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Henry Lee, renowned forensic scientist, visits Jeff Parish DA’s office

Dr. Henry Lee, a renowned forensic scientist, visited the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office on Friday (June 7) at the invitation of DA Paul D. Connick Jr., to speak to prosecutors on crime scene reconstruction and forensic analysis. (JPDA photos)

It was 1986 and Paul D. Connick Jr. was a young Jefferson Parish assistant district attorney prosecuting a complex two-defendant murder case when he first sought advice from Dr. Henry Lee.

A renowned forensic scientist who immigrated from Taiwan in 1965, Dr. Lee had already established his international reputation in criminal investigations in Connecticut, where he worked his way up as chief criminologist with the state police to becoming that agency’s commissioner.

Connick decided to attempt to lure Dr. Lee down South.

“I bought 200 pounds of crawfish and shipped them to him,” Connick joked.

“That’s a good lawyer,” Dr. Lee quipped in response.

At Connick’s invitation, Dr. Lee traveled to Louisiana again this week to present a course on crime scene reconstruction and forensic analysis to Jefferson Parish assistant district attorneys as part of their continuing legal education requirements. The JPDA Media Room was filled to capacity with prosecutors and employees during the presentation on Friday (June 7).

Dr. Lee’s involvement in the 1986 murder case was the start of a decades-long relationship. DA for more than 20 years now, Connick has consulted with Dr. Lee on numerous high-profile murder cases, of late including the murder and dismemberment of French Quarter dancer Jaren Lockhart.

“In this business, in this line of work, we have to get it right,” Connick told his prosecutors. “So I want people I can trust to tell me we got it right. With Henry, I know.”

The namesake for the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven, Conn., Dr. Lee has consulted on more than 8,000 criminal cases in 47 countries. In the United States, he has worked on crimes such as the O.J. Simpson case and the re-investigation of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He helped debunk the conspiracy theory that President Bill Clinton was responsible for the death of Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1983. Dr. Lee also helped confirm President Clinton’s White House tryst with Monica Lewinsky.

Weaving advice with anecdotal stories from his career, Dr. Lee recounted many of the high-profile cases during his presentation.

“I only do one thing: Make the impossible possible,” Dr. Lee told the audience.

Kenner woman faces 20 years in prison in charity raffle scam targeting the elderly

A Kenner woman who stole $1,340 from unsuspecting elderly people by selling them fake raffle tickets will be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Tammy Marie Davis, 49, pleaded guilty as charged on Thursday afternoon (Jan. 19) to 16 felony counts of exploitation of the infirmed, bank fraud, possession of cocaine, and to misdemeanor counts of theft, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft from an aged or disabled person. The crimes occurred in Kenner in 2016.

Davis struck up conversations with her victims during which she asked about their doctors, according to the Kenner Police Department. She then would lie to the victims, telling them she knew the doctor and that his child was suffering from an illness or disease.

She further asserted she was selling raffle tickets to a fundraising event, to raise money for the ill child. In several cases, the victims only had $100 bills, which they provided as payment for the tickets. Davis offered to make change, taking the $100 bills but never returning.

In one such case, Davis approached a 73-year-old woman at a credit union, asking the victim if she recognized her from a doctor’s office. Davis asserted she was selling the raffle tickets, at $10 per. The victim only had a $100 bill, which she gave to Davis. Davis stole the money.

The bank fraud charge stems from her befriending an 81-year-old man suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She accompanied the man to his bank, where she forged his signature on a check made out to “cash.”

When Davis attempted to cash the check, a teller noticed the hand-writing differences. David fled before police arrived. The victim, meanwhile, needed medical attention because of his illness.

Police were able to identify Davis through the Louisiana Department of Probation and Parole, leading to her arrest on May 16, 2016. She was serving parole through December 2017 for a purse snatching conviction.

Questioned by Kenner police, Davis confessed to the crimes and said she needed money to feed her crack cocaine addiction. During the arrest, officers found a rock of crack cocaine in her pocket and a glass pipe used to smoke crack. Police also found numbered raffle tickets in her pockets, her car and her apartment.

