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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.