Category: What’s New

Ex-gymnastics coach pleads guilty to molesting boys, sentenced to 65 years in prison

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (April 15) sentenced former gymnastics coach Jonathan M. West of Kenner to 65 years in prison, after West admitted he sexually exploited 13 boys under his care.

West, 27, pleaded guilty as charged to the offenses outlined in a 24-count bill of information. The victims were between the ages of eight and 15 when the abuse happened, beginning in 2015 and ending with his arrest on May 31, 2018, according to the bill of information.

West pleaded to:

  • Nine counts of indecent behavior with juveniles;
  • One count of indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13;
  • Eight counts of sexual battery;
  • Two counts of oral sexual battery;
  • Three counts of sexual battery of a child under age 13; and,
  • One count of computer solicitation of a minor under age 13.

West’s sentences were:

  • 65 years for each of the sexual battery of juveniles under age 13;
  • 25 years for the indecent behavior with a juvenile under age 13;
  • 20 years for the computer solicitation of a minor under age 13;
  • 10 years for each of the sexual battery counts;
  • 10 years for each of the oral sexual battery counts; and,
  • Seven years for each of the indecent behavior with juvenile counts.

Judge Stephen Enright of the 24th Judicial District Court ran the sentences concurrently, for a total of 65 years.

Judge Enright also ordered that West be electronically monitored and to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, should he ever be released from prison. The judge additionally ordered that any of West’s electronics equipment used in the computer solicitation offense be seized and auctioned.

The judge heard impact statements from nine people, including six mothers of the victims who knew West as “Jonny.”

West worked as a gymnastics and cheerleading coach at businesses in Metairie, Kenner and St. Charles Parish. In some cases, he molested the victims while driving them to the gyms. In some cases, West told the victims that his actions would make them better at gymnastics.

Following West’s arrest, which was publicized in local news reports, more victims came forward, telling police they too were abused.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Zachary Popovich prosecuted the case.

Rushton, Schiffman receive ‘excellence’ award for double-murder prosecution

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Lynn Schiffman were among the recipients of the Metropolitan Crime Commission’s Excellence in Law Enforcement Awards.

 

The Metropolitan Crime Commission on Tuesday (Feb. 5) recognized assistant district attorneys Douglas Rushton and Lynn Schiffman for the prosecution of an Avondale man who was convicted last year of a double murder in Kenner.

Rushton and Schiffman were presented 2019 Excellence in Law Enforcement awards during the commission’s annual meeting and awards luncheon, held at the Sheraton in downtown New Orleans.

A Jefferson Parish jury in January 2018 convicted Shaun Barnett of two counts of first-degree murder for the April 4, 2016 deaths of Dawn Scott, 28, and Raynell Kimbrough, 31. The couple was in bed in their Kenner home early on the morning of April 4, 2016, when Barnett shot them. A child in the house heard the gunfire and escorted his younger brother outside; police found an uninjured infant on the bed next to Scott.

Barnett has been sentenced to life in prison.

Louisiana State Police investigator Leland “Corky” Dwight, Kenner Police Department Detective Harold P. Pendergast, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Capt. Dennis Thornton and the JPSO Crime Laboratory staff also received the award for their work in solving the double-murder.

The commission presents the awards in recognition of those who “performed extraordinary service” to criminal justice. The awardees have “a record of continuity and consistency of service and shall reflect the admirable quality of integrity, both personal and professional.”

The week’s round-up: Juries convict in rape, illegal gun cases

Jefferson Parish juries returned two guilty verdicts in unrelated trials this week, including that of a Kenner man who was convicting of raping an intoxicated woman in his car while she was unconscious.

Third-degree rape conviction

Cornelius Williams, 29, was convicted as charged of third-degree rape following a two-day trial that ended Tuesday (Jan. 8). Williams raped a 21-year-old woman on Feb. 19, 2017, while parked in an alley outside his home in the 300 block of Taylor Street.

The victim reported to the Kenner Police Department that she, Williams and another woman were visiting bars in the French Quarter when she passed out because she was intoxicated, according to trial evidence. She said she woke to find herself in the back seat of his car with him having intercourse with her.