Judge Henry Sullivan of the 24th Judicial District Court accepted the guilty pleas. Davis will be returned to court Feb. 16, when Judge Sullivan will sentence her to 20 years in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish prosecuted the case.

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Two-time felon has prison sentence upped to 75 years

A Metairie man who already was serving a 50-year prison sentence for shooting a woman 11 times during an Avondale home invasion saw his punishment increase to 75 years on Friday (Sept. 16).

Danny “Noonie” Saulny, 25, was convicted as charged in June of attempted second-degree murder, home invasion and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, for the crime he carried out in 2014. For that, he received a 50-year prison sentence, the maximum.

On Friday, Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court ruled that Saulny is a two-time felon under Louisiana’s habitual offender law. Noting how Saulny shot a woman 11 times, Judge Regan vacated the 50-year sentence he handed down in July and resentenced Saulny to 75 years.

“The court was particularly appalled by the cruel nature of the crime, in that the victim was shot 11 times,” Judge Regan said in announcing the new sentence. “What made it worse, in the court’s opinion, is the victim knew Danny Saulny and went to school with him. The victim was shot and left for dead. It was by the grace of god that the victim survived.”

The victim, then a 23-year-old woman, was accosted in her kitchen in the 100 block of Madiera Drive on Jan. 13, 2014, as she was preparing a meal, according to trial testimony. Saulny and an unnamed cohort entered and told her “give me everything you got,” the victim testified.

She recognized Saulny, whom she knew from elementary school by the nickname “Noonie.” Saulny dragged her from the kitchen to a bedroom, where the gunmen robbed and shot her. She remained on the floor motionless as the gunmen fled, and she then went to a neighbor’s home, where the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office was notified.

She underwent several surgeries, and remained in a coma after the shooting. “God kept me here for a reason, and I am happy I testified against you to get you off the street and keep you from harming anyone else,” the victim testified during the July 18 sentencing hearing, when Judge Regan handed down the 50-year sentence.

On Friday, prosecutors sought a ruling declaring Saulny as a double offender. Judge Regan ruled that prosecutors met their burden in proving that Saulny was, in fact, a double offender. Saulny’s latest known victim was not present.

Saulny’s prior offense was a 2011 conviction of using a firearm while committing a crime of violence, being an aggravated second-degree battery. Saulny pleaded guilty to a shooting-related incident and received a six-year prison sentence.

Assistant District Attorneys Blair Constant and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

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New Orleans man convicted of possessing, distributing heroin

A New Orleans man who already served prison time for illegal narcotics was convicted Wednesday night (Sept. 14) of being a heroin dealer in connection with the 50 grams of the narcotic that deputies found during the investigation, most of it stashed in the Metairie motel room he shared with his then-girlfriend.

Clarence Dixon, 34, was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury of possession with intent to distribute heroin and of attempted possession of cocaine. Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court plans to sentence Dixon in October.

Dixon and his then-girlfriend, Jenny Montecino, 34, of Metairie, were arrested on Jan. 23, 2015, when about 9:15 p.m., they were pulled over in a traffic stop in the 6500 block of Airline Drive. Two reserve Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies initiated the stop after noticing the license plate registration had expired for the couple’s 2001 Nissan Pathfinder, according to testimony.

Dixon and Montecino had active attachments for their arrests and were taken into custody. Montecino, who also was driving without insurance and with an expired driver’s license, readily admitted she had .8 grams of cocaine and five grams of heroin stashed in her underwear, reserve Deputy Salvador Provenzano testified.

Following the traffic stop, Montecino immediately said the narcotics belonged to Dixon, the father of her child. She testified that Dixon ordered her to “stuff it” in her underwear about 15 minutes before they were pulled over, as she drove him to make a drug transaction.

“He didn’t want to hold them (the illegal narcotics) because of the repercussions of his background,” she testified Wednesday. “He didn’t want to get into trouble.”

