Why isn't former Bossier schools superintendent in federal prison for his drug convictions? — OPINION

People, especially powerful individuals, should be treated like everyone else in our justice system, writes opinion columnist J. Jones

Today, the former superintendent of Bossier Parish public schools got a small tap on the wrist after pleading guilty to federal drug charges.

Scott Smith, 61, of Bossier City was caught red-handed while picking up a DHL package containing diazepam on January 31, 2019.

Sentencing was announced on a Friday when all the sweetheart deals "coincidentally" seem to come. This is a common trick that effectively means less news coverage by seasoned reporters on a story that they hope will be old news by Monday.

But this was not the first time Smith had obtained drugs as he plead guilty to four charges. More than nine hundred capsules and tablets were seized after Smith received the DHL package and police searched his home.

Although Smith was actually sentenced to one year for each of the crimes for which he plead guilty, Magistrate Judge Mark L. Hornsby ordered that the sentences run concurrently.

This means Smith's light slap on the wrist sentence is really just one year of probation.

"When you're guilty, you're just guilty," Smith flippantly told the judge.

After sentencing, Smith's lawyer, former Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche, described the former superintendent as "happy" to a local TV news outlet after his client was sentenced to only one year of probation and a fine.

Yes, you read that right, Smith is happy.

This flies in the face of justice. Someone convicted of serious drug offenses should not be happy.

Moreover, an attorney for someone who gets a slap on the wrist can do even more damage to the public perception of justice when they announce their elite client is "happy" after being sentenced in federal court for serious crimes.

The full quote from former Caddo DA Carmouche was that Smith was "happy that he was able to get a chance to at least be on probation and was not put in a jail cell somewhere."

But Smith should be in a federal jail cell right now, and he shouldn't be happy at all after sentencing.

This leads the public to believe there is a two-tiered justice system — one for the elite and the other for normal men and women.

The charges against Smith were federal. Just yesterday, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana announced a sentence for a non-elite Bossier Parish man who pleaded guilty to methamphetamine possession with intent to distribute.

Eric Charles Means, 33, of Benton was given 26 years and 10 months in federal prison by Chief U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. for his crimes.

How do you think Eric Charles Means' family feels today when they read that Smith is happy about his one year of probation? He plead guilty, too. Why didn't he get a lighter sentence if prosecutors can give one to Smith?

Indeed, what motivation did prosecutors have to offer Wendell Scott Smith a deal that allows him to not serve one day in federal prison for his illegal behavior?

The answer is simple. Superintendent Smith is apparently too elite to place in jail with other criminals who don't have the former Caddo District Attorney to negotiate a sweetheart deal and don't have an enviable Shreveport-Bossier Rolodex.

Before sentencing, Superintendent Smith smugly boasted of the quality of Bossier Parish teachers and students to try and sway the judge. He also told the court how his job now was to care for his elderly father, who was a Navy veteran.

All of that is meaningless here. Smith's sentence should not hinge on facts such as his father being a veteran or that he may or may not have done a good job as head of Bossier schools beginning in 2016.

How do you think this makes mothers in Bossier and Caddo parish feel who lose sons to less serious crimes for years due to minor drug infractions?

Scott Smith belongs in jail.

Throw on the cuffs, slam the jail cell door, toss him a baloney sandwich and show him the toilet in the middle of the room.

That's where Superintendent Smith should be right now — even if it were just for one year.

Since he is apparently so "happy," he is probably going to be dining on steak and laughing about the slap on the wrist he got in court today.

It must be nice to be so elite that you can get out of a significant federal drug sting with only 365 days of probation.

But the only people happy are Superintendent Smith and probably his family.

That's because this light sentence is appalling and dispiriting to the rest of us who believe justice should be blind.

Indeed Smith's tap on the wrist is really a slap in the face to the rest of us.

About the author: J. Jones is a graduate of the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism at the University of Arkansas. His articles have appeared in a few hundred newspapers in the United States, including some of the largest newspapers in America (USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times) and smallest ones while covering state elections as a young reporter. He has been a proud Northeast Texas and Ark-La-Tex resident since his childhood.