She told him to stop, and she passed out again, only to realize Williams was performing oral sex on her, she testified. Williams eventually dropped her off at her home, where she passed out again. Hours later, she woke and went to the Kenner Police Department.

Before the rape occurred, Williams dropped the other woman off at her home. Williams admitted he attempted to have intercourse after performing oral sex, but he did not complete the act.

Judge Michael Mentz of the 24th Judicial District Court ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set the sentencing hearing for Feb. 19.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Jennifer Voss prosecuted the case.

Convicted felon with firearm case

On Wednesday (Jan. 10), a separate jury found Russell K. Wilson guilty as charged of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Wilson, 36, of Algiers, was legally prohibited from carrying firearms because of a 2010 conviction of possession with intent to distribute cocaine in Jefferson Parish.

Yet on June 28, 2017, two Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives, while on a proactive patrol in a high-crime area, smelled marijuana and observed several people loitering outside a closed business near 6th Avenue and Ames Boulevard in Marrero’s Walkertown neighborhood, according to trial testimony.

The detectives noticed Wilson handling his pants in a manner suggesting he had a firearm tucked in the waistband, according to trial evidence. One of the detectives approached Wilson and noted he placed the pistol on top of a tire in a wheel well of a nearby parked vehicle. It was a fully loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol with a bullet in the chamber, according to trial evidence.

In testimony, Wilson denied possessing the gun, suggesting that the detectives randomly sought to question him and planted the weapon. He acknowledged his criminal history, which includes narcotics offenses and a previous guilty plea to attempted possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Wilson on Jan. 25.

Assistant District Attorneys Lynn Schiffman and Zachary Popovich prosecuted the case.

Corey Woods sentenced to life plus 50 years for Metairie triple-murder, heroin distribution

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Jan. 7) sentenced Corey Woods to three life sentences, for his convictions of killing three people as they sat in a car two years ago. His victims included a 16-year-old girl, whom he shot in the back of her head as she tried to escape the gunfire.

Woods, 33, of Metairie, was convicted as charged in November of three counts of second-degree murder and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, in connection with the Jan. 17, 2017 triple-homicide in the 1400 block of South Laurel Street.

A Jefferson Parish jury found that Woods killed Malcolm Wallace, 25, of Metairie, and then shot Wallace’s girlfriend Daneka Lott, 24, of Kenner; and Wallace’s teenage sister Monica Bates, of Metairie, because they were witnesses, according to trial evidence.

According to evidence presented at trial, Woods, sitting in the rear seat of a 2006 Honda Accord, shot his intended target Wallace, who was in the front passenger seat. He also shot Lott, the driver, and Bates as she attempted to exit the rear passenger-side door. A combination of witness interviews and business surveillance video led the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to identify Woods as the killer.

After denying a defense post-verdict motion for an acquittal and hearing impact testimony from two of the victims’ family members, 24th Judicial District Judge Donnie Rowan sentenced Woods to three life sentences and 20 years for the firearm offense. He ran the sentences concurrently.

Judge Rowan separately resentenced Woods to a total of 50 years in prison for his February 2018 convictions of three counts of distribution of heroin. Those crimes occurred in January 2017, the same month during which Woods committed the three murders.

Judge Rowan ran the 50-year sentence consecutively to the life sentences given in the triple-homicide case.

Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the murder case.

New Orleans man on 4-state crime spree convicted of Kenner armed robbery

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday (Dec. 13) found a New Orleans man guilty of robbing a Kenner business, part of a crime spree in which he committed similar heists in four states during a three-month period in early 2014.

Steven J. Rodney, 34, was convicted as charged of the armed robbery of the Walmart at 300 West Esplanade Ave., on March 7, 2014.

About 8:30 p.m., Rodney approached a 25-year-old employee working at a check-out register, lifted his shirt to reveal a pistol and then pointed it at her before returning it to his pants waistband, according to the Kenner Police Department. He ordered the employee to escort him to near an exit, where he fled with about $1,500, according to trial evidence.

