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Badge of Dishonor: George D'Artois and his alleged murder plot - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Badge of Dishonor: George D'Artois and his alleged murder plot against Jim Leslie

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George D'Artois arrested (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive) George D'Artois arrested (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive)
Jim Leslie (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive) Jim Leslie (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive)
Jim Leslie's body arrives in Shreveport  (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive) Jim Leslie's body arrives in Shreveport (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive)
Pallbearers carry Leslie's casket to his grave site  (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive) Pallbearers carry Leslie's casket to his grave site (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive)
Reporters outside D'Artois' house before arrest  (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive) Reporters outside D'Artois' house before arrest (Photo credit: LSUS - Shreveport Times archive)
SHREVEPORT, La. -

A former Shreveport Police officer with more than two decades experience, Jere Joiner's new book Badge of Dishonor centers around the 1976 murder of Jim Leslie, allegedly orchestrated by his former boss.

Leslie worked as a Shreveport Times reporter before transitioning into politics, and his death was allegedly ordered by Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner George D'Artois, the top ranking law enforcement official.

First elected in 1962, D'Artois could be ruthless when it came to tamping down the local civil rights activism that flourished in other southern communities.

Related article: Local civil rights leaders look back 50 years

"Before the service was over here, Commissioner D'Artois came into the church with some policeman and drug me out, beat me, and when I appeared to be dead or lifeless, they let me lay on the street," Little Union Baptist Church Pastor Harry Blake remembered.

Badge of Dishonor portrays D'Artois as a friend to gambling interests and a man who routinely abused his power.

"I was there," Joiner said of his time inside D'Artois police department. "I was on the inside when all this was going on."

Some blame the commissioner system for allowing D'Artois too much freedom.

"The mayor didn't hire them, so they didn't really report to the mayor," former Shreveport Times reporter Lynn Stewart said of the commissioner system. "They sort of had their own little fiefdoms, and the commissioner of public safety was one of these."

Stewart was on the Shreveport Times team that exposed D'Artois' alleged abuse of power in a string of articles in the mid-1970s.

"The first lead was there were inappropriate goings on having to do with payments to confidential informants," Stewart said. "[D'Artois] had a ledger, and then he had some sort of disorganized set of papers that he showed us. Different scraps here, there and yore. Sometimes, there would be paper torn in half- receipts- and one would be from one year, and one would be from another year. One would be written in an ink that wasn't even supposed to be manufactured in [that year]. It was pretty easy to prove they were manufactured at the last minute."

Joiner writes of the Shreveport Times reporters saying, "The bogus receipts sharpened reporters' hunger as they tore through city records like starved piranhas, gobbling up anything they thought might connect D'Artois with ill-gotten money."

That search through city records led reporters to their former colleague Jim Leslie, then working as an advertising executive, and two uncashed checks. Leslie told reporters he had worked on D'Artois' election campaign, and when he tried to collect his fees D'Artois tried to illegally pay him with city funds.

"Two completely different worlds clashed," Elliot Stonecipher said of Leslie's honesty against D'Artois' attempts to pay with public funds. "That's how Jim lost his life."

Stonecipher worked in state politics at the same time as Leslie. He remembers a phone call from D'Artois to Leslie hinting at what was to come. D'Artois told Leslie to tell him to cash the check and said he should not testify in the upcoming grand jury. Stonecipher says Leslie refused both demands.

"I think everybody knew at the same moment," Stonecipher said. "He hung up the phone, and he said, '[That] man's going to have me killed.' Nobody said anything, which all these years since, I think that's bothered me as much as anything."

Leslie's prediction came true within months. July 9, 1976, Leslie was returning to a Baton Rouge hotel after lawmakers passed his hard-won Right to Work legislation when a hired gunman- hidden in the parking lot- squeezed the trigger and claimed Leslie's life.

"Leslie never felt the load of buckshot that struck him between the shoulder blades," Joiner writes of the night. "The blast tore through his body, leaving a massive wound the size of a basketball. Leslie spun sideways and was dead when he hit the ground."

"Everybody was devastated over the loss of Jim Leslie," Stewart said of the Shreveport Times newsroom following Leslie's murder. "There certainly was a somber mood there, but there was also a renewed determination, I guess, to make sure we covered cover-ups as best we could."

Stonecipher accompanied Leslie's body back to Shreveport. He says there was never any doubt in his mind that D'Artois was behind the hit even though some wondered if the Right to Work campaign in the state Legislature- which had turned violent- was behind the murder.

From KTBS 3 News Archive: "July 9, Jim Leslie died in Baton Rouge, the result of a gunshot wound. Since then, a statewide investigation has been launched in an effort to determine Leslie's killer. Although police in Baton Rouge are spearheading the effort, a detective told me for now at least the investigation is centered here in the Shreveport area, and that same officer told me that there may be a break in the case before the end of the month."

"There was unprecedented outrage in Shreveport over Leslie's murder," Joiner wrote in the book. "Numerous people, police officers included, speculated that D'Artois was involved, and now his only accuser was dead."

From KTBS 3 News Archive: "The attorneys for George D'Artois have said they believe their client will be freed May the 16th. That's the day of the preliminary hearing. But today the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Department did knot agree with that statement. They say D'Artois will have to stand trial in the killing of Shreveporter Jim Leslie. Speaking about D'Artois, he's in the hospital in Baton Rouge. Action 3 has sent a news team there and reporter Katharine Frazier has the story."

In July 1977, just months after his arrest for ordering Leslie's murder and before any trial, George D'Artois was dead from complications following open heart surgery. The possibility of justice for Jim Leslie gone with him.

Although D'Artois, the man he hired to carry out the murder and any other co-conspirators never faced a judge or jury in this case, Joiner, Stewart and Stonecipher say there were some lasting effects of the D'Artois ordeal.

Most noticeably, the city moved away from using commissioners to the current council system in hopes of breaking up the "fiefdoms" Stewart spoke of.

Stonecipher says Leslie also left a legacy as a political reformer showing that it is possible to run ethical political campaigns in a state often notorious for its corruption.

"There's a good chance people like to put that kind of thing behind them and to move on, pretend that it didn't happen," Joiner said. "It's important to remember that it did happen."

To purchase Badge of Dishonor, visit the book's website.

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