Investigation Demanded Into Plea Deal Overseen by Ouachita Citizen Case Judge

05/21/2015

The Greater New Orleans area Metropolitan Crime Commission is requesting Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell investigate a plea deal in a case that was heard by the same Judge who is now presiding over a lawsuit by judges of the Fourth Judicial (Ouachita, Morehouse Parishes) against The Ouachita Citizen newspaper.

From The (New Orleans) Times Picayune – 5/21/15

Did Shelley Dufresne get special treatment? Crime commission thinks so

A watchdog group is asking for a probe on whether former Destrehan High School teacher Shelley Dufresne, who admitted to having sex with a 16-year-old student, received preferential treatment that led to a lighter sentence because her father is a sitting district judge.

Crime Commission president Rafael Goyeneche III wrote that it appears Dufresne was given preferential treatment because the day after she publicly pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obscenity in open court, she was allowed to privately plead guilty to a misdemeanor during a hearing held in ad hoc Judge Anne Simon’s chamber at the Hahnville courthouse.

“The actions and omissions of D.A. Joel Chaisson, who was present during both guilty pleas, creates the appearance that preferential treatment and political considerations took precedence over the law,” the Commission’s letter states.

“Ms. Dufresne’s April 10th misdemeanor guilty plea occurred during a court session that was shrouded from the public in judicial chambers which infers an intent by D.A. Chaisson to conceal these proceedings from the public.”

See here the Commission’s letter to AG Caldwell.

See here District Attorney Joel Chaisson’s subsequent press release.

From The (New Orleans) Advocate – 5/21/15

Destrehan teacher sex plea deal at center of Crime Commission’s request to probe St. Charles district attorney

The Metropolitan Crime Commission is asking the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel Chaisson II gave preferential treatment to a former Destrehan High School teacher who accepted a plea deal that allowed her to avoid prison or registering as a sex offender, despite admitting that she had sex with a 16-year-old student.

MCC President Rafael Goyeneche said Chaisson improperly changed the terms of the deal after the fact to defendant Shelley Dufresne’s benefit. Goyeneche also said Chaisson should have recused his office, as all three of the judges on the St. Charles Parish bench — including Dufresne’s father, Emile St. Pierre — did.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Goyeneche said Chaisson “mishandled” the case, and he called for “an investigation by an impartial, external agency to ascertain if any criminal violations have been committed.”

It is notable that prior to the Tuesday morning hearing in the case 4th JD Judges v The Ouachita Citizen, Simon summoned all the attorneys of the case into a ten minute closed-door “meeting” out of the public view and hearing.

Teacher/Student Sex Judge Now Overseeing Ouachita Newspaper Lawsuit

05/20/2015

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Anne Simon, a retired New Iberia Judge that is now presiding over a lawsuit filed against the Ouchita Citizen by the judges of the Fourth Judical (Ouachita, Morehouse Parishes) District, earlier this year handled a high-profile case in St. Charles Parish, where two female Destrehan High School teachers allegedly engaged in group sex with a 16 year old male student.

One of the two, Shelly Dufresne, admitted guilt and received a plea deal which was vociferously criticized.

Dufresne is the daughter of a St. Charles Parish Judge, Emile St. Pierre.

From The (New Orleans) Times Picayune – 10/9/2014


Destrehan teacher Shelley Dufresne, accused of having sex with student, gets new trial judge

The state Supreme Court has appointed a retired judge from New Iberia to the case of Shelley Dufresne, a Destrehan High School teacher accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student. All three judges in St. Charles Parish had recused themselves.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court tapped Anne Lennan Simon of the 16th Judicial District Court for Iberia, St. Mary and St. Martin parishes.

From The (New Orleans) Times Picayune – 4/9/2015

Destrehan High teacher Shelley Dufresne admits sex with student

Former Destrehan High School teacher Shelley Dufresne pleaded guilty to obscenity Thursday, April 9, admitting in court that she had sex with a 16-year-old student. The plea lets her and the student avoid a public trial, and allows her to bypass registering as a sex offender and serving three years in prison.

