For five straight Wednesdays in July, attorneys from the District Attorney’s Office in Covington provided training for the Slidell Police Department to help officers strengthen the materials they present for prosecution and improve their court appearances as witnesses.
Chief of Trials Bruce Dearing and several other Assistant District Attorneys conducted the seminars at Camp Villere in Slidell on report writing, appearing as a trial witness, understanding information disclosure obligations according to Brady case law, and more. Dearing said the training is beneficial to the District Attorney’s Office, as well as the police officers. “I tell them, ‘I’m here to benefit y’all,’” Dearing said. “’But I have an ulterior motive. If y’all deliver a better report to our office, we’re more likely to achieve the correct result.’ It definitely benefits both sides.”
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Brewster suggested the training, which has included about 25 to 30 officers per two-hour session. The sessions have gotten such good reviews that at least two other agencies have expressed an interest in participating.
In addition to Dearing and Brewster, the other Assistant District Attorneys who have participated include Nick Noriea, William Macke, and Harold Bartholomew.
“It’s also a good opportunity for us to interact with new officers and put faces to names,” Dearing said of the training.
COVINGTON—A 56-year-old Slidell man pled guilty Monday to 35 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles, two counts of production of pornography involving juveniles, and one count of aggravated incest after an investigation turned up more than 350 such images on his computer. Each possession count represents 10 images.
Judge Elaine DiMiceli, sitting in temporarily for Judge William J. Burris, sentenced the defendant, Patrick Emerson, to 20 years in prison on the possession charges and 25 years on the production and incest charges. All of the sentences are to run concurrently without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.
Assistant District Attorney William Macke handled the case, which was investigated by Brian D. Brown, an investigator in the Louisiana Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit. Brown’s investigation with peer-to-peer file sharing services led to Emerson, who cooperated, showed officers the location of the child pornography in his computer room, and told them that he had been downloading those kinds of pictures for more than 30 years.
The search warrant netted about 1,000 images, 350 of which were deemed pornographic, depicting children in a range of ages, from toddlers to 13 years old. The production and incest charges stem from photos Emerson took of a child related to him.
COVINGTON— District Judge Allison Penzato sentenced Bobby Isidore, 21, to life in prison Monday (July 27) for his role in the shooting death of a 22-year-old man nearly two years ago during a purported marijuana sale. Isidore’s conviction of second degree murder on July 9 carried an automatic life sentence.
The victim, Leighton Powe Jr., thought he was meeting a group of men behind a store in Slidell on Sept. 7, 2013, to sell marijuana. Instead, the men, including Isidore and some of his associates—Felix Adams, Jr., then 20; Trenton Johnson, then 19; and KiShion Griffin, then 17—planned to rob Powe.
Soon after Powe climbed into the passenger seat of a truck with the men, Isidore grabbed him from behind, and Adams shot him in the head. The men then drove a few miles and dumped Powe’s body in a ditch just beyond the Slidell city limits. Adams set the truck on fire, and Johnson, the truck’s owner and the driver on the night of the crime, reported it as stolen. But within a week, the Slidell Police Department had arrested all of them.
Johnson pled guilty last December to manslaughter and received a 25-year sentence in exchange for testifying against the others. Adams was sentenced in April to life in prison plus 20 years for his convictions on second degree murder and obstruction of justice. Griffin is scheduled to go to trial in September. A fifth man, Darion Causey, was involved in the cover-up and is also scheduled to go to trial later this year for obstruction of justice.
My office has re-examined the Shane Gates case and found there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the outstanding misdemeanor DWI and resisting arrest charges. Mr. Gates failed to appear in court more than 18 months ago, and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest. However, my office has notified Mr. Gates through his legal representative that we will not seek pre-trial detention if he turns himself in by the end of July 2015.
Mr. Gates was arrested Nov. 16, 2006, on a felony charge of aggravated flight from a police officer and a misdemeanor DWI charge. He was later charged with resisting arrest, which also is a misdemeanor. On July 27, 2012, Mr. Gates was found not guilty of aggravated flight from a police officer. He was ordered to appear in court more than 18 months ago on the misdemeanor charges but failed to appear. A District Court judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
In recent months, members of my staff and I have met with Attorney Martin E. Regan, Jr., who requested that we decline prosecution of Mr. Gates on the misdemeanor charges.
Mr. Gates received a fair trial previously on the felony charge and was found not guilty. I urge him to present himself to the court so that the judicial process can resolve the outstanding misdemeanor charges and end this dispute.
FRANKLINTON—A Washington Parish jury found Warren Gonzales, 33, of Pearl River, guilty Wednesday (July 22) of six counts of drug possession, resulting from a police traffic stop in January, when officers discovered heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, and other prescription drugs. As a multiple offender, Gonzales faces up to life imprisonment when Judge Martin E. Coady sentences him Aug. 11.
Assistant District Attorney John Alford prosecuted the case, which was investigated by Lt. Brent Goings and Detective Jason Garbo, both of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office Drug Task Force. The task force was conducting operations in Bogalusa on Jan. 20, when officers stopped a vehicle pulling a trailer with no lights. Gonzales was a passenger in the vehicle, driven by his girlfriend at the time, Teresa Rouse.
When a routine check by officers showed the tag on the vehicle was registered to another vehicle, Rouse allowed officers to conduct a search. Officers discovered a black magnetic box that contained the drugs. Rouse, a co-defendant, testified during the trial this week that the drugs belonged to Gonzales.