She testified that she didn’t want to take the blame for his narcotics, either. “I didn’t want to get in trouble,” Montecino testified. “It wasn’t mine.”

During the traffic stop, Provenzano noticed Dixon in the front passenger seat, furtively handling a large amount of cash that he stuffed in a purse in the center console, he testified.

The investigation lead the detectives to the couple’s motel room in the 5700 block of Airline Drive, where the couple acquired a room in Montecino’s name about six weeks earlier, according to testimony.

The detectives found a digital scale, two bottles of room sanitizer the deputies said could be used to cut or dilute narcotics and Dixon’s identification card. They found 44.9 grams of heroin in a red plastic container on a shelf in the closet, Detective Nicholas Buttone testified.

Pursuant to a court order, the detectives seized $2,568 in currency as proceeds from illegal narcotics sales, in dominations ranging from $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and $1 bills, Buttone testified.

Montecino pleaded guilty on Oct. 15 to simple possession of heroin and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. She testified against Dixon, per her plea agreement, and faces a punishment ranging from probation up to 15 years in prison. She will receive her sentence next month.

She testified that she feared Dixon, and that he purchased the Pathfinder from a man she identified only as “Jason.” The vehicle was registered to a Pineville, La., woman whom she did not know, and she also testified that she drove Dixon to conduct his narcotics transactions.

Dixon’s attorney argued that the narcotics belonged to Montecino, whom he said falsely blamed her boyfriend to save herself.

Dixon pleaded guilty to similar offenses – possession of heroin and possession of cocaine – in the 24th Judicial District Court in March 2010 and received a 5-year prison sentence, records show. Those convictions stem from his June 2009 arrest, after deputies found .8 grams of heroin and 4.7 grams of crack cocaine in a Shrewsbury Court residence.

Assistant District Attorneys Andrew DeCoste and Douglas Rushton prosecuted the case.

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Jefferson Parish prosecutors in Harvey Hustlers cases receive top FBI awards

Two Jefferson Parish prosecutors who are working with the joint local and federal task force that dismantled the notorious Harvey Hustlers gang, sending dozens of extremely violent drug dealers to prison for as long as 120 years, received 2016 FBI Director’s Awards for their ongoing work in the case.

Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Seth Shute were among the New Orleans-area local and federal law enforcement officials to receive the award in the Outstanding Criminal Investigation category on Thursday (Sept. 15) from FBI Director James Comey, during a ceremony in Washington D.C.

Members of the FBI New Orleans Gang Task Force, which initiated the investigation seven years ago, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office also were named to receive the awards.

The Director’s Awards, considered to be among the most prestigious accolades within the FBI, are given annually to Bureau employees and others to recognize their exemplary contributions and service to their communities. This year’s recipients include men and women who investigated deadly terrorist and cyber attacks, designed innovative technology and training and provided exceptional service to colleagues and victims of crime, according to the FBI.

Read the FBI New Orleans announcement here.

Considered the scourge of some West Bank neighborhoods, the Harvey Hustlers traces its roots to the 1980s in the Scotsdale subdivision, from where a core group of members oversaw a narcotics distribution ring. The gang enlisted affiliates from other West Bank neighborhoods to help import the narcotics into Jefferson Parish from as far as Texas and to distribute it in the area.

The Harvey Hustlers had an enforcement arm known as the Murder Squad, which used violence to protect its illegal activities. Numerous homicides were tied to the gang, including those of an 81-year-old Bridge City woman and a 58-year-old Marrero man, neither of whom was the intended target.

The FBI New Orleans Gang Task Force and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office initiated the investigation in 2009, leading to more than 65 criminal indictments in state and federal courts. Since the investigation began, Jefferson Parish saw a 39-percent decrease in its homicide rate through 2015, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office collaborated in deciding the jurisdiction in which the cases would be prosecuted, depending on whether federal or state law could provide the more appropriate punishment.

