Sorrento: The Amanda Bynes of Small-Town Louisiana

From The PublisherPer capita, the town of Sorrento seemingly has garnered more headlines in the last couple years than any other municipality in Louisiana. Or in the country, for that matter. And to the best of my recollection, none of the stories were positive.

I guess all these recall petitions mean Sorrento residents are tired of its council’s meetings resembling episodes of Judge Mathis.

Sure, Port Allen was something of an attention whore for most of 2013, but all the news about the Gateway to the World revolved around former Mayor Deedy Slaughter and the effort to recall her. Sorrento’s woes, on the other hand, are varied and involve practically everyone in any sort of public service or leadership position there.

For instance, not only was a petition to recall Sorrento Mayor Mike Lambert filed last month, but just two days prior, a separate group of residents filed a petition to recall Councilman Randy Anny.

According to The Advocate, the latter group, consisting of Doris Lee and Ivan Bernuchaux, said Anny “was contentious in meetings and stopped the mayor and council from moving forward on town business.”

Of course Sorrento's Town Hall would be decked in brown faux wood paneling.
Of course Sorrento’s Town Hall would be decked out in brown faux wood paneling.

“Contentious in meetings”? What a coincidence! The target of the other recall effort, Mayor Lambert, walked out of a special meeting with the Town Council last month, but not before reportedly calling Anny and members of the attending public “stupid,” as well as cursing council members Don Schexnaydre and Patti Poche.

I guess all these recall petitions mean Sorrento residents are tired of its council’s meetings resembling episodes of Judge Mathis.

Then there’s the drama queen of the bunch: the Sorrento Police Department, or at least what’s left of it. As of a month ago, three of Chief Earl Theriot Jr.’s five police officers had resigned and a fourth was out on worker’s compensation, effectively leaving Chief Theriot and Assistant Chief Ricky Smith alone in a literal case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

Why have Theriot and Smith been abandoned and relegated to desk jockey duty? Because the department’s liability coverage provider dropped it earlier last month, citing the department’s excessive number of claims. The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has been patrolling the town since the local yokels were mothballed.

So what kind of excessive claims was Risk Management, the department’s insurance company, tired of paying for? In a word: misconduct.

In 2008, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns filed suit in federal court alleging she was beaten by a Sorrento cop during her DWI arrest.

Officer Corey Brine was let go for Tazing a Louisiana Technical College student after the student asked to ride the lightning.

In 2012, two Sorrento cops were dismissed for misconduct. Assistant Chief Billy Ballard was terminated for unspecified reasons, while Officer Corey Brine was let go for Tazing a Louisiana Technical College student after the student asked to ride the lightning.

The annual Sorrento Boucherie Festival may not have been held since 2010, but the town's police department has provided plenty of roasted pigs in the interim.
The annual Sorrento Boucherie Festival may not have been held since 2010, but the town’s Police Department has provided plenty of roasted pigs in the interim.

Earlier this year, Officer James Bell was deemed at fault by Louisiana State Police in a traffic accident on Airline Highway when he was driving over 100 mph. A subsequent investigation revealed Bell drove his vehicle over 75 mph a total of 737 times in a two-month period. That’s a lot of emergency doughnut runs! (Had to be done.)

Then there’s Theriot, whom two African-American officers accused of racial discrimination late last year. At that same time, Officer Cathy Gil accused Theriot of sexually harassing her by texting a lewd picture to her phone. Gil eventually received a $105,000 settlement for her troubles.

In other words, at one point, more than half of Chief Theriot’s force threatened to file suit against him for either racial discrimination or sexual harassment.

Let that sink in. A majority of Sorrento cops were on the verge of suing the chief for being an asshole/scumbag. And Risk Management apparently was tired of paying to defend Theriot’s ostensible assholishness/scumbaggery.

But wait! There’s more! Theriot hasn’t only allegedly harassed his subordinates. He’s also apparently done the same to members of the public he swore to protect and serve.

Late last month, Joseph Keith and Mary Blum Melancon, of Sorrento, filed a lawsuit claiming Chief Theriot tried to conduct an illegal, warrantless search of their home based on a bogus zoning violation in late 2012, all because he had a personal and political vendetta against the couple.

The suit says the incident occurred days after Gil lodged her sexual harassment claim against Theriot and only months before the chief’s re-election. While Theriot reportedly already had a long-standing personal dispute with Melancon (I can’t imagine anyone not getting along with such a likable law enforcement official), the suit states the chief was harassing and intimidating anyone he believed was sympathetic to or politically aligned with Gil.

