Carroll football coach Drouzon Quillen is out of jail, but his fight to clear his name has been sidetracked as Carroll Alumni are rallying, meeting and praying for the revelry of its Mardis Gras style homecoming while seemingly ignoring Coach Quillen’s lonely battle.
Quillen’s legal ordeal began when he was incarcerated without bail for a month, only to be released on $5,000 bond last week. The racially charged decision by Franklin Parish District Judge Clay Hamilton to impose a mandatory 45-day jail term for a misdemeanor charge left many puzzled. Misdemeanor offenses typically result in fines rather than imprisonment, leading to questions about the fairness of the justice system.
On September 6, 2023, Judge Hamilton reversed his stance and granted Quillen $5,000 bail. However, Quillen chose to remain in jail to conserve funds raised for his appeal.
The charges stemmed from an altercation in the bleachers during a confrontation between Franklin Parish Cobb, several Carroll coaches, and aggrieved individuals in the Franklin Parish stands. While Carroll’s head coach and another coach accepted plea bargains to misdemeanor charges, Quillen steadfastly refused, fearing that a guilty plea to assaulting a police officer would permanently mar his teaching and coaching career in Louisiana.
Initially, the Carroll alumni rallied to support their coaches, whom they believed were subjected to an unjust legal process. In a large meeting at the Marbles Recreation Center, alumni decried what they described as “Kangaroo Klan Style” justice in Franklin Parish.
However, a significant shift has occurred. The present focus has veered towards the annual Carroll High School homecoming celebration.
Rick Saulsberry, who heads a small group trying to help defend Quillen, said it has become apparent that most alumni are more interested in continuing the revelry of the homecoming festivities than the legal battle facing Coach Quillen.
After the first rally, Franklin Parish prepared for alumni to storm the courthouse for Quillen’s trial. A heavy law enforcement presence of armed state troopers and Franklin Parish deputies surrounded the courtroom for the, but only a mere 12 spectators showed up. Quillen was alone.
Saulsberry and a group of citizens worked behind the scenes to raise $3,500 for Quillen’s appeal. Saulsberry’s efforts were overshadowed by community concerns regarding the homecoming celebration. It took nearly three weeks to raise the necessary funds for Quillen’s appeal, with a final $1,000 donation from Miller Funeral providing the necessary boost.
Saulsberry and others contend that Quillen, an African-American, was unfairly targeted for defending himself against physical attacks by Franklin Parish fans and Sheriff Cobb. The sheriff lied under oath, said Saulsberry claiming that Franklin Parish fans were disciplined and orderly and that Quillen and Carroll’s coaches were the offender.
Saulsberry argues that the incident underscores broader issues of racial bias within the criminal justice system.
The fallout from Quillen’s trial has also cast a shadow over the upcoming football game between Franklin Parish High School and Carroll High School, scheduled for next month. The location and security measures for the game have become subjects of intense debate between officials from both schools, law enforcement, and the Louisiana High School Sports Association.
Franklin Parish High School has expressed concerns about the safety of its players and spectators in light of the convictions of Carroll’s coaches.
In a twist of fate, alumni have called for a massive prayer rally on Thursday, September 28th, at 6 p.m. at the school, hoping for the success of the homecoming celebrations.
Simultaneously, a handful of Quillen supporters will be meeting across the street at the Marbles Recreation Center to strategize ways to help Quillen clear his name and seek justice.
As the community grapples with these conflicting priorities, it remains to be seen how this complex situation will ultimately be resolved.