District Attorney Warren Montgomery recently attended the Gulf Coast Elder Abuse Conference, held at the Northshore Harbor Center in Slidell. The annual conference is sponsored by St. Tammany SALT (Seniors And Law Enforcement Together). It featured as speakers national and regional experts on the issue of elder abuse, including Assistant District Attorney Harold Bartholomew of the 22nd Judicial District. The conference was held in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an international effort celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015.
District Attorney Warren Montgomery was the keynote speaker at the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce Wednesday (June 24) at Beau Chêne Country Club. The event was sponsored by Humana.
COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury unanimously found Rigoberto Ventura, 57, guilty Wednesday (June 24) of aggravated rape for sexually abusing a boy, from age 5 to about 10, on multiple occasions and sexual battery for molesting a girl, then 7 or 8. Ventura, who lived in Lacombe, faces a mandatory life sentence on the aggravated rape conviction and 25 to 99 years in prison for sexual battery.
District Judge Scott C. Gardner set Ventura’s sentencing for July 13. Assistant District Attorney Jason Cuccia and William Macke prosecuted the case. The jury deliberated about three hours before returning the guilty verdicts.
The allegations first surfaced against Ventura in 2011, when the male victim revealed to a substance abuse counselor that Ventura had raped and sexually abused him from age 5 until he was about 10. The counselor notified family members, who reported the abuse to the Slidell Police Department. Less than a year later, the second victim reported that Ventura had touched her inappropriately under her clothing on two occasions when she was 7 or 8 years old.
Both victims testified during the trial.
COVINGTON—A 35-year-old office manager who embezzled about $135,000 from a Covington medical clinic was ordered Monday (June 22) by District Judge Reginald T. Badeaux to repay the stolen money or face up to 10 years in prison. Badeaux gave the defendant, Shantel Judah, of Slidell, five years to pay $123,000, and the remaining $12,000 will be seized from her retirement fund.
Badeaux also gave Judah suspended jail sentences that ranged from six months to 10 years in prison on each of the nine charges, as well as a total of five years of active probation. She pled guilty May 27 to stealing from Dr. Albert Tydings, 121 Lakeview Circle in Covington, altering bookkeeping records, and misusing his business credit cards in an embezzlement scheme that lasted from 2011 to 2013. A risk assessment conducted to help judges determine an appropriate sentence found that Judah was low risk to reoffend.
Judah had worked for Tydings for 10 years in January 2014, when he first noticed discrepancies in bookkeeping, business credit card accounts, and bank accounts that Judah had managed exclusively. Tydings reported to police that he was preparing documents for his personal tax returns on Jan. 23, 2014, when he discovered delinquent business credit card accounts, unpaid bills, unauthorized charges on his American Express and Chase bank cards, and he could not locate any cash deposits made by the business for 2011, 2012, or 2013.
Tydings confronted Judah, who initially denied wrongdoing but quit the next day. An investigation by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office discovered thousands of dollars of unauthorized credit card charges and checks that had been written to the clinic and cashed by Judah. She never deposited the money into the clinic’s account. Judah also used Tydings’ bank account to pay some of her personal credit card bills. She increased her salary by at least $441 per pay period, paid for health insurance for herself and her family, paid her phone bill, and gave herself a car allowance, none of which Tydings had approved.
Judah was arrested Feb. 20, 2014, and she was ultimately charged with two counts of unauthorized use of an access device card, theft over $1,500, theft of business records, three counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance by fraud, possession of testosterone, and insurance fraud.
Assistant District Attorney Harold Bartholomew prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
COVINGTON— Thirty-nine-year-old Joshua D. Liner, of Pearl River, was sentenced Monday (June 22) to 30 years in prison for molesting a 6-year-old girl. Judge Allison Penzato sentenced Liner, who had been convicted of sexual battery June 4 by a St. Tammany Parish jury.
The incident first came to light when the victim told her mother that Liner had touched her inappropriately during a visit to his home with her father on or between March 1, 2013, and June 16, 2013. The girl’s family called the police. In an additional interview with the Children’s Advocacy Center, the girl said Liner also made her touch and kiss his private areas. The victim said she complied because she was afraid and did not want him to get angry at her.
In addition to the victim’s testimony during the trial, the jury also heard from a 30-year-old woman, who said Liner had molested her from the time she was 6 years old until she was about 12.
Assistant District Attorney Julie Knight prosecuted the case, which was investigated by Detective Huey Davis of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
COVINGTON—Former veteran New Orleans police officer Gary J. Calico pled guilty Thursday (June 18) to aggravated flight from an officer and aggravated obstruction of a highway in an incident that involved a high-speed chase on the Causeway bridge in St. Tammany Parish in December 2013. Calico was sentenced by Judge Raymond Childress to a suspended sentence of 2 ½ years in prison and five years of active probation.
Assistant District Attorney Darrell Sims prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Causeway Police, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Louisiana State Police.
On Dec. 18, 2013, Causeway Police Officer David Copeland noticed a car swerving on the Causeway and attempted to make a stop. But the driver, who later was identified as Calico, fled, traveling at times up to 120 miles per hour. A high-speed chase ensued, also drawing in the Louisiana State Police. The chase ended at Calico’s home in the Estates of Northpark Subdivision, but when officers knocked on his door, he refused to come out.
