A Jefferson Parish jury Friday night (Sept. 21) found Damon Stephney guilty as charged of the aggravated burglary of a Metairie home last year, a crime in which a victim was shot twice in the back as he fled. The verdict brings to three the number of convictions reached in the crime to date.
Stephney, 40, of Avondale, was one of two masked gunmen who forced their way into a home in the 400 block of Oaklawn Drive on the night of March 5, 2017, and ordered three residents to their knees in an attempt to rob the victims.
The partner of the homeowner, also a victim, escaped the home and was shot twice, in the back and in an arm, as he ran for help up Oaklawn Drive toward Veterans Memorial Boulevard, according to trial testimony. He survived.
Two of Stephney’s sons, Wendell Garcia, 20, of Algiers, and Damon Garcia, 23, of Avondale, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the crime. A fourth defendant awaits his trial.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office later found narcotics in the possession of two of the Oaklawn home’s residents, who rented rooms from the homeowner. One was booked and later pleaded guilty, and the other was given a misdemeanor summons. The narcotics were believed to be the reason Stephney and the others targeted the home.
Stephney denied being involved and fainted upon hearing the jury’s verdict, which was rendered after less than an hour of deliberation. Stephney was taken to a local hospital by ambulance.
Retired Plaquemines Parish Judge Michael Kirby, appointed pro tempore to the 24th Judicial District Court’s Division E seat, set Stephney’s sentencing hearing for Oct. 22.
Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Seth Shute prosecuted the case.
Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney Sunny Funk, chief of the Family Violence Unit, and Lt. Valerie Martinez-Jordan of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office are engaged in a statewide effort to help train law enforcement officers and others on Louisiana’s new firearms divestiture law. (JPDA photos)
With a new Louisiana law designed to further protect domestic violence victims taking effect in coming weeks, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office is engaged in a statewide effort to educate law enforcement and court officials to ensure that certain offenders are not possessing firearms.
In addition to helping with the training seminars, the DA’s Office on Wednesday (Sept. 12) hosted a regional training session in its Media Room. It was the second of seven such regional events that are scheduled at sites across Louisiana before the law, Act 367, takes effect on Oct. 1.
Based on legislation authored by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans during the 2018 legislative session and signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in May, Act 367 requires that local authorities coordinate in developing policies on how to remove firearms from people who are prohibited from possessing them because of civil and criminal protective orders and domestic violence convictions.
“There has to be a bit of statewide uniformity in this process,” Jefferson Parish Assistant District Attorney Sunny Funk, chief of the Domestic Violence Unit, told about 50 attendees during Wednesday’s session in the JPDA Media Room in Gretna.
The law requires, for instance, that the sheriffs’ offices, clerks of court and district attorneys shall develop forms, policies and procedures by Jan. 1, 2019, detailing how the process is conducted.
Lt. Valerie Martinez-Jordan of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, who has taken on a leadership role in Louisiana in ensuring that her colleagues among the state’s 64 parishes are implementing the protective measures for victims of domestic violence, told Wednesday’s attendees that they’ll return to their jurisdictions and adapt their processes to the new law.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter process for every parish,” Lt. Martinez-Jordan told the attendees.
Among other mandates, the law requires that licensed firearms dealers notify local sheriff’s offices if a person prohibited from possessing firearms attempts to purchase them. The law also imposes criminal penalties on dealers who provide firearms to prohibited people knowing that they are barred from having guns.
Judges also are to order the transfer of firearms to local sheriffs’ offices from defendants when they are convicted of certain offenses, such as domestic abuse battery and battery of a dating partner. Such defendants are required to turn over to the sheriff’s office all their firearms within 48 hours of the conviction or within 48 hours of their release from incarceration.
The firearms can be transferred to a third party or transferred to the sheriff’s offices, which in turn can place them in storage and charge the defendants “a reasonable fee” to cover the cost of storage.
Starting with the first session in Thibodaux on Friday (Sept. 7), ADA Funk, Lt. Martinez-Jordan and East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court Judge Pamela Baker, in connection with the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, are traveling across the state, meeting with local officials to help them implement Act 367’s mandates.
On Wednesday, law enforcement officials from Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Washington parishes converged on the DA’s Office Media Room for the daylong session.
Sessions are scheduled for sites in Scott, Baton Rouge, Pineville, Bossier City and Ruston. An eighth session is under consideration in New Orleans.
A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (Sept. 12), sentenced Jacobie Green to back-to-back life sentences plus another 50 years in prison for his conviction of participating in a Father’s Day 2015 shooting in Harvey that left two men dead and a third man wounded.
Green, 26, of Marrero, was convicted as charged Aug. 3, of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted second-degree murder. The jury found he was a gunman in the June 21, 2015 shooting at an Apache Drive apartment in which Johnnel Ovide, 23, and Trammell Marshall, 21, were killed and a then-23-year-old man surviving numerous gunshot wounds, including one Green fired into his face.
Before he died, Marshall identified “Cobie” as a gunman, as did the surviving victim, whom Green shot in the face, according to trial testimony.
Ovide’s mother and Marshall’s mother each provided written statements into the court in lieu of impact testimony, which were read aloud by a prosecutor.
Marshall’s mother noted how Green and her son had been friends. “You stole a life from someone who trusted you,” she wrote. “He opened the door not knowing your face would be the last face he would see.”
Ovide’s mother wrote, “I don’t go a day without thinking about my son. The pain is unimaginable.”
After denying a defense motion for a new trial and hearing a prosecutor read the impact testimony statements, Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Green to two life sentences, one for each of the murders, and the maximum 50 years for the attempted murder.
Judge Grefer then ordered that the sentences be served consecutively, noting that “two lives were taken and a third life was almost taken.”
Green is the second man to be sentenced to prison in connection with the incident. In February, Archie Hulbert III, 34, of Algiers, received a seven-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to perjury for lying to a Jefferson Parish grand jury in an attempt to help Green avoid prosecution. Two codefendants await their trials in connection with the shooting.
Assistant District Attorneys Matt Clauss and Laura Schneidau prosecuted the case.
A Jefferson Parish judge on Tuesday (Sept. 4) ordered a presentencing investigation after Olivia Matte pleaded guilty to causing the death of a Mississippi man as a result of driving while intoxicated on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway last year.
On what was scheduled to be her trial date, Matte, 28, of Covington, pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular homicide, a felony, in the March 23, 2017 death of James Blackmond, 37, of Foxworth, Miss.
Matte also pleaded guilty as charged to vehicular negligent injuring, involving Blackmond’s 44-year-old passenger; failing to maintain control of a motor vehicle; and operating a vehicle while her driver’s license was suspended. Those charges are misdemeanors.
Matte’s blood-alcohol content was .216, close to three times higher than the legal limit to drive in Louisiana.
In accepting her guilty plea, Judge Glenn Ansardi of the 24th Judicial District Court granted Matte’s attorney’s request for a presentence investigation. Judge Ansardi allowed Matte to remain free on bond, denying the prosecutors’ request that she be remanded to jail while awaiting her sentencing.
Judge Ansardi will announce Matte’s sentence on Nov. 15.
Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.