Defamation suit brings parish brass to court

When HTV owner Martin Folse went to court in Gretna last week he brought a high-profile entourage.

Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter, District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr. and State Rep. Joe Harrison showed up for a hearing Thursday related to the suit brought against the Houma television station by the owner of a convenience store.

And his lawyer made sure the judge knew it.

“My client is here and I also want to say there are some distinguished officials,” attorney Mary Ellen Roy said, listing Larpenter, Waitz and Harrison.

Legal scholars and local attorneys maintain that the announcement of VIP presence was, at best, “unusual.”

The suit alleges that Folse defamed the Roadrunner convenience store at St. Charles Street and La. Highway 311, and a clerk who worked there, on a segment of his Bayou Time television show.

The segment aired previously broadcast video footage of raids by Larpenter’s drug agents on convenience stores accused of selling artificial marijuana, as well as accusations by Folse – based on information from law enforcement officers – that some convenience stores in Terrebonne Parish with Middle Eastern owners send money to nations with terrorist ties.

During the same broadcast Folse related claims of insults to veterans by a clerk at the Roadrunner store, as told by a Houma neurosurgeon, Dr. Phillip McAllister.

Folse denies the defamation allegation, maintaining that the controversial Nov. 9 broadcast’s content explored matters of public interest protected by his right to free expression.

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