Louisiana Record

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Parish police chief sued for assault, false arrest in incident with bar patrons


By Elizabeth Alt | Dec 19, 2018

New Orleans Civil Rights Attorney WIlliam Most represents plaintiffs suing Golden Meadows Police Chief. | www.cfreedomphotography.com

A video has been released in a civil rights lawsuit against Golden Meadows Police Chief Reggie Pitre, showing the police chief assaulting a man outside of a Louisiana bar in September 2017.  

Lafouche Parish residents Chloe and Jason Cortez filed the lawsuit on Nov. 8.The couple claims the police chief used excessive force and lied to get Jason arrested. The lawsuit alleges counts of unlawful seizure, false arrest, manufacturing false evidence in violation of the Constitution, malicious prosecution, assault and battery, and abuse of process.

“Chief Pitre will be brought to justice for his assault on the Cortez family and for his false statements," Civil Rights lawyer William Most said in a news release. "Louisiana needs to see its public servants held accountable when they break the law.”

in September 2017, Chloe and Jason Cortez went to TK’s Sports Bar in Golden Meadow to see a band with friends. Pitre was at the bar as well, drinking while off duty. According to Pitre, Jason Cortez become more intoxicated throughout the night, and eventually fell into the band’s stage area, knocking over equipment. Pitre identified himself as a police officer and decided to escort Jason out of the bar on his own

Once Pitre and Jason Cortez were outside on the porch of the bar, a large group of patrons attempted to separate the men. The video surveillance shows Pitre pushing aside a customer who tried to separate Pitre from Jason Cortez. The video then shows Pitre punching Jason Cortez on the left side of his face with a closed fist while Jason Cortez was restrained by several bystanders. The video shows Pitre then grabbing Jason Cortez’s wife, Chloe Cortez, by the neck and throwing her down across the porch when Chloe Cortez tried to intervene to help her husband from the assault.

When the police arrived on the scene, Pitre told Assistant Police Chief Findley that Jason Cortez had punched him twice inside the bar and told Findley to arrest Jason Cortez. When Jason Cortez did not comply with the officer’s verbal orders, Findley tased Jason Cortez twice before arresting him.

Findley reviewed the video two weeks later and discovered that the video shows “no point during the interaction inside the bar between Chief Pitre and Mr. Cortez did Mr. Cortez ever hit Chief Pitre.” Findley traveled to the Cortezes' home to personally apologize for arresting Jason Cortez.

The lawsuit alleges that Pitre asked Findley to lie on the report and say that the chief had not been drinking, which the suit claims Findley refused to do. The Lafouche Parish District Attorney ended up dropping all of the charges against Jason Cortez, citing “discrepancies with the evidence.”

The lawsuit also states that "Chief Pitre did something to modify the investigation documents," and claims Findley was demoted in retaliation for refusing to help falsify the report.

Most told The Record there has not been any further information released as to what exactly Pitre did to the documents. Findley has not yet confirmed whether his termination was in retaliation for his alleged refusal to falsify documents.

Pitre, who has been the Golden Meadow Police Chief since 2012, stated in a news release that “the lawsuit’s claims have no merit" and he intends to "vigorously defend these allegations." Most told The Record, “We expect he may maintain that argument. But the video says otherwise. ... Chief Pitre’s violence, dishonesty and corruption has wreaked havoc on Jason and Chloe Cortez’s lives. They have been to the hospital, missed work, and had to borrow money to pay for bail, medical bills and legal costs.”

Pitre and Golden Meadow have yet to formally respond to the suit, although Most told The Record that he has been in contact with Pitre’s lawyers.

The lawsuit is seeking a trial by jury, damages, compensation and attorney’s fees and court costs.

The plaintiffs are represented by William Most of The Law Office of William Most in New Orleans and Jonathan Rhodes of The Rhodes Law Firm in New Orleans.

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