Category: What’s New

Sentences handed down in recent armed robbery convictions

A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (May 29) sentenced Aaron Harrell to 35 years in prison for his conviction of robbing a woman at gunpoint as she stood in her daughter’s driveway.

Harrell, 40, of Jefferson, was convicted by a jury on May 14 of armed robbery and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

On the morning of May 24, 2018, Harrell robbed the victim of her diamond wedding ring, earrings and a wristwatch to obtain money to support his heroin addiction, according to trial testimony.

Judge Michael Mentz of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Harrell to 30 years for the armed robbery with an additional 5-year enhancement because a firearm was used in the crime.

Judge Mentz also sentenced Harrell to 20 years in prison for his being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ran that concurrent to the 35 years. Harrell was barred from possessing firearms because of past convictions of armed robbery and narcotics offenses.

A multiple-bill hearing is set for June 13.

Separately, Judge Scott Schlegel on May 23 sentenced Bobby Johnson, 45, of Metairie, to 40 years in prison for his convictions of first-degree robbery and simple kidnapping. Johnson was convicted of those offenses on May 14.

Just after midnight on Nov. 18, 2016, Johnson robbed a woman as she prepared to feed stray cats behind businesses on Airline Drive near David Drive. Johnson then forced her to two banks in failed attempts to withdraw cash from ATMs, and then to the Kenner Walmart in hopes of getting cash back from a small purchase. The victim escaped and called for help, leading Johnson to flee.

Judge Schlegel sentenced Johnson to 40 years for the first-degree robbery and five years for the simple kidnapping and ran the sentences concurrent to one-another. At the time of the crimes, Johnson was on parole for a 1996 armed robbery conviction. A multiple-bill hearing is scheduled for July 8.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Richard Olivier prosecuted Harrell.

Assistant District Attorneys Zachary Popovich and Tucker Wimberly prosecuted Johnson.

Jefferson man convicted of robbing woman outside daughter’s home

A Jefferson Parish jury on Tuesday night (May 14) found Aaron Harrell guilty of robbing a woman at gunpoint as she stood in her daughter’s driveway one morning last year.

Harrell, 40, of Jefferson, was found guilty as charged of armed robbery and of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Harrell robbed the woman of her diamond wedding ring, ear rings and a wrist watch to obtain money with which he could feed his heroin addiction, according to evidence presented during the two-day trial.

Weeks later, the victim encountered Harrell, recognized him as her robber and contacted the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Harrell was legally barred from possessing firearms because of his past convictions of narcotics and of armed robbery.

Harrell denied involvement in the robbery and his attorneys argued that the victim misidentified their client.

The jury deliberated about two hours. Judge Michael Mentz of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Harrell on May 29.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.

Metairie man convicted of robbing a feral feline advocate

A Jefferson Parish jury on Tuesday (May 14) found Bobby Johnson guilty of robbing and kidnapping a woman who advocates for feral felines.

Johnson, 45, of Metairie, was convicted of first-degree robbery and simple kidnapping but was acquitted of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. At the time he committed these crimes, Johnson was on parole for committing an armed robbery in 1996.

About 12:20 a.m., on Nov. 18, 2016, the victim, now 64, parked her sports-utility vehicle behind businesses on Airline Drive near David Drive and was leaning over the back seat to fill bowls with cat food when Johnson approached and demanded cash, she testified. “He put a gun to the side of my face,” she testified. “He kept saying ‘Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me.’”

She had no cash so she offered him her ATM card in hopes he’d leave. Instead, he bound her hands with a black cloth belt, forced her into her SUV and drove her to a nearby bank. Unsuccessful at withdrawing cash there, he drove her to a second bank. Striking out there, he drove her to the Walmart in Kenner in attempt to get cash back on a small purchase. It was there that she escaped, ran into the store and screamed for help, causing Johnson to flee. The pistol was never recovered.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Robbery Detective Marc Macaluso obtained surveillance images of Johnson committing the crimes and distributed them to law enforcement agencies in hopes of identifying him. Johnson’s parole officer, Patrick O’Brien, recognized and identified him, according to trial testimony.

The victim later identified Johnson in a photographic lineup. JPSO forensic DNA analyst Dr. Marcela Zozaya testified that a combination of Johnson’s and the victim’s genetic material was found on the cloth belt used to bind the victims hands.

At trial Tuesday, Johnson testified that he was a drug dealer on the street that morning to make a narcotics transaction. He testified that the victim pulled up in her SUV asking if she could purchase crack cocaine. He provided a sample, which made her intoxicated and left her unable to drive, he testified. So he drove her to attempt to get cash to pay for more crack, he asserted.

Both the victim and her husband of 24 years testified that she has never used illegal narcotics.

The jury deliberated about 1 ½ hours. Judge Scott Schlegel of the 24th Judicial District Court set sentencing for May 23.

UPDATE: Judge Schlegel on May 23 sentenced Johnson to 40 years in prison for first-degree robbery and five years for the simple kidnapping. He ran the sentences concurrently, for a total of 40 years in prison. Johnson is due back in Judge Schlegel’s court on July 8 for a multiple bill hearing.

Assistant District Attorneys Zachary Popovich and Tucker Wimberly prosecuted the case.

Chad McAvoy pleads guilty to killing his mother in Metairie

A Jefferson Parish judge on Monday (May 6) sentenced Chad McAvoy to 40 years in prison, after he pleaded guilty to killing his mother with a shotgun blast in their Metairie home. The state, during plea negotiations, agreed to a reduced charge of manslaughter but demanded the maximum 40-year sentence.