A majority of Sorrento cops were on the verge of suing the chief for being an asshole/scumbag.

On the day of the incident in question, Gil had been seen talking to the Melancons, which of course meant they were conspiring against Theriot, or at least that’s what the suit implies regarding Theriot’s motivation.

Theriot then accused the couple of an egregious zoning violation: allowing their backyard storage shed to be used as living quarters, because storage sheds are like greenhouses for budding violent criminals.

By the way, the zoning violation accusation was based on a fabricated anonymous tip, according to the suit.

Anonymous? I’m pretty sure the tipster was named Smearl Smeriot.

Sorrento Chief of Police, Constitutional scholar, and Dapper Dan man Earl Theriot, Jr.
Sorrento Chief of Police, constitutional scholar, and Dapper Dan man Earl Theriot Jr.

The suit goes on to claim that the constitutionally erudite Theriot ordered Gil to enter the Melancons’ home without a warrant, because the chief doesn’t care for warrants. In fact, word is, whenever Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” comes on, Theriot beats the shit out of the radio with his billy club.

After the Melancons refused Gil access sans warrant, Theriot reportedly emerged from hiding down the street, where he probably was killing time looking up more dirty pictures to text to his female underlings.

When the couple refused him entry on the same grounds, Theriot purportedly berated them and had to be held back by other officers from storming into the residence after declaring he “was about to invade the home and search it precisely as demanded – ‘whether you like it or not!'”

I know this sounds so ridiculous that it HAS to be complete bullshit, right? I mean, no duly elected police chief in America would actually behave so brazenly and say such cartoonishly obtuse things. Right?

Well, bear in mind that an unnamed elected councilman was on hand for the shenanigans and tried to intervene.

Ultimately, the suit asserts, Theriot ordered Gil to issue a citation, left the premises, later altered Gil’s report on the incident to make it more favorable to him, and eventually dropped the citation a few weeks later.

Did I mention that Theriot – having no patrol officers, no liability insurance, and no shame – has vowed to stay on as Sorrento’s chief of police until his term ends in 2017, or until the department is mercifully and totally put out of its (and Sorrento’s residents’) misery, whichever comes first?

Whenever Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” comes on, Police Chief Earl Theriot beats the shit out of the radio with his billy club.

Incidentally, not only has the Sorrento Town Council seriously discussed completely eliminating the police department, but there also have been serious suggestions that the severely dysfunctional town itself should be dissolved. Then again, if Sorrento goes away, who would St. Amant have to make fun of?

Or is Amanda Bynes the Sorrento of former child stars?
Or is Amanda Bynes the Sorrento of former child stars?

Sorrento really is the Amanda Bynes of small-town Louisiana. Just like the notoriously troubled D-list actress, most people had never heard of Sorrento until it started making headlines for being a complete train wreck.

And even if some folks had heard of it before, they most likely only knew it as “that exit you take to get to the Sunshine Bridge.” Similarly, before 2012, I only knew Bynes as “that marginally hot chick on that show I never watch.”

Plus, after Risk Management dropped the Sorrento Police Department’s liability coverage, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley initially offered to provide protection for the last six weeks of 2013 at a cost of $37,521, but later came back to the council and said he’d do it at no charge.

That’s a slick move by Sheriff Wiley. All drug dealers know the first one is free. Even though she undoubtedly had plenty of acting money to buy drugs, I’m sure Bynes began her infamous drug habits with a freebie, too.

Wiley is … well, wily. He’s giving away six weeks of primo law enforcement protection. The REALLY good shit. You know, the kind of stuff that’s so good it makes you almost forget you’re in Sorrento? Yeah, that stuff.

He’s been giving it away to the people of Sorrento for nearly six weeks. And now that they’re about hooked on police protection that makes them feel good – as opposed to whatever crap that asshole/scumbag they elected was giving them – they’re probably willing to pay top dollar to keep feeling good. In short, Sorrento is most likely now an addict with a very expensive habit.

Finally, when Amanda Bynes began to spectacularly flush her life and career down the crapper, it was entertaining … for a while. At first, people couldn’t wait to find out what idiotic thing she’d say or do to top her most recent stupid thing she’d said or done. Then it just became pathetic, and we just wanted her to either get her act together or fade into oblivion.

Well, Sorrento, you’ve provided a lot of laughs with your outrageous antics over the last couple years, but now it’s just sad. So either get your shit together or go away.RedShtick-Top-ColumnStop

About Jeremy White

Jeremy White
Jeremy White is an engineer by education, but a smartass by birth. He managed to overcome the obstacles presented by his technical background, and has brilliantly devised a way to make a living making fun of people.

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