Convictions in Jefferson Parish’s 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, and U.S. District Court in New Orleans, led to sentences ranging from five years to life in prison. The state and federal charges ranged from heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine distribution, racketeering, conspiracy to distribute narcotics, firearms offenses, homicide and murder-in-aid of racketeering.

In the Jefferson Parish, Freese and Shute prosecuted more than 30 Harvey Hustlers and their affiliates. Of them, 21 defendants were charged last year by a state grand jury in a sweeping 30-count racketeering and conspiracy case that includes a pending second-degree murder case.

Among them was Robert Williams, a Harvey Hustlers leader who was convicted at trial and sentenced in January to 120 years in prison. Each of the Harvey Hustlers who already had prior criminal convictions received no less than 20-year prison sentences in the Jefferson Parish cases.

This is the second time this year the Harvey Hustlers task force has been recognized. In February, New Orleans’ Metropolitan Crime Commission awarded the task force its 2016 Excellence in Law Enforcement Award.

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Avondale man pleads guilty to possessing, distributing child pornography

A 20-year-old Avondale man was sentenced Tuesday (July 19) to 10 years in prison, after he admitted he possessed and distributed child pornography.

Taylor Bourgeois also will have to register as a sex offender for 25 years, beginning on the day he is released from prison, 24th Judicial District Court Judge Lee Faulkner ordered.

Bourgeois’ illegal activities came to light in February, when he was observed discussing in an online chatroom that he raped a 4-year-old girl. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children passed a tip about Bourgeois’ assertions to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit, which, working with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, opened an investigation that led to Bourgeois’ home, according to the arrest report.

After obtaining a search warrant on March 7, state and Sheriff’s Office agents and members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force found a computer and two cellular devices in Bourgeois’ bedroom – along with six potted marijuana plants being grown in a cardboard box in his closet and bagged marijuana weighing 5.2 grams.

Bourgeois, who worked at an ice cream parlor in Westwego, confessed to downloading and possessing child pornography, which was stored on a cellular device, and to sharing several hundred images and videos through a file sharing website, according to the report.

Investigators uncovered images that included infants and girls under age 13 being raped by adult men, according to the report.

He pleaded guilty as charged Tuesday to three counts of possessing child pornography involving children under age 13, three counts of distributing child pornography involving children under age 13 and one count of possessing child pornography involving children between the ages of 13 and 17.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for each of the seven counts. Judge Faulkner ran them concurrently.

Bourgeois told agents that he purchased marijuana seeds about two months prior to his arrest and began growing them in the cardboard box he equipped with a light and fan, according to the arrest report. He also purchased marijuana that was recovered from his bedroom.

He also pleaded guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanor counts of marijuana possession. He received two 15-day sentences for those offenses, run concurrently with the 10-year sentences.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Smith prosecuted the case.

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New Orleans scrap yard owner pleads guilty, gets 10 years in auto theft racketeering case

Hours after he was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday morning (June 30), the co-owner of a New Orleans scrap yard pleaded guilty to participating in an alleged criminal enterprise whose members were responsible for almost one-third of the auto thefts in Jefferson Parish in recent years.

Harry J. Sorrell, 48, of Slidell, pleaded guilty as charged to racketeering and conspiracy to commit theft, for crimes occurring between 2009 and this year. Sorrell then pleaded guilty to being a double offender under Louisiana’s habitual offender law, because of a 2008 conviction of a federal weapons offense.

Judge Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court, who accepted the pleas on Thursday afternoon, sentenced Sorrell to 10 years in prison as a second felony offender. Sorrell then was remanded into state custody to begin the sentence.

According to the superseding indictment, Sorrell, who also uses the name Harry Sporrell, owned and operated a scrap yard with an unindicted co-conspirator. Vehicles that were stolen by enterprise members were transported to the scrap yard to be crushed. By crushing the vehicles, the enterprise members eliminated evidence and gained another source of revenue through the sale of scrap metal, according to the indictment.

Enterprise members additionally filed fraudulent insurance claims seeking compensation from insurance companies, after members of the enterprise alleged their involvement in staged automobile accidents.