The 4 special probation rules facing ex-teacher Shelley Dufresne

No contact “whatsoever” with the victim or his family — The student, now 17, is identified in court records by the initials C.P. “Defendant will not utilize any form of social media to contact or comment on the victim or his family,” Simon said.
Forfeit teaching certificate — Dufresne taught English at Destrehan High for about a decade. She resigned Sept. 30, a school system spokeswoman said. That is the day that St. Charles Parish sheriff’s deputies booked her with carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Simon said she must “immediately forfeit” her license to teach.
Employment restrictions — Simon told Dufresne she may not take any job in which she “would hold a position of authority over any person under the age of 18.”
Mandatory mental health treatment — Dufresne was ordered to a 90-day stay in a court-approved, in-patient mental health treatment program, in lieu of jail. She must complete the program by Aug. 31, or on Sept. 1 she will be sent to the parish jail, Simon said. Dufresne will not be allowed to leave the mental health facility without written approval of the court, Simon said.

Among the criticism of the deal was this editorial in The (New Orleans) Times Picayune, 4/13/15:

Smiling former Destrehan teacher ought to be on state’s sex-offender list: Jarvis DeBerry

You probably thought Shelley Dufresne, a former teacher at Destrehan High, got off easy when a judge gave her probation for having sex with one of her students. Apparently, Dufresne thinks the same. Hours after the 32-year-old mother of three pleaded guilty Thursday to sex with the 16-year-old she posted a smiling selfie of herself on Instagram.

Her caption: “My mood today.”

People who were already dyspeptic over Dufresne’s light sentence must have been sickened even more by her revelation of her mood. Dufresne just couldn’t be satisfied with mercy. She had to flaunt the fact that she won’t be going to prison and provoke those who believe that’s where she ought to be.

See here the complete Times Picayune archive on the case.

And now this same judge is adjudicating a case where judges in Ouachita Parish have sued the Ouachita Citizen newspaper, owned by Sammy Hannah, Jr. The Citizen had filed public records requests with the court, and the judges disputed the requests, claiming they involved “personnel matters.”

Good luck on getting a fair shake, Sammy. You’ll need it.

Judges Admit Dox are Public Records in Suit Against Newspaper

05/19/2015

Attorneys representing the judges of the Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita Parishes) District Court stipulated in court this morning that documents in possession of the court are indeed public records, as defined by Louisiana’s Public Records law, LA RS 44. However, Monroe Attorney Jon Guice, said that as the documents in question may involve sensitive personnel issues, they are not subject to disclosure.

At issue is whether 4th JD Court Clerk Allyson Campbell destroyed or otherwise mishandled public records, and whether there was a coverup to conceal the facts. When Ouachita Citizen Reporter Johnny Gunter filed a public records request for documents that might shed light on Campbell’s involvement , he was rebuffed.

One of Gunter’s specific requests was for:

Any sworn/notarized or unsworn document filed by Monroe attorney Cody Rials at the request of Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning concerning missing files or the destruction of court records by Ms. Campbell.

In March, Citizen Publisher Sam Hannah, Jr. filed a criminal complaint with 4th JD District Attorney Jerry Jones.

The court retaliated against Hannah by suing the newspaper, claiming a privacy exception.

See here the documents.

This morning’s arguments centered on whether Campbell is a public figure as defined by law, and to how much privacy she was entitled.

In fact, Campbell is a contributor to The (Monroe, LA) News Star, and writes a weekly gossip column for that newspaper.

The Citizen’s New Orleans Attorney, Scott Sternberg, argued that in cases of possible public malfeasance, privacy expectations of an employee should be subordinate to the public’s right to know how its government operates.

Presiding at the hearing was Retired New Iberia Judge Anne Simon.

4th JD Chief Judge Stephen Winters was in the courtroom, as the plaintiff of record against the Citizen.

Simon said she would rule shortly in the case.

When do Taxpayers get to Track the Politicians and the Cops?

05/19/2015

Passed out of the Louisiana Senate yesterday, on a 33-3 vote.

Senate Bill 250: Creates a pilot program (Statewide Motor Vehicle Theft and Uninsured Motorists Identification Program) involving the use of license plate recognition devices for certain purposes.

