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Wise not ashamed of actions that led to Friday’s arrest

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 27, 1998

LAPLACE – St. John Parish District 11 School Board Member Russ Wise wasjailed briefly Friday on a misdemeanor theft charge, following a traffic incident on Airline Highway.

“I am neither embarrassed nor ashamed of what I did,” Wise said.

Lt. Michael Tregre of the St. John Sheriff’s Office said a deputy respondedto a call at the Shell station at Magnolia Drive and Airline Friday at 3:30 p.m. Friday. Once there, a 16-year-old told police a man took his driver’slicense away and told him to have his mother call the man at the school board office.

Wise was contacted and met the officer, where he admitted to having taken the license from the youth. But he refused to turn it over to theinvestigating officer, and after the deputy’s road lieutenant was consulted Wise was told he could either turn over the license or go to jail. Wiseagain refused, and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs.

At the Sherman Walker Correctional Center, Wise was booked on a charge of theft of an item valued at less than $100. He posted $110 bond and wasreleased.

“I may be in politics, but I’m not a crook,” Wise quipped Monday when questioned about the incident.

Wise said he was westbound on Airline, headed to the school board office in Reserve. While traveling in the right lane, he was sandwiched betweentwo vehicles, and he said a car containing four teen-agers swerved dangerously while trying to cut into the right lane.

Eventually, Wise said, as the vehicles neared Magnolia, the car ran the red pickup truck ahead of Wise off the road and almost into a ditch. The car,the pickup and Wise steered into the gas station and the drivers got out of their vehicles.

“I thought he was going to rabbit, so I blocked him,” Wise said. “I was madand I was thinking this kid’s not going to drive another inch without his mama’s permission.”Wise recalled that he approached the vehicle and demanded the male’s driver’s license. The youth surrendered it to him and Wise told him who hewas and where he could be reached. He said once he spoke to the driver’smother, he would return the license to him.

As Wise reached the school board office, the receptionist told him the police dispatcher was on the phone. At the dispatcher’s request, Wisereturned to the scene of the confrontation.

Once there, Deputy Terrell St. Martin informed Wise he didn’t have theright or authority to take someone else’s driver’s license and demanded he hand it over.

“I didn’t take it, he gave it to me,” Wise responded. “I was thinking if Ijust gave it back and the kid went on his way, he would’ve won, laughing at that old, gray-haired galoot foolish enough to stick his nose in.”St. Martin reiterated if Wise didn’t comply, he would be arrested. Wise,who said later he was trying to avoid having the youth charged with anything and preferred to settle it with the youth’s parents, refused.

“This kid could’ve killed people, and nobody seems to care,” Wise commented. The driver of the pickup truck nearly run off the road,meanwhile, had already received an apology from the youth and no charges were pressed against the boy.

Wise was arrested, booked and later released on bond posted by his wife. Acourt date is set Aug. 17.Wise said Monday he finally spoke with the youth’s parents the evening prior and said the mother was angry at first but later calmed down.

The mother, contacted Tuesday, said only, “You don’t take a driver’s license away if you’re not the sheriff.”Wise concluded: “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. I’m not afraid to go before a judge on this.”

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