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Month: October 2015

Tony LeMon Visits Covington Head Start

Tony LeMon, Chief of the Civil Division and Diversion Program in the District Attorney’s Office, visited the Covington Head Start Centers on Oct. 14 to read a book to children in the program. LeMon and other community leaders were invited to participate as part of Head Start Awareness week, October 12-16th.

 

Sheriff’s Office K-9, Thor, Honored

Employees of the District Attorney’s Office were part of the large crowd that gathered outside the Justice Center in Covington Friday (Oct. 23) to welcome home Thor, The St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office K-9 seriously injured during a burglary investigation Tuesday (Oct. 20) near Mandeville. Sheriff Jack Strain said deputies were moving in on a burglary suspect, hiding in a pile of debris, when the suspect lunged out with a knife. Thor leapt between the suspect and the deputy, potentially saving the officer’s life. Deputies shot and killed the suspect.

Thor underwent surgery for neck injuries and had been recuperating at a Mandeville hospital. On Friday, the crowd gave the K-9 rock star treatment as he was reunited with his handler, Deputy Ronald Oliveri. Speakers hailed Thor a hero, and Parish President Pat Brister read a proclamation, declaring it “Deputy Thor Day” in St. Tammany. Afterward, Thor fans moved in to pet him and snap photos. “Get well” cards made by local schoolchildren covered a nearby bulletin board.

Abita Springs Man Pleads Guilty to Molesting a 16-Year-Old Girl

Hanson Joshua
Joshua Hanson

COVINGTON—Joshua Hanson, 27, of Abita Springs, was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday (Oct. 22), after pleading guilty to molestation of a juvenile and carnal knowledge of a juvenile for incidents more than two years ago with a 16-year-old girl.

Hanson first connected with the girl on Facebook, but the two eventually met in person and began an ongoing sexual relationship. One night in June 2013, Hanson invited the girl to spend the night because his parents were supposed to be out of town. But when Hanson arrived home to find his parents there, he was furious, got into an argument with them, and sped off in his truck with the victim into a nearby wooded area.

Once there, Hanson told the girl that he was capable of killing her and that no one would hear her scream, and he proceeded to engage in a sexual act with her. The victim begged him to stop because he was causing her severe pain, but he continued. The next day, he again touched her inappropriately without her permission.

Several months later, the victim told a family friend and her parents. She said she had been afraid to report it because Hanson’s parents are law enforcement officers, and he’d bragged that he would never get in trouble.

Hanson also pled guilty Thursday to failure to register as a sex offender for a previous conviction. In 2010, when Hanson was 21 years old and in the U.S. Army, he was convicted in a military court of aggravated sexual assault of a child. He failed to properly register as a convicted sex offender when he resumed residing in St. Tammany Parish later that year.

District Judge Peter J. Garcia sentenced Hanson to five years in prison on that charge and ran it concurrent with the other sentences. Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kilian prosecuted the case and was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Louis Butler.

Washington Parish Transportation Manager Gets Six-Month Prison Sentence

Russell Gerald
Russell Gerald

FRANKLINTON—Russell Lavell Gerald, 46, transportation manager for the Washington Parish Public Works Department, was sentenced to six months in prison Friday (Oct. 16) after District Judge Scott C. Gardner revoked his probation. Gerald was on probation for previous charges when he was arrested Sept. 22 by the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office and accused of second-degree battery.

The battery complaint stems from an incident just after 3 a.m. Aug. 26 on Earl Forest Road in Mount Hermon, when Gerald punched another man during a fight, breaking the man’s nose and loosening his teeth.

Gerald already was on probation after pleading guilty Aug. 4, 2014, to domestic abuse battery, illegal carrying of a concealed weapon, and aggravated assault in a domestic incident in April last year. At the time, Gerald was sentenced to six months in prison and two years of probation on each of the three charges, but the prison sentence was suspended.

After Gerald’s September arrest, Gardner ordered his bond revoked and sentenced him to serve six months in prison. The District Attorney’s Office is screening and processing the battery case.

Mount Hermon Man Could Face Life in Prison for Operating Meth Lab

Glenn Guyn
Glenn Guyn

FRANKLINTON—Glenn Guyn, 49, of Mount Hermon, faces 30 years to life in prison after his conviction Tuesday (Oct. 13) by a Washington Parish jury on charges that he was operating a methamphetamine lab. District Judge Richard A. Swartz, Jr., is scheduled to sentence Guyn on Dec. 7 at 9 a.m.

Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Washington Parish Drug Task Force.

The task force was working in the Mount Hermon area on March 14 when officers stopped a vehicle that was being driven erratically by Guyn. During a search of the vehicle, officers discovered baggies that contained powder, which was later determined to be methamphetamine. Officers then obtained a search warrant for Guyn’s home, where they discovered items used in the production of methamphetamine.

The jury took just 20 minutes Tuesday (Oct. 13) to find Guyn guilty of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and creating and operating a clandestine lab for unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine. Guyn is a multiple felony offender, who pled guilty to armed robbery in 1989 and also has prior convictions for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute hydrocodone and Alprazolam.

District Attorney’s Office Observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Office Hosts Safe Harbor Speaker and Distributes Purple Ribbons

As part of its observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s Office invited Sheri Eastridge, the community educator for the Safe Harbor Domestic Violence Program, to help staff members understand what victims often experience when such cases are prosecuted.

“She may not want prosecution,” Eastridge explained. “This is a huge barrier to all of us trying to serve victims.” “I see it every day,” added an Assistant District Attorney who attended the special presentation on Friday afternoon (Oct. 9) at the Covington office. “It’s either our fault, her fault, or the kids’ fault for calling 9-1-1. It happens every single day.”

Most domestic violence victims are women, and their reluctance to participate in the prosecution is often part of a cycle of abuse that makes her feel trapped, Eastridge said. The cycle usually begins with a so-called “honeymoon period,” when the abuser appears to be the perfect partner, saying and doing all the right things.

As the tension builds, he becomes more controlling, making rules—how to wash the dishes, where she can and cannot go, who she can talk to—and she tries to follow them. She plays close attention to what triggers him and tries to avoid the inevitable explosive argument and physical abuse, which is usually followed by his remorse and pleas for forgiveness.

“A bunch of promises are made,” Eastridge said, but the cycle just keeps on spinning. The control the abuser exerts is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and more often than not, economic, Eastridge said. The abusive husband or boyfriend is frequently the financial provider for the family, which is why many victims may resist helping to send him to jail and may refuse to cooperate with prosecutors. But sensitivity and understanding what the victim is facing can sometimes help her overcome such reluctance, Eastridge said. It helps when prosecutors contact the victim directly and in a timely manner. Providing detailed information about the court system and process also helps to win her confidence in the system.

Domestic violence is prevalent throughout the nation. One in three women has experienced some type of domestic abuse, according to the Violence Policy Center. For the second year in a row, Louisiana has the fourth highest rate in the nation of women killed by men, and the average age of the victim is 36. The state also has the highest rate in the nation of bystanders killed during a domestic violence incident.

Safe Harbor responded to 2,300 crisis calls last year, Eastridge said. The agency also provided temporary shelter to 72 women and referred 565 others to other services because its shelter was full.

Reducing the prevalence of domestic violence in the community will take all parties—victims, service providers, law enforcement, and prosecutors—working together. “It takes a community effort to address this issue,” Eastridge said.

In addition to Eastridge’s presentation, the District Attorney’s Office has provided information about domestic violence on its website to help raise awareness. Purple lapel ribbons also were distributed to staff members to wear in honor of domestic violence victims.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and needs help, call Safe Harbor’s 24-hour crisis line at 985-626-5740 or 888-411-1333.

District Attorney Warren Montgomery Gives Special Award to Local Judge and NAMI

 

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery presented special awards Wednesday (Oct. 7) to District Judge Peter J. Garcia and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) St. Tammany for their work on behalf of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

The awards presentations were the highlight of an afternoon reception Montgomery hosted on the third floor of the courthouse in recognition of National Recovery Month (September) and Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 4-Oct.10).

“We’re really here talking about what we as a community can do with the intersection of mental illness and substance abuse in the criminal justice system,” Montgomery told the crowd of attorneys, social workers, health care providers, mental health advocates, law enforcement officers, and political leaders assembled on the third floor of the courthouse. “We’re trying to solve problems.”
National studies have shown that the vast majority of incarcerated men and women throughout the country (about 85 percent) have substance abuse issues, about half of them suffer from some form of mental illness, and 30 percent have co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse issues.

