Category: What’s New

Following an exhaustive, 23-month police use-of-force review, District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr., announces today his office will not seek criminal charges

GRETNA, La. – Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr., announced today that his office will not seek criminal charges against JPSO narcotics agents Justin Brister, Gary Bordelon, David Lowe or Jason Spadoni, whose apprehension of Keeven Robinson led to his tragic death. In light of the evidence, the State cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of any of the agents rises to the level of criminal conduct.

Mr. Robinson, who was the focus of an undercover narcotics investigation for selling heroin and cocaine in Jefferson Parish, died May 10, 2018, while resisting lawful arrest. The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office concluded that Mr. Robinson’s cause of death was compressional asphyxia and blunt force injuries with acute asthmatic exacerbation, and the manner of death was homicide.

“While a homicide is the killing of one person by another, not every homicide is a crime,” D.A. Connick said. “As in all cases, our review must focus upon the elements of proof as well as any legal justifications or defenses that may apply.”

Upon receipt of the report from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 8, 2018, this office began a comprehensive and independent review of this matter without regard to costs, resources or the time required to reach a fair and just decision. The office retained independent experts in forensic pathology and police use of force to provide opinions on the cause of Mr. Robinson’s death and the agents’ actions in arresting him.

“The role of the District Attorney in all criminal cases is to seek justice,” D.A. Connick said. “This is done by pursuing the evidence and law according to the highest standards of ethics and integrity, and by determining the facts from an independent, objective and neutral perspective.”

Throughout the process, the District Attorney’s Office remained in contact with the Robinson family and their attorneys. This morning, D.A. Connick met with Robinson family members to inform them of the office’s decision.

Today, the D.A.’s Office has published on its website, www.jpda.us, its final report, outlining the details of the review and analysis of this case. The report also outlines the findings of the independent experts who were retained by the District Attorney.

Read the final report.

Melvin Miller sentenced to back-to-back life sentences for Metairie double murder

A Jefferson Parish judge on Thursday (March 5) sentenced Melvin Miller to two back-to-back life sentences in prison for his conviction of murdering a couple in their Metairie apartment seven years ago.

Miller, 27, of Baton Rouge, was convicted as charged by a jury on Feb. 5 of two counts of second-degree murder. He killed Akeem Boudreaux, 27, and his transgender partner Morris Alexander Williams, 26, who used the names Milan or Mimi.

Miller shot both of them in their heads on the night of Feb. 5, 2013, in their apartment in the 2200 block of Edenborn Avenue. Their bodies were discovered nine days later, along with the couple’s dog.

After killing the couple, Miller returned to Baton Rouge in Williams’ car and took with him Williams’ iPhone and computer, according to evidence presented at trial. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office tracked the car to Baton Rouge via the license plate recognition system and developed Miller as the suspect.

Baton Rouge police arrested Miller on Feb. 16, 2013, after responding to a domestic dispute between Miller and his transgender lover, Joseph “Jasmine” Alexander. Alexander later pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the murders, after she admitted to throwing away bullets Miller kept in their apartment.

After hearing victim-impact testimony Thursday, Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Miller to two mandatory life sentences and ran them consecutively.

Explaining the back-to-back sentences, Judge Schlegel cited Miller’s “callous” behavior in murdering the couple and then driving around in their car for days. Judge Schlegel also said Miller showed his lack of remorse on Feb. 20, his initial sentencing date, when he had an outburst in the courtroom. Miller was angered by the continuance, which the District Attorney’s Office requested because members of the victims’ family were unable to attend the initial sentencing hearing.

Judge Schlegel also sentenced Miller to 20 years in prison for his conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury that convicted Miller of the murders also found him guilty of the gun offense. That sentence was run concurrently with the two life sentences.

Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Truhe and Doug Freese prosecuted the case.

Melvin Miller guilty of murdering transgender woman, her lover in Metairie

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday (Feb. 5) found Melvin Miller guilty of killing a transgender woman and her live-in lover in their Metairie apartment seven years ago.

