Year: 2021

Kenner man convicted of raping a child

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday evening (June 3) found Tobe Lawrence Jr. guilty as charged of raping a child during a 7-year period. 

Lawrence, 59, of Kenner, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for his conviction of first-degree rape of a victim under the age of 12. The abuse, which occurred between from 2001 and 2008, was reported to the Kenner Police Department in July 2018. 

Prosecutors were also able to present testimony from an additional victim who is now 35 years old who was abused by the defendant in a similar manner. That victim was initially reluctant to participate in the prosecution. While Lawrence was not charged for abusing this victim, prosecutors were allowed to present this testimony to show evidence of Lawrence’s commission of another crime, wrong or act involving sexually assaultive behavior under Louisiana law as “lustful disposition” towards a child. 

Lawrence, a then volunteer coach in the Kenner Parks and Recreations Department’s Lincoln Manor Gym, denied the accusations and said the victims lied. Of the child he raped, his defense lawyers asserted the victim must have confused Lawrence with a convicted sex offender who lived near their client.

Jurors deliberated just over one hour before returning their unanimous verdict. Judge Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Lawrence on June 30.

Assistant District Attorneys Zach Grate and Lindsey Truhe prosecuted the case.

 

 

Westwego man convicted of sexually assaulting two women as Jefferson Parish jury trials resume

A Jefferson Parish jury, the first one empaneled in the 24th Judicial District since the Louisiana Supreme Court lifted its year-long moratorium on jury trials last month, convicted a Westwego man Wednesday (April 21) of sexually assaulting two women.

John W. Patton, 56, is guilty as charged of the attempted forcible rape of one victim, and of the forcible rape, sexual battery and false imprisonment of a second victim, the jury decided after 50 minutes of deliberation.

The first victim was a 44-year-old woman who Patton attempted to rape on Oct. 29, 2016, in her apartment in Kenner, according to trial testimony. Patton met the woman through a dating website several weeks before the crime occurred.

The second victim was a 50-year-old woman Patton victimized between Sept. 7, 2018 and Sept. 8, 2018, in his Westwego residence, according to trial testimony. The victim also met Patton through a dating website. Patton lured the victim to his home after asserting that his sister was there. After the victim arrived, and upon learning there was no sister present, Patton attacked her and held her at knifepoint before eventually letting her leave the following day, according to trial testimony.

The woman testified she relented to Patton’s demands because she was afraid of him. “Ladies and gentlemen, complying out of fear is not consent,” Assistant District Attorney Zach Popovich, who prosecuted Patton with Laura Schneidau, told jurors in opening statements on April 13.

“Ladies and gentlemen, complying out of fear is not consent.”- Assistant District Attorney Zach Popovich

The victim in the 2016 crime did not report it to police until reading of the second victim in a 2018 news report, according to trial testimony. Both women described Patton as sexually assaulting them but unable to maintain an erection.

Patton, who previously fired his court-appointed attorney and acted as his own defense counsel, denied assaulting the women or being impotent. He accused the police of engaging in misconduct.

Judge Stephen Grefer is scheduled to sentence Patton on May 19.

Patton’s jury trial was the first in Jefferson Parish since the Louisiana Supreme Court lifted its statewide moratorium that was enacted last year in response to the pandemic. The moratorium was lifted effective April 1.

A second post-moratorium jury was seated last week in Judge Adrian Adams’ court. On Thursday (April 15), those jurors convicted a Baton Rouge man of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Assistant District Attorneys Zach Grate and Margaret Martin prosecuted that case.

Then, on Tuesday (April 20), a jury was seated in Judge Frank Brindisi’s court to weigh evidence against Alexander Style, 41, of New Orleans, who was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and witness intimidation. But before opening statements began Wednesday, Styles pleaded guilty as charged and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Assistant District Attorneys Joshua Vanderhooft and Matthew Whitworth prosecuted the case.

In November, meanwhile, when the moratorium was temporarily lifted, a jury seated in Judge Michael Mentz’s court convicted a Marrero man of violating a protective order and of other offenses. That jury was seated only because the defendant filed a speedy trial motion earlier in the year. Assistant District Attorneys Popovich and Rebecca Kehoe Thomas prosecuted that case.