As a lawyer and a citizen, I firmly believe in the notion that someone charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That’s one of the foundation stones of the rule of law.
There’s another rule, however, when it comes to the court of public opinion: Those who make our laws are held to higher standards of conduct than those they govern.
Which brings us to state Sen. Troy Brown, a Democrat from (cough, cough) Napoleonville. At least, that’s Brown’s official story. In truth, Brown does not reside in the Senate district he represents. He instead lives with his wife in a posh home at 36518 S. Francine Circle, in Geismar, outside his district.
When he qualified to represent Senate District 2 in 2011 and again in 2015, Brown listed his domicile as a plain duplex that he owns at 5806 La. 308, in Napoleonville, which is in the district.
People who know Brown — including his wife — say he lives at his Geismar estate. He gave that as his address when he was arrested last November 28 in New Orleans on a charge of misdemeanor domestic abuse battery. Police said Brown allegedly punched a woman (who identified herself as his girlfriend of more than 10 years) in the eye.
Brown’s Geismar home is also where he was physically arrested — again — for domestic abuse battery on July 17. This time the victim was his wife Toni, who told police he bit her after an argument. Toni Brown, coincidentally, is registered to vote at the Geismar residence. Troy Brown is registered in neighboring Assumption Parish.
Brown’s legal troubles raise two thorny issues — his domicile, to which he swore under oath when qualifying for office, and two
charges of domestic abuse in less than eight months.
In a court of law, Brown is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the court of public opinion, he gets no such presumption — not after fudging on his domicile (which is not the same, legally, as a residence but voters are entitled to be represented by someone who actually lives where they live) — and not after a second accusation of domestic abuse violence in such a short period of time. One arrest is troubling; two is a pattern — especially with different victims in different jurisdictions.
After his first arrest, Senate President John Alario stripped Brown of his key committee assignments. Now, other elected officials are calling for him to resign. They include Gov. John Bel Edwards, Sen. JP Morrell and Rep. Helena Moreno — all Democrats and all staunch promoters of Louisiana’s tougher domestic violence standards.
Brown refuses to do the honorable thing, but the chorus against him is likely to grow louder. If he doesn’t resign — and he should — the Senate should expel him for living outside his district. That may be the political equivalent of nailing Al Capone on tax evasion, but if that’s what it takes to get Brown out of the Senate, justice will have been served.