McAvoy, 22, admitted he killed his mother Connie McAvoy, 42, on March 1, 2018. Mrs. McAvoy was killed shortly after she returned to her home, where she got into a verbal disagreement with her husband and then with McAvoy in his bedroom.

“As she was leaving his room, he fired a single (shotgun shell) into her back, causing her to expire at the scene,” Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish said during the plea hearing in reciting the factual basis.

According to testimony presented during a pretrial hearing, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, after receiving a 911 call from McAvoy’s father, initially treated the incident as a suicide. Deputies found Mrs. McAvoy on the floor of a hallway, suffering from an apparent gunshot wound to her upper back.

The detectives, thinking the matter was not a suicide, questioned McAvoy and his father, and McAvoy initially pointed blame to his father. McAvoy later confessed.

On Monday, Mrs. McAvoy’s sister, mother and older son provided impact testimony to the court, telling Judge Conn Regan they supported the plea agreement as being “best for the whole family,” and expressing their grief over their loss. McAvoy, who slumped over in his chair and wept as his family testified, later told the court he had “regret” for his decision to kill his mother and said he loved his grandmother and aunt.

Judge Regan, of the 24th Judicial District Court, then sentenced McAvoy to 40 years at hard labor and advised him to take advantage of self-help classes in prison.

Assistant District Attorneys Kellie Rish and Molly Massey prosecuted the case.

Harvey man convicted of exploiting elderly woman, taking $800,000

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday evening (May 1) convicted Paul Juarez of exploiting an elderly Terrytown woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, assuming legal control of her finances and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of her money on many unexplained expenses.

Juarez, 72, of Harvey, is guilty as charged of exploitation of persons with infirmities in connection with his spending more than $800,000 of Marjorie Blake’s money during a six-year period, the jury found. Ms. Blake, a retired nurse and divorcée from North Carolina who had no children, died in March 2014 at age 85.

“She died penniless and alone,” Assistant District Attorney Lynn Schiffman, who prosecuted Juarez with Assistant District Attorney Johnny Carr, told jurors.

According to evidence presented at trial, Juarez knew Blake through their West Bank church and, after she was medically deemed unable to make decisions for herself due to Alzheimer’s in 2008, he assumed power of attorney for the ailing woman. Juarez refused to allow Ms. Blake’s closest relative, a niece who lives in North Carolina, to even visit her aunt.

Testimony showed that in 2010 Juarez transferred more than $300,000 from Ms. Blake’s bank to his own without explanation. He also made himself and his wife the exclusive beneficiaries to Ms. Blake’s life insurance policy. He used her money to pay a tax bill in Florida, in a county where his wife owned a business.

Ms. Blake’s niece, who was named in the will, contacted her attorney, who in turn contacted the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, leading to Juarez’s arrest.

Juarez denied exploiting Ms. Blake. His attorney argued that Ms. Blake made arrangement with Juarez to tend to her own care, and that he was carrying out her wishes. She wasn’t close to her niece, and she didn’t want to return to North Carolina, his attorney argued.

The six-member jury deliberated less than an hour before returning with its verdict. Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court is presiding over the case.

(UPDATE: Judge Regan on May 6 set Juarez’s sentencing hearing for July 11.)

Assistant District Attorneys Lynn Schiffman and Johnny Carr prosecuted the case.

Terrytown man convicted of molesting 6-year-old girl

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday (April 24) found Ronnie Lim guilty of sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl in 2012.

Lim, 26, of Terrytown, was found guilty as charged of sexual battery of a juvenile under age 13.

The jury deliberated about 30 minutes in reaching its verdict. Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Lim on May 9.

Assistant District Attorneys Douglas Rushton and Meredith Hearn prosecuted the case.

Michael Dick sentenced to 80 years after admitting he killed stepfather

Accepting the state’s requirements in a negotiated plea agreement, a Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (April 24) sentenced Michael Anthony Dick to 80 years in prison under the state’s habitual offender law, after Dick pleaded guilty to killing his stepfather in Terrytown.

Dick, 33, admitted he shot Raymond Laurent, 60, while in the victim’s home in the 700 block of Whitney Avenue on Sept. 9, 2016.

Dick pleaded guilty to manslaughter as part of the plea agreement and received the maximum 40-year sentence for that offense as members of Mr. Laurent’s family looked on from the courtroom gallery. A prosecutor read to the court two statements written by Mr. Laurent’s sisters.

In 2016, Mr. Laurent’s wife – Dick’s mother – reported to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office that she found her husband on the living room sofa with a gunshot wound to his head. Detective Jean Lincoln determined that Dick was responsible for the homicide.

Members of the U.S. Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force later located Dick in Picayune, Miss., where he was residing in a mobile home. Authorities found in the mobile home the .38-caliber revolver Dick used to shoot Mr. Laurent. Dick confessed to committing the homicide.

Dick also pleaded guilty Wednesday to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, in connection with the revolver he used to kill Mr. Laurent. He received the maximum 20-year sentence for that offense. Dick was prohibited from possessing firearms because of convictions of extortion and false representation of a controlled dangerous substance, both occurring in 2009, court records show.

In accepting the guilty pleas, Judge Danyelle Taylor of the 24th Judicial District Court ran the sentences concurrently. She then resentenced Dick to 80 years in prison per his plea agreement, in finding that his manslaughter conviction was his fourth felony under the state’s habitual offender law.

UPDATE: For her role in Mr. Laurent’s death, Dick’s girlfriend, Amber Wilson, 34, of Gretna, pleaded guilty on Monday, June 10, to conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. Judge Donnie Rowan sentenced her to eight years in prison.

Assistant District Attorneys Kellie Rish and Brittany Beckner prosecuted the case.

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.