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Commentary: Troy Brown got off easy

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If domestic abuse isn't a bipartisan issue, what is?

Despite two domestic abuse arrests in the last 15 months — and two convictions on misdemeanor charges related to those arrests — state Sen. Troy Brown refused to step down until Thursday, Feb. 16. That's when he acknowledged the charges while casting himself as the victim of vindictive peers. The Louisiana Senate was set to expel him four days later. Brown said he resigned with "profound sadness," but added that his fellow senators "tore down the very fabric of our government" in preparing to kick him out. We suspect the republic will survive.

  Here are the facts: Brown, D-Napoleonville, was arrested twice on charges of abusing two different women — one his wife, the other his "side friend." In both cases, Brown pleaded no contest, effectively conceding the charges against him. His excuses and apologies included (1) claiming a brain injury that prevented him from remembering the first incident, (2) citing the Bible and claiming God's forgiveness, and (3) focusing on the misdemeanor nature of the charges, as if punching a girlfriend and biting his wife were akin to a speeding ticket.

  Last week, all 38 of Brown's colleagues convened as the Senate's Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion. Brown arrived with a lawyer who sought to recast the committee hearing as a trial, demanding evidence and arguing that the Legislature's expulsion criteria were unclear. (The gathering was merely procedural, to decide preliminary matters and determine a hearing schedule.) Brown's attorney asked the 19th Judicial District Court to block the Senate from disciplining him. The judge demurred, and the handwriting was on the wall. A day later, Brown stepped down. It was a classic case of "You can't fire me. I quit."

  State Sens. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, and Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, introduced the expulsion resolution. Most of Brown's Democratic colleagues stopped short of calling for him to resign, though it's hard to imagine they wouldn't eventually have voted to boot him. (State Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, offered a softer measure to suspend him for six weeks.) To their credit, two New Orleans Democratic legislators — Sen. JP Morrell and Rep. Helena Moreno — had called for Brown's ouster since last summer. So had Gov. John Bel Edwards. Shame on other Democrats, because if domestic abuse isn't a bipartisan issue, what is?

  Republicans, meanwhile, have not been covered in glory on the issue of how men treat women. Last week, the Louisiana Family Forum (a right-wing lobby pretending to be a "Christian" group) presented a "family advocate" award to state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, who last year offered a "joke amendment" to set limits on the ages and weights of exotic dancers — on a bill to combat human trafficking. Havard's antics didn't rise to the level of Brown's crimes, but it was ironic to see him getting a "family advocate" laurel.

  In resigning, Brown said, "I think my actions warrant a punishment, but the punishment should be commensurate to what occurred." We agree, but in our opinion, Brown got off easy.


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