Here’s a primer on just what is:

Automatic number plate recognition: ANPR is a mass surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read vehicle registration plates. They can use existing closed-circuit television or road-rule enforcement cameras, or ones specifically designed for the task. They are used by various police forces and as a method of electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads and cataloging the movements of traffic or individuals.

ANPR can be used to store the images captured by the cameras as well as the text from the license plate, with some configurable to store a photograph of the driver. Systems commonly use infrared lighting to allow the camera to take the picture at any time of the day. ANPR technology tends to be region-specific, owing to plate variation from place to place.

Concerns about these systems have centered on privacy fears of government tracking citizens’ movements, misidentification, high error rates, and increased government spending.

At The Ouachita Parish Courthouse Tomorrow

05/18/2015

Courtroom 7
Tuesday, May 19, 9:30 am

Judge H. Stephens Winters, in His Capacity as Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial District Court vs. Hanna Media, Inc. d/b/a The Ouachita Citizen – Rule:DECLARATORY JUDGMENT

We will cover the hearing.

JPPJ Employee $2/hr Raise Fails on 3-3 Tie Vote

05/18/2015

A $2/hr across the board raise for hourly employees of the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) failed on a 3 to 3 tie vote at tonight’s meeting of the body.

Making the motion for the $2/hr amount was Ward Five’s Maxie Monroe, with Ward Four’s Billy Bryant seconding the motion. In addition to those two, Ward Two’s Eddie Langston voted for the motion.

Voting no were Todd Culpepper (Ward One), Chuck Garrett (Ward Six), and Lynn Treadway (Ward Seven).

Amy McGee (Ward Three) abstained.

Moments earlier, Garrett moved for a $1/hr raise, but no second was forthcoming.

Treadway said that the timing was not right for the raise, and that it should be discussed when budgets are worked up each year.

Monroe replied that she had tried to bring up the issue last year at budget time, but got little support.

Garrett noted that he had received numerous phone calls on the issue. “I never got so many phone calls,” he said.

McGee said that the raises should be based on merit, instead of across the board. As she was new on the jury, she didn’t know the employees well enough to cast an informed vote, she said.

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Monday

05/17/2015

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet Monday, May 18, 5:30 PM, Ouachita Parish Courthouse, second floor.

Here is the agenda.

Jackson Parish Police Jury to Vote on Employee $2/hr Raise Monday

05/15/2015

A committee meeting of the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) called for Monday, May 18, has now evolved into a meeting of the full jury.

On the agenda:

Consider the recommendation of the May 4th Finance Committee for implementing a $2.00 per hour pay increase effective with the pay period beginning May 16, 2015 for all hourly employees, and to provide that those employees currently working under probationary status will be eligible for the $2.00 per hour increase upon successful completion of their probationary period.

The meeting begins at 5:30 PM, Dr. Charles H. Garrett Community Center, 182 Industrial Drive.

See here the complete agenda.

Also, the Road Committee will meet at 5:00 PM.

See here the agenda.

BOOM! State Tax Returns Due Today

05/14/2015

A friendly reminder: Government Retireds DO NOT pay state income taxes.

Is there a list of retirement system benefits that may be excluded from Louisiana income tax?

Annual Retirement Income Exclusion (R.S. 47:44.1(A))—Persons 65 years or older may exclude up to $6,000 of annual retirement income from their taxable income. Taxpayers that are married filing jointly and are both age 65 or older can each exclude up to $6,000 of annual retirement income. If only one spouse has retirement income, the exclusion is limited to $6,000.

Federal Retirement Benefits Exclusion (R.S. 47:44.2)—Federal retirement benefits received by federal retirees, both military and nonmilitary, may be excluded from Louisiana taxable income.

State Employees, Teachers, and Other Retirement Benefits Exclusion—Individuals receiving benefits from certain retirement systems listed below are allowed to exclude those benefits from their Louisiana tax-table income. In addition, R.S. 33:7203 and R.S. 40:427.2(E) provide that Municipal and State Police Employees Retirement System deferred retirement option plan funds are exempt from state income tax.