“The criminal justice system cannot simply turn its head and look the other way,” said Master of Ceremonies Tony LeMon, Chief of the Civil Division in the District Attorney’s Office.

Montgomery praised Judge Garcia for his vision in helping to create the 22nd Judicial District’s Behavioral Health Court. The court, which began operating in 2011, directs participating defendants who have a pre-diagnosed mental illness to various community resources offering the help they need. Judge Garcia and a team of mental health providers, social workers, advocates, attorneys, and social workers then monitor the progress of each participating defendant. The participants can avoid jail as long as they cooperate and stay on the road to recovery.

Behavioral Health Court is one of several problem-solving courts in the district, which covers St. Tammany and Washington parishes. The specialty courts include three sections of Adult Drug Court, a new Juvenile Drug Court, Sobriety Court, Re-entry Court, and Family Reunification Court. The presiding judges voluntarily take on the extra duties on top of their regular dockets.

“We don’t like being in this position,” Garcia said during his remarks. “But we’re put here and have to deal with what we have.”

What exists is a parish where 40,000 people are living with various forms of mental illness—8,500 of them with serious mental illness, Garcia said of St. Tammany. At the same time, St. Tammany has the highest rate of incarceration in the state (954 inmates per 100,000 adult residents). “You can attribute whatever you want to that, but a lot of it has to do with mental illness,” Garcia said.

NAMI St. Tammany provides case management for Behavioral Health Court and leads the way for advocacy on mental health issues in the region. Without the organization, St. Tammany would not have made the major progress it has on addressing the issue, Montgomery said in presenting the award to Executive Director Nick Richard.

Richard said he was impressed by the cross-section of people in the room. In addition to Montgomery, the public officials who attended included Parish President Pat Brister, Sheriff Jack Strain, District Judges Allison H. Penzato and Scott C. Gardner, as well as West St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lacey Toledano.

“We are so fortunate as a community to have such supportive people in our judicial system, law enforcement, parish government and the District Attorney’s Office, all working together in a coordinated effort to improve the lives of those living with mental illness,” Richard said. “This is really a credit to all of the leaders in our community here in St. Tammany Parish.”

The reception program also featured an invocation by Pastor Lawrence Weathersby of Living the Word International Church in Slidell and a solo by retired music teacher Hazel Bagent of Bogalusa.

Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Two Bogalusa Girls Decades Ago

George Stogner
George Stogner

FRANKLINTON—George W. Stogner, 58, of Huntington, Texas, pled guilty Wednesday to four counts of forcible rape, one count of aggravated incest and two counts of aggravated oral sexual battery for abuse he committed while he was living in Bogalusa in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

District Judge Richard Swartz, Jr., sentenced Stogner to 40 years in prison without the benefits of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on each of the forcible rape charges, 20 years on the aggravated incest charge, and 20 years on each of the aggravated oral sexual battery charges. All of the charges are to run concurrently.

Capt. Tommie Sorrell investigated the case while working for the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office. Sorrell now works as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office.

The abuse came to light late last year, when Texas authorities began investigating allegations that Stogner sexually abused a 9-year-old girl there. During the investigation, an adult woman, also living in Texas, revealed that, beginning when she was about 9 years old, Stogner abused her multiple times. The abuse occurred over a period of years while they lived in Bogalusa and included inappropriate touching, oral and sexual intercourse.

After hearing about the accusations against Stogner, a second woman came forward to reveal that he had sexually abused her, too, when she was a child living in Bogalusa. She said she was about 9 years old when he performed oral sex on her.

Stogner was extradited from Texas to Louisiana in January to face the charges, and he admitted to the allegations during questioning by Sorrell.

District Attorney Warren Montgomery Gives Special Award to Local Judge and NAMI

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery presented special awards Wednesday (Oct. 7) to District Judge Peter J. Garcia and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) St. Tammany for their work on behalf of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

The awards presentations were the highlight of an afternoon reception Montgomery hosted on the third floor of the courthouse in recognition of National Recovery Month (September) and Mental Health Awareness Week (Oct. 5-Oct.9).