Rodney arrived in the area on a commercial flight from Las Vegas on March 5, 2014, according to trial evidence. The day after, on March 6, he is accused of robbing the American Apparel store in the 3300 block of Magazine Street in New Orleans. And then, on March 8, 2014, the day after the Kenner robbery, he returned by air to Las Vegas, according to trial evidence.

Kenner and New Orleans police detectives determined that the same suspect committed both crimes. With the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, police identified Rodney as the robber.

In all, between January 2014 and March 2014, Rodney robbed businesses in Colorado, California, Nevada and Kenner and New Orleans, traveling by commercial airlines between the locations to commit the crimes.

Rodney admitted to the Jefferson Parish jury that he committed the crimes to feed his addiction to Oxycodone. He denied using a dangerous weapon, asserting he used a toy gun that shoots rubber projectiles. As such, he asserted he was not guilty of armed robbery.

The Jefferson Parish jury deliberated about an hour before returning its verdict. Judge June Berry Darensburg of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Rodney on Jan. 8.

Assistant District Attorneys Zachary Popovich and Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.

New Orleans man gets 20 years for orchestrating violent Harvey home invasion

A Jefferson Parish judge has sentenced a New Orleans man to 20 years in prison, after the defendant admitted to orchestrating a Harvey home invasion in which a resident was shot during an exchange of gunfire.

With jury selection underway in his trial on Wednesday (Dec. 12), Jermaine Robinson, 44, pleaded guilty as charged to aggravated burglary. He admitted that he recruited two men to help rob the residents of a home in the 2400 block of Tattersall Drive on the evening of Feb. 9, 2017.

Robinson asserted that he concocted the scheme in an effort to recoup money that a relative of his lost to a resident of the Tattersall Drive home. That resident ran a gambling operation in New Orleans, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Robinson drove his co-defendants, Fred Daniels, 47, of New Orleans, and Clifton Lampton, 50, of Baton Rouge, to the home. Daniels and Lampton forced the male resident inside at gunpoint, beat him and forced him to the ground after demanding money. Robinson remained in his vehicle.

The man’s wife, seeing her husband being beaten, retrieved a pistol, leading to an exchange of gunfire with Daniels, according the Sheriff’s Office. The woman was shot in an arm.

On Oct. 28, Daniels pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He received a 20-year sentence.

Lampton, who had no prior criminal history, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary on May 31 and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

A jury was seated Wednesday in Robinson’s trial when he decided to plead guilty. In accepting the plea, Judge E. Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Robinson to 20 years.

Assistant District Attorneys Matt Clauss and Brittany Beckner prosecuted the case.

Teddy Chester sentenced to life in ’95 cabbie murder

A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (Dec. 12) sentenced Teddy Chester to life in prison for shooting a cab driver in the back of his head during an armed robbery attempt.

Chester, 41, was convicted as charged during his retrial last month of second-degree murder in the Dec. 27, 1995 death of John Adams, 34, a driver for a Kenner-based taxi cab company who died after being dispatched to Calhoun Street.

“It took 20 seconds to take his life,” Bonnie James, fiancée of Mr. Adams’ brother, said in impact testimony Wednesday. “Our family was changed forever.”

In 1997, Chester was convicted of first-degree murder and spent 22 years on Louisiana’s death row until a federal judge this year ruled that his original attorney committed several errors during the first trial, depriving him of his constitutional right to effective representation. The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office opted to retry Chester for second-degree murder.

After denying defense motions for a new trial, Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Chester to the mandatory life sentence in prison without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. “To the family of Mr. Adams, I am very sorry for your loss,” Judge Kovach said in handing down the sentence.

Chester’s co-defendant, Elbert Ratcliff, is serving a life sentence in prison for his role in the murder.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.

Vincenzo Randazzo pleads guilty to fatal hammer attack on elderly Kenner couple

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Dec. 3) sentenced Vincenzo “Jake” Randazzo to life in prison with parole eligibility, after he pleaded guilty as charged to attacking an elderly Kenner couple with a hammer, killing the man and injuring his wife.

Randazzo, 17, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in connection with the July 19, 2017, attack on Phillip Lynch Sr., 89, and his 70-year-old wife Anita in their Kenner home. Mr. Lynch died from his injuries caused by blunt force trauma on Aug. 4, 2017.

