St. James Parish President Indicted

09/29/2016

AG Jeff Landry Gets Indictment Against St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel

BATON ROUGE, LA – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has secured an indictment against St. James Parish President Timothy Roussel on six counts of Malfeasance in Office for allegedly defrauding the St. James citizens in excess of $70,000.

“The public should be able to trust that their government works for them in an admirable and respectable way,” added Attorney General Jeff Landry. “My office will not stand for corrupt officials, elected or appointed.”

Following a joint investigation between the offices of Attorney General Jeff Landry and District Attorney Ricky Babin, Mr. Roussel was indicted by a grand jury in St. James Parish. Mr. Roussel’s Director of Operations Blaise Gravois and Assistant Finance Director Ashley Poche were also indicted on corruption charges.

In his capacity as Parish President, Mr. Roussel allegedly authorized the construction of approximately 4500 feet of a natural gas line, a 10,000 unit gas meter, and additional supplies to a private company. He then allegedly authorized parish employees to install said gas line and meter on private property. Additionally, Mr. Roussel allegedly authorized a public employee to arrange the hiring of a private company to drive approximately 24 piles on private property and allowed St. James Parish to issue a check from the parish treasurer to the company for their pile driving work.

Furthermore, Mr. Roussel is accused of authorizing Mr. Gravois to use public employees and public equipment for the removal of a shed from private property, the demolition of a private mobile home on private property, and the removal of a playhouse and debris on a private lot. Mr. Roussel also allegedly authorized the use of public employees and public equipment to enhance and/or improve private property for the sole benefit of its owners.

“We are committed to bringing those who abuse the public’s trust to justice,” concluded Attorney General Jeff Landry. “Our LADOJ will lead in the prosecution of Mr. Roussel, and we will assist in the prosecution of Mr. Gravois.”

Courthouse Gossip: Woodard May Run for Circuit Judgeship

09/27/2016

Courtrooms, besides a place where crimes are tried and civil cases adjudicated, are a great source for political gossip.

One item we picked up last week is that Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) Division A Judge Cynthia Woodard is contemplating a run for a seat on the Louisiana Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Harmon Drew, on the 2nd Circuit since 1998, may retire at the end of his current term in 2018, courthouse sources said. He will be 72 at the end of the term.

If Drew retires, and Woodard gets elected to the circuit seat, that will leave a vacancy on the local court. She was re-elected there without opposition in 2014 to a six-year term. A special election will have to be held to fill out the remaining two years. Woodard has been in the district court seat since 1996.

Local Ruston coffee shop patrons have noted in recent weeks the high visibility of at least one former judge, who is making the rounds and buying donuts for the coffee drinkers.

Bonton Trial Reset for March

09/26/2016

Brandon Bonton’s trial was continued this morning at Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston this morning, and reset for March 20, 2017. The motion was made by Assistant Attorney General Clifford Strider, III, who was standing in for AAG Mike Ruddick.

Bonton is charged with accessory to 2nd degree murder, accessory to burglary, possession of stolen things, theft of a firearm, and possession of controlled dangerous substances. Retired Grambling State University Professor Sue Hashway was found dead in her Paynter Drive home in Ruston in June, 2012, which had also been burgled.

No reason was given for the delay, but the presence in court of two other alleged actors in the crime spree indicate that some type of maneuvering for tactical courtroom advantage is ongoing.

In court also for trial were two individuals – Markeva Daye and Robert Demps – who testified against Cameron Mays in his April, 2016 trial for aggravated kidnapping and rape. That crime was committed earlier in the same week that Hashway’s death occurred, and took place on Robert Street, west of Louisiana Tech University.

Those two trials were also reset to the March date. They are charged with unauthorized use of a debit card, and possession of stolen things.

Daye and Demps, LPNO readers will recall, had arrest warrants issued against them when they failed to show for a February, 2016 hearing.

Standing in for all the defendant’s attorneys was public defender James Buckley.

Bonton’s attorney of record is Robert Noel, Demps is represented by Robert Earle of Farmerville, and Daye is represented by Ruston attorney Forrest Moegle.

Presiding was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.

Bonton Trial Today

09/26/2016

Trial is set this morning at Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston for Brandon Bonton, an alleged accomplice to Brandon Mays, the accused murderer of retired Grambling State University Professor Sue Hashway. Hashway was killed in an apparent home invasion/robbery in June, 2012, in the Cypress Springs/Lakeview neighborhood of Ruston.

