BR officials plead guilty to bribery charges

POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2009 - 3:39pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:58pm

43-year-old Flitcher Bell and 48-year-old Darrell Johnson told a federal judge they took bribes for dropping cases pending in city court.

Bell, a former senior prosecutor with the city, confirmed he was involved in multiple bribery cases from 2006 until October 2009.

Johnson, a longtime officer with the Baton Rouge Police Department, admitted to taking bribes as far back as 1990.

"It was covert until a couple weeks ago, and at that time we executed a couple search warrants and started interviewing witnesses," said U.S. Attorney David Dugas.

FBI officials say the two year investigation started with a phone call.

"It was a tip. It was a citizen who, fed up with what's going on, wanted to see some changes and makes a call," said Howard Schwartz, an FBI investigator.

That call helped launch "Operation Illegal Motion"--an on-going investigation by law enforcement across the state to take down corrupt public officials.

"Public corruption is something that I think is particularly insidious because it undermines the entire system and ultimately it will undermine the public's confidence in the system...If that happens, then we all pay a price," Dugas said.

Investigators say Bell and Johnson are the tip of the iceberg.

Leonard Jackson, another BRPD officer, is set for arraignment in the case next week.

More charges are expected in the coming weeks.

STATEMENT OF CHIEF LEDUFF ON FEDERAL INVESTIGATION INVOLVING CHARGES AGAINST TWO FORMER POLICE OFFICERS

“We were aware of this investigation from the very beginning and have cooperated fully. When we were informed recently that two of our officers had been accused of illegal activity, I immediately took steps to terminate them. However both of them chose to voluntarily separate themselves from the department before the termination process could be completed.

It is sad anytime our police officers forget what that badge we wear represents. But I have been assured that these are the only two officers involved. It is important to stress that this is an isolated situation and is not systemic.

Most police officers would never participate in, or condone, any such activity. In fact, they’re offended by it because they’ve devoted their lives to fighting against this very sort of conduct.

Our department has repeatedly shown that nothing is more important to us than maintaining the public’s trust and confidence. Our record clearly demonstrates that we have never hesitated to take appropriate action when one of our employees violates that trust. We owe that to the citizens of this community, and we owe it to the 99% our officers who are dedicated, honorable professionals that risk their lives every day standing up against criminal activity.”

Although there is no evidence that any other officers of the Baton Rouge Police Department are involved, there is still an ongoing federal criminal investigation, and therefore we will not have any further comment until it is concluded."