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Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • Suit against former deputies settled

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  • A civil lawsuit against two former local law enforcement officers, filed in response to a man's arrest by federal authorities, has been settled.
    In September 2011, Shane Montgomery filed suit against then-current Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Office deputy Chris Balsamo and former deputy Jamie Wallis. The suit stemmed from Montgomery's arrest by the FBI in connection with an incident at Beekman Junior High to which Wallis' sons later plead guilty.
    Monroe attorney Charles Kincade, who represented Montgomery, said he is prohibited by court order from discussing specifics of the settlement against Balsamo and Wallis. Initially named as a defendant in the suit, Sheriff Mike Tubbs was dismissed from the suit by Montgomery several months prior to the settlement.
    In November 2007, the MPSO began investigating an incident where students arriving for classes saw a dead raccoon hanging by a noose from a flag pole at the school. The U.S. Department of Justice determined the act was an effort to intimidate black students, who had recently begun attending classes there, and took the lead in the investigation.
    The suit alleged the deputies " … intentionally provided false and/or misleading information to prosecutors and/or investigators, which influenced the decision to prosecute" Montgomery. In September 2010, a federal grand jury indicted Montgomery on four charges – conspiring to commit a hate crime, witness tampering and two counts of lying to investigators. .
    Just over a year after Montgomery's indictment, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ announced that even though Montgomery had initially claimed responsibility for the act that it was dismissing the charges. The same news release stated that Wallis' sons – Brian Robert Wallis and James Lee Wallis Jr. – along with Tony L. Johnson – had been charged with civil rights violations for " … intentionally attempting to intimidate African-American students … " attending the school.
    When the indictment was dismissed, Montgomery disputed the claim that he admitted to being part of the act.
    "(The DOJ) said I initially claimed responsibility," Montgomery told the Enterprise in 2011. "If I'd done that, why did they dismiss the charges against me? It doesn't make any sense."
    The Wallis brothers and Johnson each plead guilty and received prison sentences ranging from five to eight months.
    In 2010, Wallis resigned from his post after migrant farm workers claimed he and two other deputies took items from them, including a bottle of tequila, during a traffic stop.
    Less than two months after Montgomery filed his civil suit, Balsamo resigned after it was determined money used to purchase drugs during investigations was missing. At the time, he was commander of the agency's Drug Enforcement Bureau. Balsamo was charged last month with unauthorized use of a moveable after admitting to a Louisiana State Police investigator he had taken almost $18,000 in cash that was seized during drug investigations.

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