Former LPD cop canned in 2011 loses appeal

by Walter Pierce

In a separate decision the 3rd Circuit ruled Uletom Hewitt will not have to pay the attorneys’ fees for LCG and the Civil Service Board whom he sued.

Uletom Hewitt had a bad year in 2011. Then an officer with the Lafayette Police Department, Hewitt was suspended three times in 2011 — in March and twice in August, with the third suspension resulting in his termination from the department.

He repeatedly appealed those suspensions to the Lafayette Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board and to district court, all of which upheld his suspensions and termination. In a group of decisions released Wednesday, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal agreed.

According to court documents, Hewitt’s first suspension stemmed from a December 2010 incident when he was working off-duty security at Dillard’s Department Store at the Mall of Acadiana and repeatedly tried, despite a superior’s commands to the contrary, to evacuate the mall due a suspicious package outside the mall, alarming customers and mall employees. His second suspension arose from numerous disciplinary measures the department took to get him to comply with regulations regarding dash-cam video operation and uploading. The cause of the third suspension has not been identified in the court record.

Hewitt’s appeal process was delayed beginning in 2013 when he joined eight other officers in filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department and former Chief Jim Craft alleging widespread corruption and retribution against officers who spoke out. That so-called “Serpico suit” against the department and Craft came to a screeching and, for the attorneys representing the officers, humiliating halt in 2014 when federal Judge Richard Haik dismissed the officers’ claims.

As The IND reported at the time:

According to several sources who witnessed the hearing, the situation got off to a bad start from the very beginning thanks to [one plaintiff attorney’s] late arrival, which prompted a stern rebuke from Haik who made the Baton Rouge attorney sit with the rest of the onlookers away from his partners and clients at the counsel table. And it only worsened from there, with Haik going through every deposition, reading every word and looking over every claim made by the lawsuit, putting Spring and the Alexander brothers under the microscope to prove the facts of their case.

They did just the opposite.

“It was an absolute embarrassment,” says one source who witnessed Thursday’s hearing but spoke on the condition of anonymity.

For all six of the remaining plaintiffs in the case — including Kane Marceaux, Scott Poiencot, Greg Cormier, Gabe Thompson, Nolvey Stelly and Uletom Hewitt — Haik went one by one, listing the allegations made by each and demanding proof from their attorneys. For each of their six clients, [the attorneys] were left nearly speechless, and with no facts in hand to prove their claims of corruption, Haik’s response for each of the six was the same: Case dismissed.

One bright note for Hewitt: The appeals court reversed a lower court ruling ordering him to pay the attorneys’ fees for LCG and the Civil Service Board.