Randazzo, who had just turned 16 years old at the time, knew the Lynches. The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office prosecuted Randazzo as an adult and filed notice with the court announcing its intention to seek a life sentence without parole eligibility.

However, pursuant to a plea agreement with Randazzo’s public defenders, the District Attorney’s Office withdrew the notice, meaning he will be eligible to apply for parole in 25 years because he is a juvenile.

Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court, in accepting the plea, sentenced Randazzo to life with parole eligibility for the first-degree murder and 25 years for the attempted second-degree murder. He ran the sentences concurrently.

Judge Schlegel sentenced Randazzo after hearing impact testimony from Anita Lynch and three of Mr. Lynch’s five children.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Matthew Whitworth prosecuted the case.

 

Metairie man sentenced to 30 years in pawn shop robbery

A Jefferson Parish judge on Friday (Nov. 20) sentenced a former Metairie resident to 30 years in prison for his role in the armed robbery of an Airline Drive pawn shop last year.

Edgard Rivas, 27, was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury last month of two counts of first-degree robbery in connection with the crime that occurred on the evening of Jan. 7, 2017. Two of Rivas’ roommates, Mario Geovani and Carlos Ramos, previously pleaded guilty as charged to armed robbery counts.

Geovani and Ramos were armed with an AR-15 rifle and a semiautomatic pistol, while Rivas carried a hammer which he used to break glass display cases to steal jewelry, according to testimony. Two of the robbers wore Jason character masks from the “Friday the 13th” movies.

Rivas stood trial on charges of armed robbery, but the jury deliberated about two hours before returning with the lesser verdicts of first-degree robbery. Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Rivas to 30 years for each of the two counts and ran them concurrently, reasoning that he disagreed with the jury.

“It’s not often the court disagrees with a jury,” Judge Regan said. “However, in this particular case, the court feels the state proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Sitting in the courtroom, the victims declined to give impact testimony. Rivas gave a statement, apologizing to the victims but maintaining his innocence.

Ramos, 21, and Geovani, 22, previously pleaded guilty to armed robbery counts. Ramos received a 20-year sentence and Geovani was sentenced to 26 years.

Assistant District Attorneys Blair Constant and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted Rivas.

Separately, Edward West, 31, of Harvey, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his armed robbery convictions and for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

West was convicted of robbing two women of their purses, moments apart in neighboring business parking lots in the 1500 block of Manhattan Boulevard on Nov. 18, 2016.

His first victim was a 31-year-old woman who was putting her newly purchased items in her car when she was assailed. West then ran across that parking lot to rob a 78-year-old woman of her purse. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested him shortly after in a nearby apartment.

Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court handed down the sentences on Nov. 8. A multiple bill hearing for West is set for Jan. 10.

Assistant District Attorneys Seth Shute and Emily Booth prosecuted West.

 

Olivia Matte sentenced to 20 years for DWI fatality on Causeway bridge

A Jefferson Parish judge on Thursday (Nov. 15) sentenced Olivia Matte to 20 years in prison for causing the death of a Mississippi man while she was driving drunk on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway last year.

Matte, 28, of Covington, who had remained free on bond since pleading guilty on Sept. 4, surrendered Thursday to begin serving her sentence.

James Blackmond, 37, of Foxworth, Miss., was driving his pick-up south on the Causeway early on the morning of March 23, 2017, when Matte drove into the rear of his truck about three miles north of the south shore. Blackmond was killed and his passenger was injured.

Matte had a blood-alcohol content of .216, close to three times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. On Sept. 4, she pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular homicide, vehicular negligent injuring, operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license and failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle.

At her attorney’s request, Judge Glenn Ansardi of the 24th Judicial District Court ordered a presentence investigation on Sept. 4 and allowed Matte to remain free on bond until her sentencing.

After hearing impact testimony from witnesses on both sides of the matter, Judge Ansardi sentenced Matte to six months for the negligent injuring, six months for driving with a suspended license, 90 days for careless operation and 20 years for the vehicular homicide. He ran the sentences concurrently.

Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.