184 So.2d 314 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1966), 6571, Thompson v. St. Amant

Docket Nº:6571.
Citation:184 So.2d 314
Party Name:Herman A. THOMPSON v. Phil A. ST. AMANT.
Case Date:February 28, 1966
Court:Court of Appeals of Louisiana

Page 314

184 So.2d 314 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1966)

Herman A. THOMPSON

v.

Phil A. ST. AMANT.

No. 6571.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit.

February 28, 1966

Rehearing Denied April 4, 1966.

Page 315

R. G. Van Buskirk, Clinton, for appellant.

Robert L. Kleinpeter, of Kantrow, Spaht & Kleinpeter, Baton Rouge, for appellee.

Before ELLIS, LOTTINGER, LANDRY, REID and BAILES, JJ.

REID, Judge.

Plaintiff in this action, Captain Herman A. Thompson of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Department, alleges he was libeled and slandered by the defendant, Phil A. St. Amant, in a television address made by the defendant and a subsequent printed news release prepared by the defendant.

The case was tried on May 5, 1964 and for written reasons assigned May 8, 1964, judgment was rendered against the defendant awarding the plaintiff the sum of $5,000 damages. Judgment was signed May 13, 1964. A motion for a new trial was filed May 18, 1964, and for written reasons assigned January 22, 1965, judgment was signed January 27, 1965 denying the motion for new trial and decreeing the judgment of May 13, 1964 the judgment of the District Court as originally rendered. It is from that judgment that defendant has lodged this appeal.

The undisputed facts of this case show that the defendant, Phil A. St. Amant, had qualified as a candidate for United States Senator against the incumbent, Senator Russell B. Long, in the Democratic Primary of 1962, and on June 27, 1962, the defendant made an appearance on WAFB-TV, Channel 9, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during which certain remarks were made about the plaintiff. The general context of the speech was made available to the press and given wide publicity by the press.

The record shows that the political method used in this particular instance was one so frequently used, that is, to allege certain wrongdoings on the part of one individual or group of individuals and then allege a connection between that individual or group of individuals and a politician. In the present case it was sought to show a connection between Senator Long and one E. G. Partin, local leader of the Teamsters Union who was accused of all sorts of wrongdoings.

Insofar as the record here is concerned, the alleged slanderous and liberlous material is contained in an affidavit by a Mr. J. D. Albin, an ex-member of the Teamsters Union, which was read by the defendant Mr. St. Amant during his television program. It appears that while the television station would be protected from statements made by Mr. St. Amant as a political candidate under the equal time provision of the Rules of the Federal Communications Commission, it would not be protected from

Page 316

statements made by Mr. Albin if those statements were made by St. Amant over the television. For that reason the television station personnel required that the defendant read the entire affidavit, which was in the form of questions and answers. The affidavit by Mr. Albin was most broad in its accusations of various acts of commission and omission on the part of Mr. E. G. Partin, including his being involved or connected with Fidel and Raoul Castro, his misuse of Union funds, and his committing various acts of violence. It barely mentioned Mr. St. Amant's opponent. That portion of the affidavit which plaintiff contends was slanderous is set forth below:

'Mr. Albin: Yes, Frank L. Doughty on March 21st, wrote a letter to Arthur Goldberg with a copy being sent to James R. Hoffa, asking for an investigation of Teamsters Local Union #5. On the 25th, Frank L. Doughty received a reply from James R. Hoffa asking for information, any and all information concerning these charges. On Monday morning, Frank L. Doughty, which was the 27th of March, he mailed this information to Jimmy Hoffa. Later in the day, I found out Ed had, in the letter coming from Hoffa, it said on the bottom of it a notation, copies sent to Teamsters Local Union #5. Now Ed received this copy on Monday. He became pretty riled up about it and in the afternoon, A. G. Kline, who was still working at that time as an assistant and an organizer for Local Teamsters Union #5, told me that Johnny Birch had stopped him on the Airline Highway nand told him Ed wanted him to help him get rid of the safe that night, that there was going to be an investigation of the local union and the records had to be destroyed and it was going to take four men to do it. He told him who all was supposed to be in on it and that they were supposed to take it to Bruce Hunt's shop. That is the man that owns Triple A construction, and cut it open that night, that it had been okayed with Bruce. Kline didn't want to be involved in this so he got his brother in New Orleans to send him a telegram so he could get out and still stay in Ed's good graces, because at this time, we still felt that there was further information that could be derived from his employment in Teamsters #5 and we knew something had to be done if we were ever to straighten out the local union. The only way to straighten it out was the removal of E. G. Partin. Now we knew that this safe was going to be removed that night. Imagine our predicament knowing of Ed's connection with the sheriff's office through Herman Thompson who made recent visits to the hall to see Ed . We also knew of money that had passed hands between Ed and Herman Thompson, from Ed to Herman. We also knew of his connections with State Lieutenant Trooper Joe Green. We knew we couldn't get any help from there and we didn't know how far he was involved in the sheriff's office or the State Police office through that and it was out of the jurisdiction of the City police. (Emphasis by the Court)