Bonton is charged with accessory to 2nd degree murder, accessory to burglary, possession of stolen things, and theft of a firearm.

Last April, Mays was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape, crimes that occurred at a house on Robert Street several days prior to the Hashway death.

Mays is currently serving two life sentences for the kidnapping and rape.

Prosecution is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Mike Ruddick, while Bonton’s defense attorney is Robert Noel of Monroe.

Still unresolved is the matter of another alleged accomplice of Mays, Kevin Owens.

Owens was scheduled to be a prosecution witness, but “dropped of the face of the earth” and couldn’t be located, Ruddick told the court at a February hearing.

Owens has never been charged in either case.

Sumlin Trial Delayed till March

09/23/2016

A frail-looking William Sumlin was in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court this morning in Ruston for a hearing where a defense motion asked that the former Louisiana State Representative’s trial be delayed until next March 20.

Division B Judge Tommy Rogers granted the motion.

Sumlin was arrested last October of indecent behavior with a juvenile. In December, a Grand Jury returned a Bill of Indictment on the charges.

A December 13 hearing for two defense motion was also scheduled.

Sumlin’s attorney, LaValle Salomon, had filed a motion to suppress, and a motion for exculpatory evidence.

Representing the state was First Assistant District Attorney Laurie James.

Sumlin Hearing Tomorrow

09/22/2016

A pre-trial conference for former Louisiana State Representative William Sumlin is scheduled for 9:00 AM tomorrow (Friday, September 23) at Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston.

Sumlin was arrested last October of indecent behavior with a juvenile. In December, a Grand Jury returned a Bill of Indictment on the charges.

Defending Sumlin is Monroe Attorney LaValle Salomon. Prosecuting is Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones.

Trial is set for Monday, September 26.

Ouachita Parish Library Book Sale

09/21/2016

Friends of Ouachita Public Library

BOOK SALE
Friday & Saturday
September 23 & 24
9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.
West Ouachita Branch
188 Highway 546, West Monroe
(1/2 mile north of Cheniere-Drew exit off I-20)

Crooked St Charles DA Update

09/19/2016

Records: Feds weighed racketeering charge against Harry Morel

By Jim Mustian

The U.S. Department of Justice approved but later declined to pursue federal racketeering charges against Harry Morel, the former St. Charles Parish district attorney who admitted this year to soliciting sexual favors from women facing criminal charges, according to FBI records released Monday.

Federal prosecutors had been planning to charge Morel with “at least 30 racketeering acts,” including solicitation of sexual bribes, according to a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Michael Zummer, the FBI’s lead agent on the case.

The presentation, released Monday in response to a public records request, offered several new details about the long-running investigation, including graphic allegations that Morel forced at least two women to perform oral sex on him and groped several others.

But Zummer’s summary of the case, forwarded to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office for consideration of potential state charges, does not explain why the Justice Department ultimately decided to charge Morel with only a single count of obstructing justice.

Morel pleaded guilty to that charge in March and is expected to begin serving a three-year prison term later this month. A racketeering conviction would have subjected him to a prison term of up to 20 years, but prosecutors apparently decided they could not prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt, even though they threatened to charge Morel with racketeering at one point.

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Monday

09/18/2016

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet Monday, September 19, 5:30 PM, Ouachita Parish Courthouse, second floor.

Here is the agenda.

Immediately following the regular meeting, the Finance Committee will meet in the jury conference room adjacent to the large meeting room.

Here is the agenda.

LPPJ Overrules Assessor in One Case, Upholds Others

09/14/2016

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), acting as the parish’s property tax Board of Review, agreed with property owner Bryan (Keith) Huffman, saying that Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor Sheila Bordelon valued his property too high in this year’s quadrennial re-assessment.

We were unable to attend last night’s meeting, but a correspondent relayed to us what took place.

Huffman told the jurors that the properties used to compare against his home were significantly newer than his, and should command a higher price per square foot. He provided several examples to bolster his case, the correspondent told LPNO.

This is the first time we’ve ever heard of a local board of review voting to not uphold a property tax assessment.

Two other property assessments were almost overturned, failing with a 6-6 tie vote. Others received at least one vote to overturn.

It was quite a lengthy process, with the meeting lasting until 9:30 PM. Several property owners showed up to speak at the public hearing.

In other business, the jury cut the library millage to 3.5 mils from 4.62.

The proposed millage rollback listed on the agenda was 3.25, but when Theresa Wyatt (District 1) made the motion, she proposed 3.5, and that was passed on a 11-1 vote.