R.S. 11:405 State Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:570 Funded Judicial Retirement Plan
R.S. 11:1378 Non-contributory Judicial Retirement Plan beginning after December 30, 1980
R.S. 11:704 Teachers’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:704 Teachers’ Retirement System of Orleans Parish
R.S. 11:1003 Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:1331 Louisiana State Police Pension and Retirement Fund
R.S. 11:1391 Pension for Confederate Veterans and Widows of Confederate Veterans
R.S. 11:1403 Assessors’ Retirement Fund
R.S. 11:1526 Clerks’ of Court Retirement and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:1583 District Attorneys’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:1735 Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Louisiana
R.S. 11:1735 City of Baton Rouge Retirement System
R.S. 11:1735 Employees’ Retirement System of East Baton Rouge Parish
R.S. 11:1735 Employees’ Retirement System of City of Shreveport
R.S. 11:1905 Parochial Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:1905 Employees’ Retirement System of Jefferson Parish
R.S. 11:3014 City of Alexandria Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:3051 City of Bogalusa Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:2033 Registrar of Voters Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:2182 Sheriffs’ Pension and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:2228 Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:2228 Policemen’s Pension and Relief Fund of the City of Shreveport
R.S. 11:2263 Firefighters’ Retirement System
R.S. 11:3140 Firefighters’ Pension and Relief Fund for the Consolidated Fire Districts Bastrop
R.S. 11:3161 Firefighters’ Pension and Relief Fund for Baton Rouge
R.S. 11:3171 Firefighters’ Pension and Relief Fund for Bogalusa
R.S. 11:3205 Bossier City Firemen’s Pension and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:3294 Lafayette (City of) Firemen’s Pension and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:3345 Monroe Firemen’s Pension and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:3389 Firefighters’ Pension and Relief Fund of New Orleans
R.S. 11:3513 City of Monroe Police Pension and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:3566 Policemen’s Pension and Relief Fund for Alexandria
R.S. 11:3568 Bossier City Policemen’s Pension and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:3608 Lafayette (City of) Policemen’s Pension and Relief Fund
R.S. 11:3658 Policemen’s Pension and Relief Fund for the Department of the City of New Orleans
R.S. 11:3691 Harbor Police Retirement System (Port of New Orleans)
R.S. 11:3770 Bus Drivers’ Pension and Relief Fund of the City of Monroe
R.S. 11:3800 Electrical Workers’ Pension and Relief Fund of the City of Monroe
R.S. 11:3823 Employees’ Retirement System of the Sewage and Water Board of the City of New Orleans
R.S. 11:3823 New Orleans (City of) Employees’ Retirement System
R.S. 17:1613 Louisiana State University Retirement System
R.S. 47:44.2 Railroad Retirement System Benefits
R.S. 47:44.2 Social Security Retirement Benefits
R.S. 47:52 Disability Pay to World War II Veterans
U.S.C.A. 45:231m Railroad Retirement Supplemental

JPPJ Employee Pay & History Detailed

05/14/2015

While the hourly employees of the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) may seem to earn relatively modest base pay compared with some in private industry, their fringe benefits help compensate significantly, documents obtained via a public records request show.

Also, employees have received cost of living raises every year save one, since 2004. The jury is considering whether to award an immediate $2.00/hr pay raise across the board to all hourly employees.

In the road crew, existing hourly pay scales range from a high of $20.86/hr to a low of $12.29/hr. In the solid waste department, the range is $18.86/hr to $11.15/hr.

All full-time employees receive employer paid retirement contributions that range from about $4,000 to $6,000 dollars annually. Very few employees in private industry receive employer funded retirement plans, but instead participate in 401K and other employee-funded plans, or pay into Social Security.

Also, JPPJ employees receive full employer paid medical plans that cost $6,733/year. Most private industry medical plans are now only half-funded by employers, with the balance paid by the employee.

The fringe benefits amount to about $5.00/hr.

The documents show that since 2004, employees have received a minimum of 2% cost of living raises each year, with one year (2007) receiving raises of 2% and 5%. In the year 2010, no raises were granted.

For the year 2015, a 2 1/2% raise was awarded.

See here the documents.


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