halted.
Morial is the son of former mayor Dutch Morial and the younger brother of former mayor Marc Morial. According to the Times-Picayune, the defense attorney in the traffic case, Patrick Fanning, said Morial was arrested because of his last name.
The lawsuit also claims that the arresting officer was "unable to accept the fact" that Morial was sober.