“We’re really here talking about what we as a community can do with the intersection of mental illness and substance abuse in the criminal justice system,” Montgomery told the crowd of attorneys, social workers, health care providers, mental health advocates, law enforcement officers, and political leaders assembled on the third floor of the courthouse. “We’re trying to solve problems.”

National studies have shown that the vast majority of incarcerated men and women throughout the country (about 85 percent) have substance abuse issues, about half of them suffer from some form of mental illness, and 30 percent have co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse issues.

“The criminal justice system cannot simply turn its head and look the other way,” said Master of Ceremonies Tony LeMon, Chief of the Civil Division in the District Attorney’s Office.

Montgomery praised Judge Garcia for his vision in helping to create the 22nd Judicial District’s Behavioral Health Court. The court, which began operating in 2011, directs participating defendants who have a pre-diagnosed mental illness to various community resources offering the help they need. Judge Garcia and a team of mental health providers, social workers, advocates, attorneys, and social workers then monitor the progress of each participating defendant. The participants can avoid jail as long as they cooperate and stay on the road to recovery.

Behavioral Health Court is one of several problem-solving courts in the district, which covers St. Tammany and Washington parishes. The specialty courts include three sections of Adult Drug Court, a new Juvenile Drug Court, Sobriety Court, Re-entry Court, and Family Reunification Court. The presiding judges voluntarily take on the extra duties on top of their regular dockets.

“We don’t like being in this position,” Garcia said during his remarks. “But we’re put here and have to deal with what we have.”

What exists is a parish where 40,000 people are living with various forms of mental illness—8,500 of them with serious mental illness, Garcia said of St. Tammany. At the same time, St. Tammany has the highest rate of incarceration in the state (954 inmates per 100,000 adult residents). “You can attribute whatever you want to that, but a lot of it has to do with mental illness,” Garcia said.

NAMI St. Tammany provides case management for Behavioral Health Court and leads the way for advocacy on mental health issues in the region. Without the organization, St. Tammany would not have made the major progress it has on addressing the issue, Montgomery said in presenting the award to Executive Director Nick Richard.

Richard said he was impressed by the cross-section of people in the room. In addition to Montgomery, the public officials who attended included Parish President Pat Brister, Sheriff Jack Strain, District Judges Allison H. Penzato and Scott C. Gardner, as well as West St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lacey Toledano.

“We are so fortunate as a community to have such supportive people in our judicial system, law enforcement, parish government and the District Attorney’s Office, all working together in a coordinated effort to improve the lives of those living with mental illness,” Richard said. “This is really a credit to all of the leaders in our community here in St. Tammany Parish.”

The reception program also featured an invocation by Pastor Lawrence Weathersby of Living the Word International Church in Slidell and a solo by retired music teacher Hazel Bagent of Bogalusa.

Jury Finds Mandeville Man, 40, Guilty in Decade-old Molestation Case

Paul Lambert
Paul Lambert

COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury found Paul J. Lambert, 40, of Mandeville, guilty Thursday (Oct. 1) of molesting and physically abusing a girl who was 10 years old when the incidents occurred in 2005. Lambert, who had been out on bond since shortly after his 2008 arrest, was taken into custody after the verdict.

Lambert faces up to 15 years on the molestation of a juvenile charge and up 10 years for cruelty to a juvenile. He will be sentenced Nov. 30 by District Judge William J. Burris. Assistant District Attorney William Macke was the lead prosecutor on the case, and he was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Jerry Smith.

The victim, now 20, testified that between April 2005 and February 2006, Lambert beat her with a belt, put a knife to her throat, and forced her to watch him engage in sex with her mother. Lambert also periodically grabbed her private area with his cupped hand, while claiming he was conducting a “cup check.” The mother, who also testified during the trial, corroborated her daughter’s testimony and said she was terrified of Lambert because he beat her, too.

“The defense is asking you to consider his freedom,” Macke said during his closing argument. “What they don’t want to talk about is the victim’s freedom that was lost 10 years ago. The freedom to grow up to be a normal adult that was stolen from her when he beat her, molested her, and forced her to watch him have sex with her mother.”

Lt. Rachel Smith of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the case, along with the Department of Children & Family Services. A warrant was first issued for Lambert’s arrest July 27, 2006, and he turned himself in on Jan. 11, 2008. The case had been continued for years, primarily due to requests by defense attorneys.