'Col. St. Amant: What did you do then?

'Mr. Albin: Well, we rode around awhile trying to decide what to do. Finally, we decided that we would go to the hall ourselves and see if there was any way we could stop them if we saw them coming out with the safe. We arrived a little too late, somewhere in the neighborhood of 9:00, the safe was gone. The next morning there was an investigation. Brother Herman Thompson came out and investigated and I understand that Lieutenant Joe Green showed up. They seemed to think

Page 317

it was a job by a professional. I agree with them.'

The above quoted portion contains the sole reference upon which plaintiff's case is based.

In the Trial Judge's original reasons for judgment and in the briefs filed by counsel for plaintiff and for defendant much jurisprudence is cited and there is a great deal of discussion as to what does or does not constitute actionable libel or slander. However, since the rendition by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of New York Times Company v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686, and in Garrison v. State of Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64, 85 S.Ct. 209, 13 L.Ed.2d 125, most of what was discussed is now moot and of no relevancy.

Before discussing the effects of the above cited decisions on actions of libel and slander in Louisiana, we feel we should point out certain factual matters, some contested and some uncontested, which are relevant to the issues herein and which will determine whether or not the issues in this case fall within the rule laid down by the United States Supreme Court in the recent decisions cited above.

It is undisputed that the plaintiff, Herman A. Thompson, is a well qualified, experienced law enforcement officer, having graduated from the F.B.I. National Academy, Southern Police Institute of Louisville, Kentucky, and is also a graduate of all phases of the Louisiana State University's law enforcement training program and of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Department's own training school. He has the complete confidence of his employer, Sheriff Bryan Clemmons. Sheriff Clemmons testified that it was part of plaintiff's duties to participate in various fundraising drives for East Baton Rouge Parish, including the Baton Rouge Kids' Baseball Clinic, the Mothers' March, March of Dimes, Elk's Christmas Funds Baskets, and others.

The undisputed facts also show that the plaintiff, Herman A. Thompson, was acquained with the said E. G. Partin; that they were on first name basis; and that plaintiff was a frequent visitor to the Union Hall. Captain Thompson admitted this in his testimony:

'Q. Isn't it true that you were a rather frequent visitor at the Union Hall and used to drop in once a week or maybe every ten days:

A. That's right.

Q. To pass the time of day?

A. To pass the time of day and just to talk to the two secretaries, to use the phone and different things like that.'

He also admitted that he collected charitable contributions from Ed Partin for the Baton Rouge Kids' Baseball Clinic.

With regard to the stolen safe referred to in the quoted portion of the affidavit, the plaintiff testified that he investigated the matter with Chief Criminal Deputy George LeBlanc, who made the report, and that the Crime Lab from the State Police also assisted, and he added: 'I will have to admit that there was not as much effort put out as should have been for the simple reason the night before someone had burglarized Food Town of over fifteen thousand dollars and a lot of drugs were involved and it had everyone of us tied up on that.'

Both the plaintiff and Sheriff Clemmons admitted that various members of the Union might be aware that Mr. Partin on occasion gave Mr. Thompson money for some purposes, and while they both insisted that these funds were charitable contributions collected by the plaintiff for the Sheriff's office to be distributed to the proper charities, it is not inconceivable that some union members might have been suspicious of this exchange of funds.

