Month: October 2018

Harvey, Metairie men convicted of unrelated armed robberies

Jefferson Parish juries on Thursday evening (Oct. 25) returned guilty verdicts in two unrelated robberies, one involving a Harvey man who accosted two women in business parking lots and the other involving a Metairie man who helped in a pawn shop heist.

Armed purse snatchings

In the West Bank crime, Edward West, 31, of Harvey, was convicted of two counts of armed robbery, for robbing women in back-to-back crimes outside neighboring businesses in the 1500 block of Manhattan Boulevard in Harvey. West also was found guilty of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

On the evening of Nov. 19, 2016, West, armed with a .38-caliber revolver, assailed a 31-year-old woman as she left a discount store. The woman was returning to her vehicle after shopping when West approached, brandished the pistol and robbed her, according to trial testimony.

West then ran through the parking lot to an adjacent business and robbed a 78-year-old woman of her purse as she and her daughter finished shopping at a nearby business, according to testimony.

As West robbed the second woman, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Henry Dejean was in the area as part of a pro-active holiday police presence along the Manhattan Boulevard business corridor as the first victim was calling 911, according to testimony. As such, he was on the scene within seconds of the second robbery taking place.

Witnesses to the second robbery directed Deputy Dejean’s attention to West, who at this point was running across Manhattan Boulevard to behind an automotive repair business at Ute Street. Deputy Dejean pursued and helped locate and arrest West inside an apartment in the 1600 block of Ute Street.

The jury deliberated more than three hours in convicting West as charged of two counts of armed robbery and for being a felon with a firearm. Judge Lee Faulkner of the 24th Judicial District Court set West’s sentencing for Nov. 8.

Assistant District Attorneys Seth Shute and Emily Booth prosecuted West.

Pawn shop heist

Meanwhile, in Judge Conn Regan’s court, Edgard Rivas, 27, of Metairie, was convicted of first-degree robbery for his role in the Jan. 7, 2017, robbery of a pawn shop in the 7900 block of Airline Drive.

Rivas and two of his roommates, Mario Gevani and Carlos Ramos, entered the business on that evening, all concealing their faces, according to testimony. Two of the robbers wore Jason character masks from the “Friday the 13th” movie series, according to testimony.

Geovani and Ramos were armed with an AR-15 rifle and a semiautomatic pistol, while Rivas was armed with a hammer that he used to break the glass display cases to take jewelry, according to testimony. The trio escaped with cash, jewelry and a man’s wallet, according to testimony.

The following month, on Feb. 7, 2017, members of the Sheriff’s Office’s Project STAR team were conducting a narcotics investigation of Rivas and went to his Trenton Street apartment, according to testimony.

Project STAR deputies seized narcotics and noticed a Jason mask in the trio’s apartment. Robbery Detective Anthony Buttone, who was investigating a string of robberies in which robber wore a Jason mask, obtained a search warrant for the trio’s apartment. He discovered clothing matching that worn in the pawn shop robbery, leading him to question the trio and to obtain confessions, according to testimony.

Ramos, 21, and Geovani, 22, previously pleaded guilty to armed robbery counts, with Judge Regan sentencing Ramos to 20 years in prison and Geovani to 26 years in prison.

The jury deliberated over two hours in finding Rivas, who wielded a hammer during the pawn shop robbery, guilty of the responsive verdict of first-degree robbery. Judge Regan is scheduled to sentence Rivas on Nov. 26.

Assistant District Attorneys Blair Constant and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted Rivas.

Avondale man sentenced as triple-offender after Metairie home invasion conviction

A judge on Monday (Oct. 22) handed a 45-year prison sentence to an Avondale man, whose criminal history includes narcotics offenses and whose latest conviction was for a Metairie home invasion that left a man critically injured.

Damon Stephney, 40, was found to be a triple felony offender under Louisiana’s habitual offender law by retired Judge pro tempore Michael Kirby, who was serving a temporary appointment to the 24th Judicial District Court’s Division E seat when he presided over Stephney’s trial last month.

A Jefferson Parish jury on Sept. 21 found Stephney guilty as charged of aggravated burglary, for being one of the men who on March 5, 2017 forced their way into a home in the 400 block of Oaklawn Drive, just north of Interstate 10.

