April 23, 2021
BATON ROUGE - As the handling of evidence continues to be the focus of an internal criminal investigation at Baton Rouge Police, new video obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit captures an officer at the center of the inquiry violently handling evidence in a drug case.
Officer Jason Acree has been arrested twice as part of the ongoing probe at BRPD.
In the video released to WBRZ Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto, Acree is seen throwing around a safe in an effort to crack the box open to get access. The video is from a 2018 drug case where a suspect was later arrested and convicted.
While the case is not being questioned, legal experts are concerned with Acree's handling of the evidence.
Acree is seen in the video slamming the safe into the sidewalk eight times until the top cracks open. Court records show he documented $5,860 inside the safe.
Attorney Franz Borghardt is a former prosecutor. He is familiar with Acree and has been following the investigation within the Baton Rouge Police Narcotics Division.
The investigation and concern over the squad's actions recently led to the dismissals of 640 drug charges against defendants.
"We don't destroy potential evidence to seize evidence," Borghardt said. "You don't have the right to destroy property as police. You have the right to search and seize property."
Acree was arrested twice this year for allegations of corruption while he worked in the narcotics division. It all started when his colleague, Jeremiah Ardoin, was arrested for possession of stolen things in December. He cooperated with investigators which led to Acree's arrest for stealing drugs out of the evidence room. As investigators continued looking into the case, Acree was arrested again recently for obstruction of justice.
"Thank goodness there was a surveillance camera that caught this," Borghardt said. "I have been doing this for about 15 years and I have never seen an officer destroy property like that for the sake of destruction."
This year, District Attorney Hillar Moore dismissed 640 drug charges against defendants with pending cases where Acree and Ardoin were involved. Moore said finding out how far back to go is challenging because it's unclear when the corruption first began.
Borghardt said with time-stamped evidence of Acree not following procedures in 2018, it's clear that his actions need to be reviewed years earlier.
"I think you have to look back all the way when he started and look at when he started in narcotics," Borghardt said.
Baton Rouge Police said the video is concerning and it is under investigation.
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