Page 318

Mrs. Marjorie Ann Smith was called as a witness in behalf of the defendant. She had...

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6 practice notes
  • 716 P.2d 168 (Kan. 1986), 57441, Redmond v. Sun Pub. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court of Kansas
    • 28 Marzo 1986
    ...Suburban Life Newspapers, Inc., 84 Ill.App.2d 239, 228 N.E.2d 172 (1967) (a sergeant who was second in command); Thompson v. St. Amant, 184 So.2d 314 (La.App.1966) (a parish police captain and a deputy sheriff); Gilligan v. King, 48 Misc.2d 212, [239 Kan. 34] 264 N.Y.S.2d 309 (1965) (a poli......
  • 362 F.2d 188 (8th Cir. 1966), 18082, Pauling v. Globe-Democrat Pub. Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 21 Junio 1966
    ...and lieutenant of police); Gilligan v. King, 48 Misc.2d 212, 264 N.Y.S.2d 309 (Sup.1965) (police lieutenant); Thompson v. St. Amant, 184 So.2d 314, 321 (La.App.1966) (deputy Page 197 sheriff); McNabb v. Tennessean Newspapers, Inc., Tenn.App., 400 S.W.2d 871 (1965) (chairman of County Democr......
  • 196 So.2d 255 (La. 1967), 48184, Thompson v. St. Amant
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court of Louisiana
    • 20 Febrero 1967
    ...the union to charitable and civic organizations.' I have carefully examined the opinions of the trial judge and the Court of Appeal (see 184 So.2d 314) and find no ruling by either court rejecting the verity of Mrs. Smith's evidence. 3 But, be this as it may, it makes no essential differenc......
  • 390 U.S. 727 (1968), 517, St. Amant v. Thompson
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • 29 Abril 1968
    ...Court of Appeal reversed because the record failed to show that St. Amant had acted with actual malice, as required by New York Times. 184 So.2d 314 (1966). The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the intermediate appellate [88 S.Ct. 1325] court. 250 La. 405, 196 So.2d 255 (1967). In its vi......
  • Free signup to view additional results
6 cases
  • 716 P.2d 168 (Kan. 1986), 57441, Redmond v. Sun Pub. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court of Kansas
    • 28 Marzo 1986
    ...Suburban Life Newspapers, Inc., 84 Ill.App.2d 239, 228 N.E.2d 172 (1967) (a sergeant who was second in command); Thompson v. St. Amant, 184 So.2d 314 (La.App.1966) (a parish police captain and a deputy sheriff); Gilligan v. King, 48 Misc.2d 212, [239 Kan. 34] 264 N.Y.S.2d 309 (1965) (a poli......
  • 362 F.2d 188 (8th Cir. 1966), 18082, Pauling v. Globe-Democrat Pub. Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 21 Junio 1966
    ...and lieutenant of police); Gilligan v. King, 48 Misc.2d 212, 264 N.Y.S.2d 309 (Sup.1965) (police lieutenant); Thompson v. St. Amant, 184 So.2d 314, 321 (La.App.1966) (deputy Page 197 sheriff); McNabb v. Tennessean Newspapers, Inc., Tenn.App., 400 S.W.2d 871 (1965) (chairman of County Democr......
  • 196 So.2d 255 (La. 1967), 48184, Thompson v. St. Amant
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court of Louisiana
    • 20 Febrero 1967
    ...the union to charitable and civic organizations.' I have carefully examined the opinions of the trial judge and the Court of Appeal (see 184 So.2d 314) and find no ruling by either court rejecting the verity of Mrs. Smith's evidence. 3 But, be this as it may, it makes no essential differenc......
  • 390 U.S. 727 (1968), 517, St. Amant v. Thompson
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • 29 Abril 1968
    ...Court of Appeal reversed because the record failed to show that St. Amant had acted with actual malice, as required by New York Times. 184 So.2d 314 (1966). The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the intermediate appellate [88 S.Ct. 1325] court. 250 La. 405, 196 So.2d 255 (1967). In its vi......
  • Free signup to view additional results