Miller, 27, of Baton Rouge, was convicted as charged of two counts of second-degree murder in the Feb. 5, 2013 deaths of Akeem Boudreaux, 22, and Morris Alexander Williams, 26, who also went by the names Milan or Mimi.

Miller shot each of them once in their heads in the 2200 block of Edenborn Avenue. The bodies were discovered nine days later.

Miller, who traveled to Metairie via the LA Swift bus service on the day of the homicides, returned to Baton Rouge in Williams’ silver Pontiac and took Williams’ iPhone and computer early the following morning, according to evidence presented at trial. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office detective Sgt. Rhonda Goff tracked the suspect to Baton Rouge via the stolen car and the license plate recognition system.

Alerted that Miller was wanted in Jefferson Parish, Baton Rouge police arrested him on Feb. 16, 2013, after responding to a domestic dispute between Miller and his transgender lover, Joseph Alexander, who uses the name Jasmine. In October 2015, Alexander pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for discarding bullets she found in their apartment during the homicide investigation and received five years of probation.

Miller also was convicted as charged of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was legally barred from possessing guns because of a 2012 burglary conviction in Baton Rouge.

The jury, which was seated on Monday, deliberated under two hours in reaching the verdicts. Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Miller on Feb. 20.

UPDATE: Miller’s sentencing hearing was reset for March 5.

Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Lindsay Truhe prosecuted the case.

Jeff Parish DA’s ‘IV-D’ staff collected $37.5M in child support during 2019

Working through a federally funded program that’s administered by the state, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office collected $37.5 million in child support payments on behalf of families during the 2019 calendar year, a slightly higher amount than the year before.

Through Title IV, Part D of the federal Social Security Act, also known as “IV-D,” states are required to provide child support services to its citizens. In Louisiana, the Department of Children and Family Services contracts with local district attorneys’ offices to collect the child support from non-custodial parents.

Of the 42 district attorney offices in Louisiana, District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr. operates the only “full-service” support enforcement program. It’s a little-known program in an office that’s widely seen as one that only prosecutes criminals.

“There’s no greater responsibility, I think, than to ensure that our children are properly fed, clothed, educated and sheltered,” DA Connick said. “When I took office, I wanted to make sure that the District Attorney’s Office would do whatever it could to make sure that custodial parents are supported.”

He said that after he took office on Jan. 13, 1997, he began expanding the IV-D staff to offer all services to the community. The collections have since more than tripled. During calendar year 1996, the District Attorney’s Office collected $10.6 million. Since, the program’s collections have steadily grown, surpassing $37 million in 2015. In 2018, the staff collected $36.5 million.

“The Department of Children and Family Services has partnered with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office to provide services to our families in child support for over 40 years,” said Sandra A. Broussard, DCFS Regional Administrator. “They have a professional, knowledgeable and hardworking staff.”

Housed in the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Justice Center in Harvey and supported by the Juvenile Court and Clerk of Court, the program has a staff of 59 employees, including five fulltime assistant district attorneys.

“We represent the state of Louisiana in the best interest of the child,” said Assistant District Attorney Tim O’Rourke, the program administrator in Jefferson Parish.

Full-service means the office handles all matters associated with support enforcement, from processing requests for services, to establishing paternity, to locating parents in other states and even abroad in some cases, to securing court orders that allow assistant district attorneys to take steps to get owed child support payments.

“There’s no greater responsibility, I think, than to ensure that our children are properly fed, clothed, educated and sheltered.” – District Attorney Paul D. Connick Jr.

Assistant District Attorney Jody Fortunato, chief of the Juvenile Division, said he credits the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court for its cooperation in making the program possible and efficient. The court dedicates two full-time hearing officers exclusively to non-support cases and is smart about not wasting the public’s time, Fortunato said.

“The Juvenile Court is serious about this important work and has been generous with space and resources to accommodate our operations,” Fortunato said.

People who seek the services span the socio-economic spectrum, from wealthy people to young, impoverished single parents who rely on governmental assistance, O’Rourke said.