Rouse pled guilty to all six counts and was sentenced to probation. Gonzales rejected a plea agreement that offered him a 20-year sentence.
FRANKLINTON—Sixty-three-year-old Bobby Duncan pled guilty Monday to a host of charges stemming from a 2013 incident in Mount Hermon, when he attacked his elderly mother, shot at a family friend trying to help her, set the family’s home on fire, and then shot at responding officers.
Duncan, whose last address is in Gonzales, was sentenced to 15 years in prison without the benefit of parole on five counts of attempted first degree murder and one count of attempted second degree murder, second degree kidnapping, and simple arson over $500. He was sentenced to 10 years for cruelty to the infirm. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Deputies from the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office responded to a call on June 21, 2013, about a family dispute at a home on Duncan Road in Mount Hermon. Duncan had struck his mother, Ruby, several times during an argument with her. He also threatened to kill her. When a family relative, Kelly Stokes, tried to help, Duncan threatened to kill her if she did not get back. Stokes ran, and Duncan fired three shots at her. The shots missed, and Stokes was able to call the Sheriff’s Office.
Meanwhile, Ruby Duncan also was able to get away from the house. When deputies arrived, Bobby Duncan had set the house on fire and fled into the woods. Deputies spotted him in a field and ordered him to come out with his hands raised. Instead, he took cover behind a tree and shot at the deputies, who returned fire. After a brief pause, deputies heard a single shot. When Duncan emerged from behind a tree, he appeared to have a self-inflicted gunshot wound under his chin. He was arrested and taken to University Hospital in New Orleans for treatment.
FRANKLINTON—Former Bogalusa City Council member Daniel D. Stogner pled guilty Monday (July 20) to aggravated assault of a police officer for an incident last year when he pointed a gun at officers who responded to his call about a disturbance at his home.
Judge Richard A. Swartz sentenced Stogner to a suspended five years in prison, as well as five years of probation, and a $1,000 fine plus court costs. Swartz also ordered Stogner to forfeit his weapon, undergo a mental health evaluation, and have no contact with the victims.
Stogner called police about a disturbance at his home on Foggy Bottom Road in Angie about 11:30 p.m. on March 28, 2014. But when officers responded, Stogner became increasingly irate and hostile, disrupting the investigation.
Stogner approached Officer Jonathan Williams aggressively, cursing at him. Williams then tried to arrest Stogner, who ran into his home, retrieved a shotgun, and pointed it at the deputies on the scene. Williams managed to use his Taser on Stogner, which caused the former city official to drop his weapon. Stogner was arrested and charged.
COVINGTON—Rigoberto Ventura, 57, was sentenced Monday (July 13) to life in prison for the aggravated rape of a boy, who was 5 years old when the abuse started. District Judge Scott C. Gardner also sentenced Ventura, who lived in Lacombe, to 50 years in prison for the sexual battery of a girl, then 7 or 8.
Ventura was convicted of the charges on June 24. Assistant District Attorneys Jason Cuccia and William Macke prosecuted the case.
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.
The mother of the girl who was victimized read a statement during Ventura’s sentencing.
“You are so evil and weak. You could prey on these children because they were so young and vulnerable,” she said. “They cannot defend themselves or fight you off…”
COVINGTON— Robert C. Flowers, 29, of Covington, has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for multiple incidents of aggravated rape and sexual battery of a girl who was younger than 13 years old. Judge Raymond Childress sentenced Flowers on July 7 to two life sentences for his conviction last month on two counts of aggravated rape, plus 40 years for each of his three sexual battery convictions.
The victim, now 14, testified during Flowers’ trial last month that he 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 repeatedly sexually abused her. Gaines is scheduled to be tried on those charges in August.
Flowers admitted in a statement to police that he had intercourse with the girl and that Gaines participated. But he claimed his confession had been coerced. The jury rejected that argument, as well as Flowers’ contention that the victim had made up the stories of abuse.
Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea prosecuted the case, and Detective Hugh Davis of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation.
COVINGTON—Raheem Willis, 22, of Slidell, pled guilty Tuesday (July 14) to attempted second degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm for his role in an August 2013 incident that led to the shooting death of a 28-year-old man.
Judge Peter J. Garcia sentenced Willis to 12 years in prison on the attempted second degree murder charge. Willis also received a five-year suspended prison sentence and five years of probation on the aggravated assault charges to be served after his release. Assistant District Attorney Louis Butler handled the case. The Slidell Police Department investigated it.
The plea agreement centered on the death of Clarence Adams, who was shot just before 3 a.m. on Aug. 18, 2013, after a dispute in a neighborhood bar in Slidell spilled into the streets. The incident started at about 2 a.m. that morning, when Willis drove past the bar and pointed a gun at two women who had been in a dispute with his girlfriend. The girlfriend later got into a fight in the same bar. Fearing retaliation from the bar fight, Willis asked a teenager, Eduardo Morales, then 15, to get a rifle for him.
On the streets outside the bar, Willis confronted Adams about derogatory remarks Adams had been accused of making about Willis’s girlfriend. To scare Adams, Willis fired a gun in Adams’ direction but then put the weapon down to engage in a fistfight. Morales picked up the rifle and fired it, striking Adams four times—once in his left arm, two in his left abdomen, and once in the head.
Morales was charged as an adult and pled guilty on May 6 to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. A third man, Daquan Ratliff, 20, also pled guilty in May to accessory after the fact for fleeing the scene with the weapon and was sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence with five years of probation.