Officers were able to identify Calico as the owner of the vehicle, but he later tried to report it as stolen. He later surrendered to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Calico, a veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, resigned from the department last week, the day before his plea.
COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury convicted Maurice Jackson, 28, of second-degree battery Thursday (June 18) for severely beating his 35-year-old wife, who had tried to stop the prosecution and testified on his behalf during the trial. Jackson, of Slidell, faces up to five years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney William Macke pleaded with the jury in his closing argument to overlook the wife’s testimony and see her as a domestic violence victim. “This is an intervention,” he said. “(The victim) may not realize she’s a victim. She may not feel like she’s a victim. This is your chance to save her from herself.”
The incident came to the attention of the Slidell Police Department about 5:30 a.m. March 9, 2014, when officers received an anonymous complaint about a loud fight in a Slidell motel room. A woman was heard screaming: “Get off of me” and “Stop hitting me.”
When officers responded, a woman with serious facial injuries answered the door and told them that her husband had beaten her. By then, he had fled. The woman was transported to a local hospital, where doctors found that she had sustained facial fractures in the areas around her eyes and nose. A warrant was issued for Jackson’s arrest, and about a month later at about 3:30 a.m. investigators tracked down his car at another Slidell motel. Again, the wife answered the door, but this time she told police officers that Jackson was not there. Officers searched the room anyway and found Jackson hiding in a bathroom.
The wife later showed up at the District Attorney’s Office and asked to drop the charges, but District Attorney Warren Montgomery proceeded with the charges anyway. When the victim was called to testify Wednesday during the trial, she said that she had been drinking and was mistaken when she first told officers that Jackson had beaten her. She testified that she actually had been beaten by three women at a nightclub. The jury deliberated about an hour before returning the guilty verdict.
Slidell police officer Thomas McNulty investigated the case. Jackson’s sentencing is set for Aug. 14. He also faces a separate charge of domestic abuse battery by strangulation for a separate incident involving his wife on April 25.
COVINGTON—A 71-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison for molesting a 7-year-old girl repeatedly during the first three months of 2012. The defendant, Lovic Cotton, who lived in Sun, was sentenced Thursday (June 18) by Judge August Hand to 40 years in prison for sexual battery of a victim under 13.
The victim, now 10 years old, told the jury during Cotton’s trial two months ago that on several occasions when she shared a recliner with Cotton in his home, he covered her with a blanket and touched her inappropriately inside her pants. The jury deliberated just 10 minutes on April 23 before issuing the guilty verdict.
The jury rejected Cotton’s testimony that he only gave the girl a belly rub and was confused about why she later complained to her mother that he “rubbed her belly too low.” The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.
COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts Wednesday (June 17) against a 29-year-old Covington man on two counts of aggravated rape and three counts of sexual battery for multiple incidents involving a girl who was under 13 years old. The defendant, Robert C. Flowers, faces mandatory life in prison on the aggravated rape charges and 25 to 99 years in prison on each of the sexual battery charges.
Flowers’ sentencing is set for July 7. Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea prosecuted the case before Judge Raymond Childress, and Detective Hugh Davis of the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation.
The victim, now 14, testified Tuesday (June 16) that Flowers began touching her sexually when she was about 5 years old and that the abuse progressed and continued for several years through about December 2012. A woman named Sandra Gaines brought Flowers into the child’s life, and the girl testified that both adults sexually abused her repeatedly. Gaines is scheduled to be tried in the case in August.
The jury heard a taped statement from Flowers, admitting that he had intercourse with the girl, while Gaines participated. Flowers testified that his confession had been coerced, but the jury rejected that argument, as well as his contention that the victim had made up the stories of abuse.
In his closing statement, Noriea told the jury that, unlike Flowers, the victim had no motive to lie. The victim has been consistent in her accounts of the abuse from the moment she first told a teacher that Flowers and Gaines were sexually molesting her. The teacher testified that her class had viewed a video at school about sexual abuse. The teacher then took the student to the principal, who contacted the appropriate authorities.
Jurors also saw a videotape by the Children’s Advocacy Center of the girl describing the details of the sexual abuse to a counselor.
“She didn’t have a normal childhood, and that’s why she has this emblazoned imprint of five to six years of horror,” Noriea told the jury about the victim in his closing statement. “What she was able to tell you comes from deviant sexual behavior, not normal childhood experiences…They robbed her of her childhood.”
FRANKLINTON—An 18-year-old Washington Parish man faces life in prison for aggravated rape and up to 50 more years for attempted aggravated rape in incidents involving three girls, who were ages 10, 7, and 5 when the abuse was discovered. The defendant, Bradley Jenkins, who lived just outside Bogalusa, is set for sentencing June 24.
A Washington Parish jury deliberated about 1 ½ hours Thursday (June 11), before finding Jenkins guilty of the aggravated rape of the two older girls and attempted aggravated rape of the youngest one. The aggravated rape convictions carry a mandatory life sentence.
Assistant District Attorneys Jay Adair and Becky Jo Hollen prosecuted the case before Judge Martin Coady. All three victims testified—two of them via closed circuit television from another room—that they had sexual contact with Jenkins on multiple occasions between July 17, 2011, and August 31, 2013.
The abuse came to light in 2013, during an investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services. The case was also investigated by Washington Parish Deputy Sheriff Demmie Rice.