BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) A federal trial involving a man who was fatally shot while handcuffed has been delayed amid new allegations that a Louisiana sheriff used racial slurs and instructed deputies how to cover up “illegal actions” against arrested suspects.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna agreed Tuesday to postpone the trial involving a lawsuit filed by relatives of Victor White III. The 22-year-old man had his hands cuffed behind his back when he died in the rear of an Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office patrol car in March 2014.
In a court filing Monday, lawyers for White’s family said two former employees of the sheriff’s office recently contacted them with “highly critical and important information” about Sheriff Louis Ackal.
Hanna said Tuesday that he would delay the trial to give Ackal’s lawyer time to question the witnesses. The magistrate said in a court filing that their anticipated testimony is important and could unfairly undermine the family’s case if jurors don’t hear it.
Laurie Segura, who worked as Ackal’s administrative assistant, told the family’s attorneys that she heard the sheriff give coded instructions for writing reports to justify beatings of detainees. Segura also said Ackal referred to black people as “gorillas” and another racial slur, the lawyers said.
Fred Schroeder, a lawyer for Ackal and for a deputy who also is a defendant in the lawsuit, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Wednesday. Ackal didn’t immediately respond to a phone message left with his office, but Major Wendell Raborn said the sheriff’s office doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The other new witness, former sheriff’s deputy Candace Rayburn, contacted White’s father on Jan. 24 and said she “knew of the practice of beating up detainees before they were brought in for booking,” the family’s attorneys wrote.
“She further stated she had heard officers talking about the Victor White III incident,” they added, without elaborating.
In November 2016, a federal jury acquitted Ackal of federal civil rights charges that accused him of ordering the beatings of prisoners and orchestrating a brazen cover-up. Ten deputies pleaded guilty in the case. Before trial, Justice Department prosecutors accused Ackal of making anti-Semitic threats that he apparently directed at one of the prosecutors assigned to the case.
Neither Segura nor Rayburn testified at Ackal’s 2016 trial.