THE INVESTIGATORS: Woman files lawsuit against WBRSO after phone was confiscated for weeks

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:37 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Lori Wright is now taking her legal fight to federal court about a year after she says she was roughed up by deputies in West Baton Rouge. She claims they left bruises on her face and for some reason, took her phone, confiscating it for weeks.

It all happened a year ago outside the Raxx Nightclub in Erwinville. Surveillance video obtained by the 9News Investigators shows her recording her son’s arrest outside the club. He had led police on a chase moments before. While there’s no audio in that video officers can be seen coming up to her at one point. That’s when Wright says things took a turn.

“He told me no, we need your phone. We need your phone now so I was still holding my phone and one of them he just walked up and took the phone right out of my hand,” said Wright.

Wright’s other son also recorded parts of her encounter with officers. In that video, one of the officers can be heard explaining why they were taking the phone.

“She was filming part of the pursuit and we’re going to take her phone as evidence,” one officer said.

At the time, the sheriff’s office said Wright was arrested for obstruction, saying she was interfering with the investigation. The sheriff’s office added that she jerked away from officers and hit one of them in the chest. The video WAFB was able to obtain does not show that incident and her attorney, Ron Haley says that’s because it didn’t happen the way the sheriff’s office claims.

“Absolutely not,” said Haley. “Ms. Wright would be foolish to do such a thing. Ms. Wright was there to check on her son. Ms. Wright was there to record to make sure she had documentation as to what was happening to her son.”

When WAFB’s Scottie Hunter started asking questions about the case, Sheriff Mike Cazes said the phone had been handed over to the Attorney General’s Office so they could download the files. Wright ended up getting her phone back four days after WAFB reached out to the agency about the incident but once the phone was back in her possession, she and her legal team claim the recordings were gone.

“Her first amendment rights were violated when her cell phone was taken and it remains our position that footage of that night was deleted from her phone because it was incriminating for the officers that were there,” said Haley. “You have to hold folks accountable. Officer [Vance] Matranga was not held accountable for this by the sheriff’s department and often times the only remedy that families have to get accountability in cases like this are to go to the civil courts.”

Wright’s attorney calls the situation unacceptable and hopes a federal judge will make it right.

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