Central Police Chief Will Have to Answer in Court

Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran is in a legal position like no other law enforcement official in the United States or in American history for that matter.

Early in the pandemic, he boldly went into a church to arrest a pastor for the crime of holding church services.  No policeman in history has presumed to do that before.

In fact, you may search the law books of Louisiana, and you will find no such crime as that.  It doesn’t exist.

Now the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that everything that happened to Pastor Tony Spell and his congregation at Life Tabernacle was illegal and unconstitutional.  At the time Chief Corcoran arrested Pastor Spell in church, he held a news conference bragging about his courageous feat and thanking everyone who played a role in it.

Now the Chief must face the legal consequences of his actions.

On May 28, 2020, Rev. Tony Spell and members of the Life Tabernacle filed an affidavit in federal court detailing how their federal civil rights were violated in this case. 

Here are some of the factual allegations made in that affidavit by Pastor Spell against he Chief :

• Cameras were installed at the home of the neighbor across the street and on Entergy poles overlooking the pastor’s house. Chief Corcoran coordinated with the owners of the property to facilitate the surveillance of the pastor and the congregation.

• The Chief came inside the sanctuary and had an officer read Pastor Spell his rights and fingerprint him.  He told the pastor he was not arrested. Then shortly thereafter the Chief held a news conference and said the pastor had been arrested in the church.

•The Chief publicly disparaged Pastor Spell and used contemptuous language in the public media to mock the pastor’s principled stand for Freedom of Religion.

•If he was not arrested, then the Chief made a false statement to the media saying that he was, in an effort to make his legal situation look worse than it was to the public.

•The pastor made constant complaints about the protestor in froont of the church using vile language and gestures at the ladies of the church, but the Chief did nothing.

•On April 24, 2020, Pastor Spell was placed under house arrest by Chief Corcoran and issued an ankle bracelet for “preaching to my assembly.”

•Corcoran advised him that upon exit from his house he would be arrested.

• The Chief and the Sheriff advised the pastor to cease holding church services by threat of or by actual arrest, supposedly to protect the public but while Wal-mart and Winn Dixie were wide open,

• While Pastor Spell was being arrested, no other person in East Baton Rouge Parish or the entire state was arrested.

• All of this harassment was in the context of everything else that the Central police and other law enforcement were doing to the pastor and church, including the following:

• Pastor Spell and his wife were subject to round the clock surveillance by the Central police and other law enforcement agencies, many in unmarked cars so that it was impossible to know who they represented.

• Acts of vandalism were occurring against the church, and law enforcement did nothing.

• The pastor’s phone was tapped and monitored. Every time he sent a text, he would get a message saying “reply text.”  A man called from the Baton Rouge Police headquarters phone number and told him his phone was being tapped.

•Video cameras on utility poles were aimed at his bedroom, pool, and entrance, as well at entrances to the church.

• Local elected officials including the governor and mayor president and the local media were urging people not to go to Life Tabernacle Church, doing irreparable harm.

• Nine members of the congregation were fired from their jobs for attending church, and the pressure from law enforcement on employers for their employees to stay home certainly contributed to the pressure to fire them.

• Chief Corcoran made a false allegation that the pastor attempted to hit a protestor in front of the church.  The judge ordered the arrest based on Corcoran’s word and the judge stated in open court that he did not even look at the video of the alleged assault. 

• The assault charge was used to have the pastor arrested again, locked in an ankle bracelet, confined to his home, forced to pay a bond of $5,100, and forbidden from leaving the state, even to see his grandchildren.

• The DA later dismissed that charge.

• All of these illegal and unconstitutional actions by the Chief caused the pastor and his wife and the members of Life Tabernacle irreparable harm— when in fact the pastor, his wife, and the congregation had done nothing wrong.

That is a summary of the pastor’s affidavit, which the Chief and his lawyers will have to defend against.

As mentioned, the Louisiana Supreme Court has already ruled and that ruling cannot be appealed.  The ruling was that the governor’s stay-at-home orders and the limit on congregation size were illegal and unconstitutional.

It should go without saying that law enforcement officers who boldly violate the clear language of the Constitution have committed a very serious offense and subjected themselves to civil and criminal liability.

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