BENTON, Louisiana (KTBS) — A Bossier City attorney’s personal insurance company has paid the cash value of a taxpayer-owned vehicle he totaled after crashing it into a bayou last year.
State Farm paid the Bossier Parish District Attorney’s office $17,839 on behalf of its insured, H. Lyn Lawrence. Lawrence was out-of-pocket the $500 deductible required by his insurance policy.
Lawrence pleaded no contest in January in Bossier District Court to failure to report an accident. He was fined $100 plus court costs.
With that plea accepted and the appeal deadline passed, records related to the crash became public record and were obtained by KTBS.
Still unanswered, though, is why Lawrence, a private attorney, was driving the D.A’s 2013 Toyota Sequoia. Neither Lawrence nor District Attorney Schuyler Marvin have explained Lawrence’s possession of the SUV.
Neither Lawrence nor Marvin have answered repeated requests for an interview.
Lawrence crashed it into Red Chute Bayou off state Highway 527 at Goathill Road in Elm Grove on the night of Aug. 21. Deputies said the SUV went to the right of a bridge barrier, jumped an embankment that was about 100 feet above Red Chute Bayou and came to rest on its side in the water.
Deputy Blake Kennedy was the first on the scene. When he didn’t get a response from his calls to see if anyone was inside the SUV, he started wading through the waist deep water to check it out but encountered a swift current. He waited on Deputy Jake Brown to arrive and both checked it out.
No one was inside, but Kennedy said he found “numerous floating beer cans and boxes” and two briefcases. The Bossier Fire Department’s swift rescue team arrived on the scene and did a thorough check before determining there were no occupants.
Deputies learned Lawrence might have been at his camp on Sandidge Road. On the carport of the house, a deputy found muddy clothes and shoes – then Lawrence inside.
Shortly after the crash, KTBS received a response to a public records request seeking a list of vehicles owned by the D.A.’s office. The Sequoia, purchased on Dec. 31, 2012, was the most expensive of the fleet, purchased at a cost of $53,331. But neither it nor two others were assigned to employees.
KTBS also was told at the time there were no documents indicating Lawrence had an arrangement to drive one of the vehicles. The D.A.’s office also said there were no documents indicating Lawrence was providing legal services – criminal or civil – for the office.
Under state ethics guidelines, vehicles belonging to government agencies are supposed to be used only for official business and by employees of agencies. State law prohibits the loaning of property of political subdivisions to individuals.
But even though there were no documents explaining why Lawrence was driving a public vehicle, supplemental reports and video obtained by KTBS indicate Lawrence was authorized to do so.
“Lt. Dan Wolff called (Schuyler) Marvin from the DA’s office to inform him of the situation. (Schuyler) said that Lyn Lawrence was assigned the vehicle at the moment,” Deputy Blake Kennedy wrote in his report.
Deputy Jake Brown’s report states: “Lt. Wolff spoke with District Attorney Schuyler Marvin. Lt. Wolff advised me that Marvin told him that Lyn Lawrence was supposed to be the person driving the vehicle and that he let Lawrence drive the vehicle. Lt. Wolff also advised that Marvin told him it was a good chance that Lawrence was probably going to have been drunk.”
According to Wolff’s report, “District Attorney Schuyler Marvin was contacted, and it was relayed to me that Attorney Lynn Lawrence had borrowed that vehicle.”
Wolff’s side of the conversation is recorded on his body cam. Marvin’s voice could only faintly be heard.
But the audio picked up Wolff telling Marvin the first responders had already pulled “some beer cans – all kind of cans” from the SUV.
Marvin told deputies to check Lawrence’s home down the road by Lake Bistineau. The first deputy spots the muddy clothing outside. On his bodycam the deputy can be heard calling for Lawrence. He discovered the door was unlocked so he went inside still calling for Lawrence.
Another man in the house leads deputies to Lawrence, who was passed out in bed.
Deputy: “Hey Mr. Lawrence. How you feeling, partner? You feeling ok man?”
Deputy: “Did you get in an accident earlier?”
Lawrence: “Do what?”
Lawrence said he didn’t want to talk. Deputies told him medics are on the way.
Marvin shows up, too, to talk to Lawrence. Then he tells deputies, “Write him up if you have to.”
A deputy writes Lawrence a ticket for failure to report an accident, as Lawrence starts talking about what happened with Marvin as they stand inside the kitchen of Lawrence’s home.
Lawrence: “I overcorrect and end up going downhill. It’s awful, awful. I know.”
He went on to say how he got out the back window.
Lawrence: “I didn’t kick the window out. It busted out.”
Lawrence: “Current was pretty swift. I knew I had to get to one bank or the other. I laid up there for two hours at least, just waiting, hoping, praying.”
Lawrence said passersby gave him a ride home. By the time deputies got there — more than five hours after Lawrence said he crashed — they say there was no sign that Lawrence was intoxicated and did not test him.
The Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office handled prosecution of Lawrence’s ticket after Marvin recused his office.
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