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Former La. State Police chief accused of cover-up

4th December 2017   ·   0 Comments

Col. Mike Edmonson, the former Louisiana State Police superintendent who announced his retirement earlier this year after news broke of a West Coast trip by state troopers that included unauthorized stops at the Grand Canyon and in Las Vegas, is being accused by the law enforcement agency he once ran of destroying evidence that implicated him in the scandal.

FOX 8 News reported Thursday that a new report by the Louisiana State Police has revealed that Edmonson knew more about the trip than he was willing to admit to the law enforcement agency or the media.

In a Feb. 2017 interview with FOX 8 about the trip to the West Coast to attend a 2016 conference in San Diego, Calif., and in a statement he released later, Edmonson said he learned that four state troopers took that side trip shortly before he showed up for our interview in the French Quarter. The new LSP report refutes that claim.

The report says that it was obvious that Edmonson was aware of the side trip. And smartphone texts and photos, sent from the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam to Edmonson by the wife of one of those troopers, appear to support that claim.

According to FOX 8 News, one of the texts from the troopers to Edmonson reads, “It’s been fun.” Later in the exchange, Edmonson texted, “Y’all better get to San Diego.”

FOX 8 reported back in February that Edmonson likely was aware of the trip because he signed off on it, according to the signature stamp on an internal document about the trip. But Edmonson still denied knowing, and he apparently went to great lengths to cover his tracks.

According to the State Police report, Edmonson purposefully deleted text messages from Trooper Rodney Hyatt’s phone, just days before his resignation as superintendent.

Hyatt said he had text messages between him and Edmonson, exchanged during the side trip. Hyatt told investigators how Edmonson mentioned to him that text messages would stay on his cellphone forever. Edmonson said he would show him, Hyatt said, then the colonel took Hyatt’s cellphone and changed the settings so that any text messages older than 30 days would be deleted.

While Hyatt’s texts were deleted, Hyatt’s wife still had her messages — and State Police included those in their investigative report.

“These recent developments do not come as a surprise to me,” Joel Friedman, a law professor at Tulane Law School who commented in FOX 8’s reporting earlier this year, said last week. “When we initially started an investigation of this, I suggested that this kind of constant effort, which was not the first time, was not likely to have happened without the knowledge of higher-ups in the State Police, including the superintendent. And we even had some evidence at the time that he knew about it from documentation that he had signed.”

Friedman said the allegations against Edmonson could catch the attention of criminal investigators. “By destroying that evidence, as the report suggests, text messages and other things, that’s a potentially criminal problem,” he told FOX 8. “So the fact that he resigned does not necessarily mean the end of the road for Mr. Edmonson, because his actions – if [the investigators] are correct, if he destroyed evidence in an attempt to subvert a criminal investigation — that is a separate crime, for which he could be prosecuted.”

When FOX 8 News learned of this side trip that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, Col. Edmonson acted upset and shocked.

“Unacceptable, isn’t it?” he told FOX 8 News at the time.

However, this new LSP report suggests Edmonson was trying to cover up his knowledge of this trip — a trip that eventually cost him his job.

This article originally published in the December 4, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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