In some jurisdictions, people seeking help getting support for their children can apply through a regional office of the Department of Children and Family Services or through its website. In Jefferson Parish-based cases, people can apply directly through the DA’s Office or through the Department of Children and Family Services website. Last year, the DA’s Office received more than 1,700 applications for assistance. The numbers suggest that the general public is more likely to encounter the support enforcement staff than any other DA’s Office employees.

A one-time $25 application fee is charged only from people who do not receive state financial services or Medicaid for the child. The $25 fee goes to the state, not the DA’s Office, Fortunato said. People then meet with program staff for interviews.

If deemed appropriate for the program, the participants have their cases heard before a hearing officer during proceedings led by an assistant district attorney. Approximately forty such hearings are scheduled daily, O’Rourke said.

The Jefferson Parish DA’s Office, through a state-contracted lab, can help the non-custodial parent establish paternity, if paternity is in question. Last year, the DA’s Office processed 260 paternity petitions. DNA samples, obtained through buccal swabs, are gathered on site at the Juvenile Justice Center, making the collection of genetic material needed to establish paternity more efficient and less time-consuming for the public.

Support enforcement staff also attempt to locate missing parents, including in other states and nations.

Assistant district attorneys then obtain court orders to collect child support payments. The amount of support is based on a formula set in state law. Through the court orders, the attorneys can seek child support payments through an array of means.

Child support is gotten through federal and state income tax refunds, O’Rourke said. The assistant district attorneys and staff can freeze bank accounts, get withholdings from sources of income, place liens on personal injury lawsuit payouts and even snag lottery and gaming winnings – such as from a lucky gambler at a casino when he attempts to cash in his winnings, O’Rourke and Fortunato said.

The assistant district attorneys also can suspend the delinquent person’s driver’s license or vehicle registration and, on occasion, even request that professional licenses be suspended. “That’s very helpful at getting their attention,” O’Rourke said.

Parents going through a divorce in the 24th Judicial District Court do not necessarily go through the IV-D process, although some do. In such cases, matters such as child custody and partition of property remain in the district court’s jurisdiction if the support portion is transferred to Juvenile Court.

The Jefferson Parish DA’s Office can enforce child support orders issued in other states and even in some other nations.

The state, through its contract, reimburses the DA’s Office to cover a portion of the program’s expenses. DA Connick provides supplemental funding to ensure that the District Attorney’s Office continues to operate a full-service program.

“This is a service to the community that is needed, and this is a benefit to the community,” DA Connick said.

 

 

 

 

Irwin Gomez-Colon sentenced to life for brutal 2017 stabbing, strangulation murder

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Jan. 6) sentenced Irwin Gomez-Colon to a mandatory life sentence in prison for brutally stabbing and strangling a woman to death in her Terrytown apartment after raping her.

Gomez-Colon, 34, a native of Honduras, was convicted as charged of the second-degree murder of Nancy Yahaira Gomez Rodriguez, 33, a mother of two sons who died April 22, 2017, in the 2100 block of Empire Place.

She had been stabbed 24 times in her back and was strangled, according to evidence presented at trial. Gomez-Colon’s DNA obtained from his blood and a condom found at the scene linked him to the crime. A jury unanimously found him guilty on Dec. 5.

Through a letter written as impact testimony and read aloud in court Monday, Rodriguez’s family said she immigrated from the Dominican Republic in 2004 in search of a better life in the United States. She had a son who lived with her in Terrytown and an older son who lives in the Dominican Republic, the family said.

After denying a defense motion for a new trial, Judge Frank Brindisi of the 24th Judicial District Court called Gomez-Colon’s actions “horrendous.” Speaking through an interpreter, Gomez-Colon protested the conviction, saying he is innocent.

Judge Brindisi said the evidence shows otherwise and sentenced Gomez-Colon to life in prison at hard labor without parole, probation or suspension of sentence. “Mr. Colon, good luck. You’re going where you need to be,” Judge Brindisi said.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.