On May 5, a Jefferson Parish grand jury handed up an indictment charging 13 people in connection with the racketeering case. Sorrell was listed as unindicted co-conspirator “A” in that bill of indictment. On Thursday, a grand jury handed up a superseding bill of indictment, adding Sorrell and two other men to the list of defendants who were previously charged.

Authorities say approximately 32 percent of all vehicle thefts in Jefferson Parish in 2014 and 2015 were tied to the group of men. The thefts, most involving trucks, amounted to at least $2.5 million in economic loss to Jefferson Parish, according to the bill of indictment.

While the grand jury met Thursday morning, Patrick Robinson Jr., 49, of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to commit theft, 11 counts of theft, two counts of illegal possession of stolen things and altering vehicle identification numbers.

Robinson was among the 13 people who were charged on May 5. Judge Adams is scheduled to sentence Robinson on Sept. 19.

Sorrell’s and Robinson’s pleas on Thursday bring to six the number of defendants who have admitted guilt in the racketeering case.

Ronnel A. Kyles, 29, received a 10-year prison sentence. Jimmie “Black” James, 28, of New Orleans, is scheduled to be sentenced in September. Jason Mercadel, 38, of New Orleans, was sentenced to 15 years in prison; and Brandon Lane, 29, of Marrero, received a 10-year sentence.

Others named in the indictment are Parrish Norris, 41; Oliver D. Green, 46; Patrick N. Robinson III, 28, whose father is the Robinson who pleaded guilty on Thursday; Cardell E. Torrence, 39; Kevin A. Martin, 29; Brandon P. Evans, 30; Keith A. Nero, 29; Shon R. Claiborne, 27; and Ronald J. Johnson, 29. Norrish remains at large and led police in New Orleans on a high-speed chase after he was indicted on May 5.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit and the Louisiana State Police investigated the cases.

Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese, Thomas Sanderson and Lindsay Truhe are prosecuting the cases.

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Child sexual predator sentenced to 20 years for twice failing to register as sex offender

An admitted child sexual predator was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday (June 10), for his second conviction of failing to register as a sex offender.

Tommy Mouton, 62, a former Bridge City resident, failed to register as a sex offender last year, after he was released from state prison for his first conviction of failing to register as a sex offender.

Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court, who has presided over Mouton’s criminal cases and ruled in 2013 that he was likely to re-offend against children, handed down the maximum sentence after denying a defense request for a new trial. Failure to register second offense carries a sentencing range of five to 20 years in prison.

“It is the court’s opinion that if he was released and out on his own, someone else would be assaulted,” Judge Rowan said in explaining his handing down the maximum sentence.

Mouton received a 10-year prison sentence in 1990 in Jefferson Parish for his convictions of sexual battery, aggravated oral sexual battery and indecent behavior with a juvenile. That case involved a girl he molested over a 21-month period beginning in 1986, when the girl was 6 years old.

While serving that sentence, state corrections officers found in his cell his journal, in which he detailed child abuse and had drawings of young girls being sexually tortured. That led to his conviction in Claiborne Parish of possession of child pornography.

He was sent back to prison in 2010, after he was convicted the first time of failing to register as a sex offender. While in prison, he was evaluated by a Sex Offender Assessment Panel, or SOAP, which seeks to determine whether certain inmates pose a danger to society.

In that process, Mouton stipulated he was, in fact, a child sexual predator. Judge Rowan, who presided over the SOAP hearing, found that Mouton was a danger to society during a December 2013 hearing. Mouton was ordered to register as a sex offender and have his whereabouts tracked via GPS for the rest of his life when released from prison.

Before his release from prison on Feb. 12, 2015, Mouton told the state Department of Corrections that he intended to reside in the 200 block of 8th Street in Bridge City, according to trial testimony.

He failed to report to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office within three days of his release, leading deputies to obtain a warrant for his arrest.

Mouton was at large for 15 days following his release from prison, until a fugitive task force that included the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, the New Orleans Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, found him in the 1800 block of Gravier Street in downtown New Orleans. He had condoms and a bottle of lubricant in his pockets, authorities have said.