The boyfriend of the homeowner was shot twice in the back as he fled up Oaklawn. “Never have I been so terrified in my life,” he told Judge Kirby in impact testimony on Monday.

For the aggravated burglary, Judge Kirby sentenced Stephney to 30 years in prison. He vacated that sentence after finding that prosecutors met their burden of proving Stephney is a triple offender and resentenced him to 45 years.

In explaining his reasons for the 30-year sentence, Judge Kirby noted in part that Stephney enlisted his sons to participate in the crime. His sons, Wendell Garcia, 20, of Algiers, and Damon Garcia, 23, of Avondale, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the crime, to aggravated burglary and accessory after the fact to aggravated burglary, respectively.

On Monday, Wendell Garcia pleaded guilty to being a second felony offender under the state’s habitual offender law. Judge pro tempore Chuck Credo, also serving a temporary appointment to the Division E seat, resentenced Garcia to 30 years in prison.

Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Africk and Seth Shute prosecuted the case.

Juvenile Pre-trial Diversion staff co-author report highlighting benefits of early intervention in delinquency cases

Jefferson Parish’s Juvenile Pre-trial Diversion program is reaching troubled youths quicker than the intervention of the courts, according to a paper co-authored by Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office staff and published nationally this week.

And that’s important considering that youths’ behaviors are more motivated by immediate rewards rather than when the consequences are extended over a long period, according to co-author Blake Bascle, deputy chief for adult and juvenile diversion programs at the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office. Through diversion, youths are reached in a month, whereas through the courts the period can extend up to four months.

“Use of pre-adjudication diversion can reduce the time between arrest and intervention. Diversion services typically begin within one month of the offense. Expedient case processing provides youth with immediate opportunities to achieve program goals rather than relying on significantly delayed court-based responses to change behaviors,” wrote Bascle and Dr. John Ryals Jr., evaluation and treatment supervisor for the Jefferson Parish Department of Juvenile Services.

Vivie Satorsky, of the Pre-trial Diversion staff, contributed to the paper, “Strengthening Interagency Collaboration: The Case for Pre-Adjudication Diversion,” published by the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, which is based in Boston, Mass.

The authors cover an array of juvenile intervention matters in Jefferson Parish. Notable among them is Restorative Practices, a joint program between the District Attorney’s Office and the Jefferson Parish Public School System. Public schools that have adopted Restorative Practices have seen a 13.7-percent reduction in expulsions while schools that do not use the program saw an 18.5-percent increase in expulsions during the two-year period ending in 2017, according to their paper.

Read the paper here.

Marrero home invader sentenced to 68 years in prison as habitual offender

A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (Oct. 10) resentenced Brandon Pike to 68 years in prison, finding that the man who was convicted earlier this year of brutally beating an 84-year-old woman in her home is a second-felony offender.

Pike, 39, Marrero, was convicted as charged in February of aggravated burglary and second-degree battery. The convictions stem from New Year’s Eve 2016, when Pike kicked in the front door of the woman’s 16th Street home in Marrero, ordered her to give him money, and when she said she had none, he proceeded to punch her in the head until she lost consciousness. He left with her television, according to trial evidence.

The woman regained consciousness and called a family member, who in turn notified a neighbor who found the victim on the living floor next to her Christmas tree with gifts still under it, according to trial evidence. She later was able to identify Pike as her attacker.

A Jefferson Parish jury convicted Pike on Feb. 28. In March, Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Pike to 30 years in prison for the aggravated burglary and eight years for the second-degree battery, run consecutively for a total of 38 years.

On Wednesday, Pike was returned to Judge Rowan’s court for his multiple bill hearing. According to court records, in 2011, Pike pleaded guilty as charged to unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, after he was caught in Marrero driving a 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis that had been stolen in Terrebonne Parish. That conviction was used in the multiple bill to enhance the sentence.

After ruling that Pike is a double offender, Judge Rowan vacated the 30-year sentence for the aggravated burglary and resentenced him to 60 years. He ran the eight years for the second-degree battery consecutive to the 60 years, for a total of 68 years.

In explaining his decision, Judge Rowan recalled trial evidence showing the victim’s injuries. “Her eye was swollen shut. She was left to lay on that floor all night, which I believe was New Year’s Eve.”

Assistant District Attorneys Andrew DeCoste and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.