No judge has yet determined the fate of a request for a new trial by a man previously sentenced for killing a Sterlington police officer in a vehicular crash after the man raised an objection about a local police chief’s testimony.
Tracy Govan, of Monroe, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June 2018 based on his conviction of vehicular homicide. Govan’s conviction arose from a July 2016 incident where the truck driven by Govan struck Sterlington police officer David Elahi on U.S. Hwy 165 and killed him.
In June, Govan asked the court to consider a motion for a new trial because one of the witnesses – Sterlington Police Chief Barry Bonner – in the case against him had allegedly falsely testified.
“Not long after mover’s conviction an investigation was opened upon and regarding a principle witness in mover’s case,” stated Govan’s motion. “The investigation was regarding evidence that the police chief had testified falsely in mover’s trial. The witness was Police Chief Barry Bonner, of the (Sterlington) Police Department.”
Bonner allegedly provided perjured testimony that could have been used by Govan’s attorney, Louis Scott, of Monroe, to impeach him as a credible witness.
“Based upon evidence which surfaced during the investigation of Chief Bonner it appears that he gave false testimony in a number of areas which could have served as evidence in favor of defendant and could have served as impeachment evidence,” stated Govan’s motion.
During Govan’s trial, Bonner took the witness stand and denied that he pressured Sterlington police officers to issue a certain number of traffic citations, or to maintain a ticket quota. As reported by The Ouachita Citizen, police department documents, audit reports and officer accounts indicated Bonner maintained an illegal ticket quota. Some officers claimed Bonner threatened to harm their careers if they did not comply with the ticket quota.
In Louisiana, state law forbids police departments from instructing, suggesting or implying that law enforcement officers are required or expected to issue a specified number of traffic citations.
In 2018, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew recused his office from handling any possible prosecution of Bonner. A complaint about the ticket quota system also was submitted that year to the state Attorney General’s office.
Govan’s motion for a new trial claimed Bonner lied about videos of the accident, the department’s policy, and events that occurred before and after the incident.
Govan’s motion also identified possible witnesses: Cpl. Adam Arrant with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office; Madeleine Slaughter-Young, assistant attorney general; Michael Hodges, a former Sterlington police officer; as well as auditors and deputy auditors with the state Legislative Auditor’s Office.
“The new evidence regarding the perjury and the allegations herein were not discovered until after trial despite reasonable diligence,” stated the motion.
Tew’s office opposed Govan’s motion for a new trial. In July, the district attorney’s office raised again its objection to Govan’s motion, arguing the motion was not timely and that Scott had ignored the court’s hearing on the matter.
“Counsel for defendant did not appear at the hearing for his motion on July 29, 2019,” stated the district attorney’s motion to dismiss Govan’s request. “Accordingly, the motion should be dismissed according to the provisions of La. Code of Criminal Procedure Article 523. Undersigned counsel attempted to contact counsel for defendant on June 29, 2019, but there was no answer at counsel’s law office.”
Assistant District Attorney Fred McGaha signed the motion to dismiss Govan’s request.