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The attorney for a Louisiana judicial candidate calls her arrest this week politically motivated and said Friday that one of the laws she’s accused of breaking didn’t exist at the time of the alleged offense.
Trina Chu, 46, was arrested Tuesday on two felony charges accusing her of sending a friend confidential files in 2018, while she was a law clerk for the chief judge of the state’s 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal. She’s now challenging Judge Jeanette Garrett in a Nov. 3 election for a seat on that court.
“I think this is political shenanigans. I think she’s been treated unfairly,” attorney Charlotte Bordenave said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We’re going to be exploring civil actions against the sheriff’s department.”
The arrest warrant accused Chu of an offense against intellectual property and trespass against state computers, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator said in a news release Tuesday.
The computer trespass law was enacted in 2019. “Louisiana law does not apply retroactively. We’re going to quash that,” Bordenave said.
Trina Chu (Photo: Caddo Correctional Center)
She also said the allegations were investigated thoroughly and both the sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office declined to press charges in July 2019.
District Attorney James Stewart Sr. declined to comment Friday on whether new evidence had been uncovered since then.
The sheriff’s office said Tuesday that the charges were based on “search warrants served to email providers, digital forensic examinations, and in person interviews,” and that Stewart’s office was consulted about the arrest warrant.
The state has 120 days to file formal charges, Bordenave said.
“That’s conveniently after the election,” she said.
Stewart told KTBS-TV on Tuesday that the investigation began long before Chu filed as a candidate. Office shutdowns because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a review of the case by the state attorney general’s office delayed the arrest, he said.
Chu is free on $20,000 bond.
She is accused of copying documents to a portable drive and sending them to her friend Hanh Williams from her personal email account in July 2018. At the time, three judges were considering Williams’ appeal from a district court’s ruling against her. The judge for whom Chu worked, Henry Brown, had been in a long-term relationship with Williams and had stepped aside from the case, KTBS-TV reported.
In August 2018, the 2nd Circuit upheld a state district court jury’s verdict that Williams owed $460,605 to the estate of a Caddo Parish man to whom she had been a financial adviser and who had named her executor of his will.
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