 

Todd Williams gets 21 years for killing 3 Good Samaritans in DWI crash

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Dec. 9) sentenced Todd Williams to a total of 21 years in prison for killing three Good Samaritans and injuring two others while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Williams, 40, of New Orleans, pleaded guily as charged guilty to three felony counts of vehicular homicide for the deaths of the Rev. Claude Luther Williams, Jr., 40, of Gretna; his friend Williams J. Leinart, 49, of Gretna; and Joseph Chopin, 66, of Marrero.

About 10:30 p.m., on June 16, a motorist was traveling east on the elevated Westbank Expressway near MacArthur Boulevard when one of the tires of her 2017 Hyundai Accent blew out. That caused her car to strike the concrete rail and come to a rest facing oncoming traffic in the left and center lanes, according to Louisiana State Police.

The Rev. Williams and his passenger Leinart stopped to assist the motorist, as did Chopin, who was driving separately. The three men and passengers from the Hyundai stood outside their vehicles.

Todd Williams, driving a 2015 Chevrolet Impala in the left lane, struck the Hyundai, which in turn struck another vehicle and pedestrians. Claude Williams, who was on the phone with a 911 operator when the crash occurred, Leinart and Chopin were thrown over the side and fell 30 feet to their deaths. Other motorists were injured.

Williams blood-alcohol content was .11 percent, above the .08-percent legal limit to drive.

On Monday, after hearing a letter of forgiveness written by the Rev. Williams’ wife and read aloud by a prosecutor, and hearing Todd Williams express sorrow and remorse, Judge Nancy Miller of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced the defendant to seven years in prison for each count of vehicular homicide. Judge Miller ran the sentences consecutively, for a total of 21 years.

Todd Williams also pleaded guilty as charged to two misdemeanor counts of vehicular negligent inuring, for which he received two six-month sentences. Judge Miller ran those sentences concurrent to the 21-year sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.

Irwin Gomez-Colon guilty of brutal stabbing, strangulation murder

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday (Dec. 5) found Irwin Gomez-Colon guilty of brutally stabbing and strangling a woman in her Terrytown apartment.

Gomez-Colon, 34, is guilty as charged of second-degree murder in the April 22, 2017, death of Nancy Yahaira Gomez Rodriguez, 33, a native of the Dominican Republic. Gomez-Colon and Rodriguez knew each other and lived in neighboring apartment complexes, according to trial evidence.

According to evidence presented at trial this week, Rodriguez was stabbed 24 times in her back and strangled in her apartment in the 2100 block of Empire Place. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the crime, found her bloody fingerprint on the apartment entry door, indicating she tried to escape as Gomez-Colon stabbed her.

Gomez-Colon was arrested two days after he killed Rodriguez, after he was linked to the crime through his DNA, which was recovered from a used condom that deputies found in her blood on the floor next to her body, according to trial evidence.

On Rodriguez’s kitchen countertop at the sink, deputies found his blood and evidence suggesting he attempted to clean up after killing her. He suffered two stab wounds on his right shoulder and a laceration on the palm of his right hand that is indicative of a slippage wound, caused when his hand slid down the blade as he stabbed the victim.

The jury also heard that Gomez-Colon had been arrested but never prosecuted for the alleged rapes of three other women, in Houston, Texas, in April 2014; in New Orleans in April 2015 and Jacksonville, Fla., in April 2016. Each of those women testified this week about how Gomez-Colon strangled them during the act, showing similarities to what happened to Rodriguez.

The jury deliberated about an hour before returning with its unanimous verdict. Judge Frank Brindisi of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Gomez-Colon to life in prison with no probation, parole or suspension of sentence on Jan. 6.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.

Marrero man guilty of attempted murder of store clerk

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday night (Dec. 4) found Janarius Carey guilty of shooting a Marrero convenience store clerk before he himself was shot after repeatedly pointing his pistol at a deputy who was responding to the crime.

Carey, 26, of Marrero, was convicted as charged of the attempted second-degree murder of an 18-year-old clerk at a convenience store at Barataria Boulevard and the Westbank Expressway. The jury, which deliberated under three hours, acquitted Carey of attempting to rob the store and of aggravated assault with a firearm.

