GRAY: The facts on the Perrilloux case

Nathan Fisher, the attorney representing LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, gets more than a little hot under the collar talking about the priorities of LSU fans and the news media when it comes to student athletes.

"We have killings in the streets of New Orleans, substandard schools in Louisiana, a country at war, and all some people care about is who's going to be the next LSU quarterback," Fisher said from his Baton Rouge office. "Not one person has expressed any concern about whether Ryan will be able to complete his education or pursue a professional career in sports."

 

After radio talk shows, sports blogs and chat rooms were filled last week with wildly outrageous rumors and innuendos, Fisher called upon "LSU's rabid fans" to stop saying untrue statements that would only hurt Perrilloux. Fisher's description of the Tiger faithful crawled across the bottom of TV newscasts for two days, further indication that any word uttered about the case by someone involved was now big news.

 

"My focus is on trying to help the young man through whatever situation he may be involved in, and to allow him to continue his education," Fisher said. "Being the LSU quarterback is at best third with me."

 

I talked to Fisher in his office on Saturday morning, where you can usually find him catching up on work and meeting with clients, especially following a week like the last one that found TV cameras camped outside his office and Fisher disclosing few details of his new client.

 

Fisher's management style is to tightly control public statements and concentrate on the facts of the case, evidenced by his quick step to shut down Perrilloux's high school coach from giving any further interviews.

 

I first heard WWL Radio report that LSU had confirmed a federal investigation involving Perrilloux. Later, it was widely reported that the U.S. Attorney's office in New Orleans confirmed he was being investigated, although both have since denied making any such statements. 

 

Regardless of who first leaked information to the press only to deny it later, what we can assume is this:  There seems to be a wide-reaching investigation by federal authorities involving counterfeiting and questions as to whether Ryan Perrilloux may have any involvement. Crimes involving "fits," as phony bills are called on the streets, bring in the Secret Service, giving the investigation an even more ominous tone.

 

Stay tuned to see where this goes, but we do know this: Ryan Perrilloux has in his corner one of the most prominent and effective criminal defense attorneys in Louisiana – one who is no stranger to LSU athletes who find themselves at odds with the law. 

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Nathan Fisher has been a fixture around LSU sports since he was a kid growing up in Baton Rouge. Ironically, he graduated from Ole Miss and Loyola Law School. He is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a "rabid LSU fan." He does, however, love the game.

 

"I know this sounds like Pollyanna, but I really enjoy trying to help these young people," Fisher said. "I've been around sports all my life – as a student manager and trainer at Ole Miss and as someone who enjoys the game." 

 

In his successful criminal defense practice, Fisher has done pro bono work for the past 30 years for students charged with crimes.  Not just athletes, but any student. To do otherwise would put him at odds with the NCAA, and Fisher's expertise is in keeping people out of trouble, not getting into it. 

 

He has successfully represented LSU's Chase Pittman, former football and track star Eddie Kennison, former baseball players Lyle Mouton and Brett Laxton, former football player Robert Davis, former basketball players Wayne Sims and Greg "Cookie Man" Cook, and others.

 

Fisher says cases with student athletes have in common the intense spotlight that publicity puts on the case. "If these events happened to students who were not athletes, you certainly don't have all this notoriety."  

 

"I know it's unrealistic for fans to not be interested in LSU athletes, but for them to spread rumors and innuendos is harmful," Fisher said. "These student-athletes are under the microscope as it is; it just harms the situation to put wrong information into the mix."

 

There is a legal downside to the rumor mill, too, as Fisher explains. Law enforcement agents certainly want to avoid any appearance of favoritism to a high-profile athlete. 

 

"When the airwaves are saturated with wild rumors that aren't true, it can end up causing the athlete to be held to a higher standard than another individual would, making it harder for them to simply get a fair chance," he said.  

 

Fisher says there are people who will seek to engage high-profile student-athletes in bar fights or criminal activity just to challenge them, and the law enforcement response when they are involved often exacerbates the situation even further.

 

"I thought it was wrong that four or five police cars surrounded Chase Pittman's house when he was arrested, a case in which no formal charges were ever brought against him," he related. 

 

Fisher has long advocated using current and retired law enforcement officers for educational programs involving student-athletes, as some college programs have done successfully.

 

"Like some NFL teams, LSU would be well served by using retired law enforcement personnel to mentor and monitor athletes to prevent rabid fans from preying on them," Fisher said. "So many fans want to ingratiate themselves to student-athletes by offering to do things for them.  In some cases, they don't know how to say no."

 

Fishers' son, Ari, was an assistant basketball coach under Coach Dale Brown and won two state championships for his alma mater as the head coach at University High School.  Ari teaches in the LSU Kinesiology Department and sees first hand the enormous pressures on today's student-athletes through those in his classes. He has coached the likes of Collis Temple, III, Garrett Temple and Glen Davis, so between father and son, the Fishers pretty much know the culture and personalities of LSU athletes. 

 

Since September 1, 2005, just three days after Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans, Nathan Fisher has also been representing the family of Ronald Madison, the 40-year-old mentally retarded man killed by New Orleans Police on the Danziger Bridge when he and his brother Lance were seeking shelter from the rising water. In the chaos that ensued, Lance Madison was charged with eight counts of attempted murder of police officers. It was originally reported by the New Orleans police in a press release that Ronald Madison was shot one time as he approached police in a threatening manner. 

 

In a meticulous and relentless investigative process that has become his trademark, Nathan Fisher single-handedly ferreted out the details of that tragic day with no help from reluctant police. When his body of facts was finally presented to a grand jury, Lance Madison was cleared of all charges and seven New Orleans cops were arrested – three for first degree murder, including the death of Ronald Madison, who had seven gunshot wounds in his back.

 

Take heart, rabid Tiger fans, Ryan Perrilloux is in good hands. Be patient and let the facts come forward and decide his fate.

 

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Rannah Gray is a featured columnist in Tiger Rag. Reach her at Rannah@cox.net.


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