Judge Rowan noted on Friday that Mouton made no attempt to at least alert Jefferson Parish authorities that he had difficulties in trying to register last year. “They literally had to do a manhunt to find you,” the judge said. “That’s my problem with that. You sought no help.”

Following Mouton’s arrest last year, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office persuaded a 24th Judicial District Court magistrate to hold him in jail without bond until his trial for second-offense failure to register. That trial ended May 25, with his conviction by a unanimous Jefferson Parish jury.

His attorney asserted Mouton, a U.S. Army veteran, was moneyless and homeless, and that he was in downtown New Orleans to get treatment at the U.S. Veterans Administration hospital.

Assistant District Attorneys Matt Clauss and Andrew DeCoste prosecuted the case.

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Gretna man who claimed false confession convicted of forcibly raping teenage girl

A Gretna man who testified during his trial that the “high-grade marijuana” he smoked moments before meeting with a detective was among the reasons he falsely confessed to raping a teenage girl was convicted on Friday (May 27) of sexually abusing the victim.

Omar Duplessis, 31, faces five years to 40 years in prison for his conviction of forcible rape. He was found guilty of raping the teen beginning when she was 13 and ending the on day before Thanksgiving in 2014, when she was 16. The victim, now 17, testified that Duplessis used force when he raped her numerous times.

Judge Henry Sullivan of the 24th Judicial District Court rendered the verdict, because Duplessis waived a trial by jury. “The court finds the State of Louisiana has carried its burden,” Judge Sullivan said in announcing the verdict immediately following closing arguments. “The court finds Omar Duplessis guilty as charged of forcible rape.”

Duplessis, who had awaited trial while free on a $100,000 bond, was remanded to the parish jail until his sentencing hearing on June 16.

The girl’s mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the victim’s identity, pleaded guilty on Feb. 25 to failure to report the commission of certain felonies, meaning the rape. She received two years of active probation, because she did not disclose to authorities that Duplessis sexually abused her daughter. She and her mother – the victim’s grandmother – testified for the defense.

The victim twice told her mother about the abuse, but the mother did nothing, according to testimony. The victim then disclosed the abuse to her uncle on Dec. 2, 2014, the uncle testified. Police were notified, and Duplessis was arrested the same day.

Duplessis initially denied the charge, telling Gretna Police Department Detective Jerry Broome that the girl falsely accused him of rape out of resentment. However, in subsequent interviews that were videotaped, Duplessis confessed to Broome that he had had sex with the girl.

In his second statement, he told the detective that he was “drunk and stoned,” and watching television in his bed when the girl got into bed with him, disrobed and “kind of” had sex. He said he told the girl to stop and leave. He said it was the only time it happened, and he denied the girl’s accusations that they’d had sex before.

He opened his third recorded statement saying, “I’m hurting, and my life is over,” he told the detective. “This hasn’t been the first time,” he confessed. “At least four times, maybe five, maybe, like once every – I don’t know.”

Duplessis testified on Friday that he was at his job as a longshoreman on New Orleans’ riverfront when he learned of the accusations against him. He said he did not immediately go to police but used marijuana beforehand to help him relax.

“I smoked a blunt of some high-grade marijuana,” he testified under cross-examination. He blamed the marijuana, long work hours during the days preceding the police interview and Broome for what he asserted was a false confession.

The victim disclosed the rapes at the Jefferson Children’s Advocacy Center and to Dr. Jamie Jackson, an expert in child sexual abuse pediatrics at the Audrey Hepburn Children at Risk Evaluation (CARE) Center at Children’s Hospital. “She actually talked about trying to fight, about being pinned down,” Jackson testified.

The victim testified she was 13 when the first rape happened, after school and when she was home alone with Duplessis. The rape happened frequently, she said. “Sometimes it happened at night. Sometimes it happened during the day,” she testified.

Assistant District Attorneys Rhonda Goode-Douglas and Marko Marjanovic prosecuted the case.

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