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INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Attorneys say officials 'gaslit' public with falsehoods in Madison Brooks case

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BATON ROUGE — Attorneys representing men charged with raping LSU student Madison Brooks say that in the days after her death, law officers and prosecutors manipulated the public with information that can be refuted by scientific and video evidence.

Their strong statements were made outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse on Tuesday following a hearing to stop the leaks of evidence in the case. Judge Gail Ray signed a protective order that all parties agreed to in order to block further leaks.

Brooks died in January after leaving Reggie's Bar in Tigerland in a car with four men. Prosecutors say two of the men raped her, but three are formally charged with first-degree rape. Evidence obtained by WBRZ last week showed that none of the men's DNA was inside the 19-year-old's body.

Defendant Casen Carver, who drove the group away from Reggie's, stood next to his lawyer after Tuesday's court session. District Attorney Hillar Moore III identified his attorney, Joe Long, as the one who shared a DNA report, autopsy report, and an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office affidavit to the WBRZ Investigative Unit.

"I made no attempt to hide," Long said. "I informed the district attorney that I shared the information with the media, as allowed under 3.6 of our rules of professional responsibility. When you receive adverse publicity from another party you can respond in a limited way and that's what we did."

Long said the release of key evidence in the case came the same week that a national media outlet did a feature profiling the Madison Brooks case.

"My client has been devastated," Long said. "The allegations on an 18-year-old, now 19-year-old, man are sobering. He has a good support system with his family. The media publicity by the civil lawyer does not help going on Fox trashing my client, calling him a murderer and rapist. That does not help."

While the documents leaked to the WBRZ Investigative Unit showed there was no DNA from any of the four suspects inside of Brooks, there was some DNA that matched one of them — Kaivon Washington — on the exterior of her genitals. Washington told detectives he did not have sex with Brooks, but on his way to jail in January he called WBRZ's Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto and said he did have sex with her.

Ron Haley, who represents Washington, said jurors will be called upon to weigh multiple types of evidence.

"You look at the objective evidence first versus the subjective evidence," Haley said. "Any witness that gives testimony is subjective to what their perceptions are. Objective evidence such as DNA trumps whatever subjective evidence is out there. That evening, it was well-documented these underage individuals were drinking at Reggie's. I can chalk it up that he does not have the best recollection of what happened that night."

Haley took things a step further and said public officials were gaslighting the public about the initial story that was told. Psychologists define gaslighting as the deliberate feeding of false information as a form of manipulation and control.

"We have a community that was gaslit, gaslit as to what the alleged allegations were," Haley said. "Made it appear that someone was comatose drunk, brutally gang-raped and thrown on the side of the road. Video evidence shows that's not what happened. Now, scientific evidence shows that's not what happened. That warrant went out anyway despite having evidence to the contrary."

Brooks died after being struck by a vehicle on Burbank Drive.

The district attorney's office had shared information with the defendants' lawyers in a process known as discovery, in which lawyers share the evidence that may come up in the courtroom. Moore's office shared its information in a way that would allow it to track who was accessing it — a method they said is never or seldom seen. Ray stopped the practice.

"It's completely inappropriate," Long said. "It's not going to be allowed, and there will be no read-only discovery in this case."

WBRZ asked Moore for a comment Tuesday, but he declined.

Last week, Moore said he wanted the public to withhold judgement until all the evidence could be presented in a courtroom. He said that his office would not try this case in the media.

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