According to evidence presented at trial, about 4 a.m., on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, Carey attempted to enter the store with a mask covering his face. He approached a locked door, where the clerk questioned him about the mask, according to trial testimony. Upon seeing Carey holding a pistol, the victim ran to and locked the other door and retreated to the rear storage area to call 911.

As the victim spoke with a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office 911 operator, Carey fired his pistol into the door and entered. The victim lunged for the pistol, and the two men wrestled. During the melee, Carey shot the victim in his back, the bullet exiting his abdomen.

Carey was still inside the store when the first deputy arrived. During the foot pursuit that followed, Carey pointed his pistol at a deputy three times, acts that formed the basis for the aggravated assault charge. The deputy fired his service pistol four times at Carey, who was shot once in the right thigh. Carey was apprehended across Barataria Boulevard from the store.

Ballistics evidence presented at trial showed that Carey’s pistol misfired after he shot the victim, indicating he tried to shoot the victim a second time.

Judge Stephen Enright of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Carey on Dec. 12.

UPDATE: On Dec. 12, Carey’s sentencing hearing was reset for Jan. 9, 2020.

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

 

 

 

‘Harvey Hustlers’ narcotics supplier sentenced to life for Marrero murder

A judge on Monday (Dec. 2) sentenced Alcus Smith to life in prison for his conviction of killing Donte Hall in Marrero.

Smith, 32, of Harvey, was convicted by a jury on Oct. 31 of the second-degree murder of Hall, 22, who was shot multiple times in the 2600 block of Pelican Bay Boulevard on Nov. 15, 2013.

Smith was a narcotics trafficker who supplied the notorious West Bank gang “Harvey Hustlers,” according to evidence presented at trial. Smith killed Hall believing that Hall cheated him in a narcotics transaction, according to trial evidence.

Smith already is serving a 65-year sentence for his 2015 conviction of racketeering, conspiracy to distribute narcotics and distribution of cocaine. Smith was charged in a case against the Harvey Hustlers that was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

After denying post-verdict motions and hearing impact testimony from Hall’s mother on Monday, retired Judge Raymond Bigelow, sitting pro tempore at the 24th Judicial District Court, sentenced Smith to the mandatory life sentence for killing Hall. Judge Bigelow ran the life sentence concurrent with the 65-year sentence Smith already is serving.

Assistant District Attorneys Seth Shute and Doug Freese prosecuted the case.

Ray Farria pleads guilty to shooting his wife through car windshield

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (Nov. 18) sentenced Ray Farria to 80 years in prison, after he admitted in court to fatally shooting his wife in the neck in full view of the couple’s four young children.

Farria, 33, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the July 24, 2018 death of Dominique Farria, 30. He shot her as she sat in the New Orleans couple’s car at Lake Tahoe and Manhattan boulevards in Harvey, at an entrance to the Stonebridge subdivision.

Their children, ages 1, 7, 9 and 11 years old at the time, also were in the car and witnessed the shooting, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. None of the children was physically injured. Dominique Farria died later at a hospital.

Farria additionally pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, for discarding his pistol in a nearby wooded area, and for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

The couple was visiting family in the Stonebridge subdivision, where an argument ensued, leading Dominque Farriato to attempt to drive away, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Farria attempted to stop her, first by standing behind the car and then climbing onto the hood as she drove away. He fired one bullet into the windshield. She was struck in the neck.

Farria later asserted it was an accidental shooting and accused his wife of infidelity. He was charged with second-degree murder but, pursuant to a negotiated agreement, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. In victim-impact testimony, Dominique’s mother said the family supported the plea agreement.

In accepting the plea, Judge Frank Brindisi of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Farria to the maximum 40 years for manslaughter, 40 years for obstruction of justice and 20 years for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. The sentences were run concurrently. Farria then pleaded guilty to being a habitual offender, leading to the 80-year sentence.

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Family Violence Unit Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish prosecuted the case.