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Month: December 2017

Former Teacher and Scout Leader Convicted of Child Pornography and Molestation

December 15, 2017

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that a St. Tammany Parish jury found Dennis C. Mischler, 65, of Covington, guilty of two counts of oral sexual battery, molestation of a juvenile, and 54 counts of pornography involving juveniles. The jury deliberated 58 minutes before returning the verdict to District Judge August. J. Hand.

“This case is tragic, not only because of what the victims suffered, but also because the system failed them for 40 years,” Montgomery said. “The guilty verdict reflects the hard work of the investigators, prosecutors, the jury, and judge.”

Over a span of 40 years, Mischler molested male students, scouts, and family members, who all were in their early teens and younger when the crimes occurred. Among them was a 25-year-old man who testified that he was 13 years old when Mischler performed oral sex on him on two occasions in St. Tammany Parish in 2005. The victim said he was spending the night at Mischler’s temporary home in a FEMA trailer in Slidell after Hurricane Katrina one night, when he was awakened by Mischler performing oral sex on him. The victim also testified that on another occasion Mischler took him to a hotel to go swimming and later coerced him into performing oral sex.

This case began in 2010 with a U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigation into a Canadian company that was producing and distributing child pornography. The company’s database listed Mischler, who by then had moved from New Orleans to Covington, as a client who had made at least four purchases over a six-month period. When investigators executed a warrant to search Mischler’s Covington home, some of the books and movies were found.

The molestation and oral sexual battery allegations were uncovered when investigators began interviewing those associated with Mischler. They also discovered that Mischler had been arrested for molesting children in three previous incidents, one dating back to 1980, when Mischler was a Boy Scout leader at Camp Salmen in Mississippi. The now-51-year-old victim testified that he was an eager 14-year-old Eagle Scout when he was assigned to share a bunk with Mischler. When the lights were turned off, Mischler took the boy’s hand and placed it on Mischler’s penis three times and then pretended to be sleeping when the boy pushed him away.

The boy told his parents, who went to law enforcement officials, but the District Attorney’s Office in Mississippi refused charges after a preliminary hearing. Charges also were refused in Arkansas, when a then-13-year-old victim claimed Mischler touched him inappropriately while Mischler and more than a dozen relatives were staying in the victim’s home after evacuating for Hurricane Katrina.

Those two victims were among the nine men, who were called by Assistant District Attorneys Collin Sims (Chief of the Criminal Division) and Bruce Dearing (Chief of Trials) to testify in court about being molested by Mischler.

Mischler testified in his own defense, disputing all of the claims. He said all of the victims were lying.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office also assisted.

“This office will be relentless in pursuing evil-doers,” Montgomery said.

Covington Man Convicted in Hotel Murder Last Fall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dec. 12, 2017

Covington Man Convicted in Hotel Murder Last Fall

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that a St. Tammany Parish jury found Demetri Antonio James, 20, of Covington, guilty of second degree murder for shooting a man to death in a Covington motel last year. James faces a mandatory life sentence when he appears before District Judge Richard Swartz, Jr., for sentencing on Jan. 10, 2018.

The murder occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2016, when James and two other men showed up at the Green Springs Motel and decided to commit a robbery. They used a card to force their way into a room, where the victim, Brandon Washington, was sleeping. Two of the men, Terry Hookfin and Tyreek Sandifer, began searching Washington’s pockets. When Washington woke up, a brief struggle occurred, and James shot Washington in the head.

Hookfin, 28, of Covington, pleaded guilty Sept. 28 to manslaughter and armed robbery with a firearm for his role in the crime, and he faces 20 to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced at a later date. Sandifer, 19, of Covington, pleaded guilty Nov. 7 and was sentenced to the maximum of 40 years in prison for manslaughter and 50 years for armed robbery with a firearm. Both sentences are being served at the same time.

A fourth defendant, Devin Decoud, 38, of Covington, drove James away from the scene but did not go inside the hotel room. He also pleaded guilty to manslaughter and armed robbery and received a sentence of 10 years in prison. Hoofkin and Decoud testified against James.

A surveillance camera captured the three men walking toward Washington’s hotel room and then running from it a few minutes later. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the case and arrested Hookfin and Sandifer the next day. James fled to Bogalusa, where he was arrested a week later by U.S. Marshals. With the conviction of James, the four-defendant case was resolved within a year of the indictments in January of this year.

Assistant District Attorney John Alford and Blake Peters prosecuted the case.

Mandeville Snowball Stand Owner Pleads Guilty to Paying Teen Girls for Sex Acts

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dec. 4, 2017

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Anthony Barton Fortune, 57, owner of a Mandeville snowball stand, pleaded guilty as charged Monday (Dec. 4) to paying four teenage girls money and drugs for sexual favors. District Judge Peter Garcia sentenced him to a total of 15 years in prison.

Here are the charges to which Fortune pleaded guilty and received concurrent sentences:

  • Purchase of Commercial Sexual Activity of persons under 18, five counts, 15 years each
  • Production of Pornography, 10 years
  • Sexual Battery, 10 years
  • Indecent behavior with a juvenile, six counts, 7 years each
  • Distributing Xanax to persons under 18, two counts, 7.5 years each
  • Distributing marijuana to persons under 18, two counts, 7.5 years each

The crimes came to light when Mandeville police received a report that the snowball stand owner was paying teenage girls for sexual activities. Police later found about 40 photos of the girls posing nude and performing sex acts in the defendant’s apartment, which is connected to the back of the snowball stand. Two of the victims were 14 years old, one was 15, and another was 16 at the time of the crimes. The victims told police Fortune gave them marijuana and Xanax and that he paid them each a total of between $1,400 and $2,000. Police found marijuana and a grinder inside Fortune’s apartment.

The victims supported the resolution of the case.

 

 

 

D.A. Warren Montgomery Helps Nearly 100 People Get Fresh Start with Expungements

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dec. 1, 2017

D.A. Warren Montgomery Helps Nearly 100 People Get Fresh Start with Expungements

A new program implemented by District Attorney Warren Montgomery assisted nearly 100 men and women in getting a fresh start by clearing old arrests and convictions for relatively minor crimes from their criminal records.

The Fresh Start Program pre-screened participants to assure they met the criteria under state law for a legal process called expungement, and those who were eligible were invited to participate on Saturday, Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center. The program reduced the fees from the usual $550 per expungement to $100 and expedited the process by bringing all of the agencies needed to sign off on the paperwork together in one room.

“The program was a tremendous success,” Montgomery said. “There were lots of smiles and even some tears, as participants realized what this will mean to their lives, a better job or a chance to advance on the job. In turn, their stability and productivity help to create a safer community for us all.”

Montgomery said the program would not have been possible without the help of many people, including St. Tammany Parish Clerk of Court Melissa Henry, Washington Parish Clerk of Court Johnny Crain, St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith and Washington Parish Sheriff Randy “Country” Seal, who all waived their agencies’ fees to make the expungement process more affordable. The fees alone usually cost $550.  Montgomery also waived his office’s fees and raised funds from community donors through the Northshore Community Foundation to help cover a portion of the remaining $250 Louisiana State Police fee , which is state mandated. The waived fees and community donations reduced each participant’s portion of the fee to $100.  Community donors included the Louisiana Bar Foundation, Northshore Business Council, Church of the King, Most Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Haynie Family Foundation, Buddy and Pat Hall and other individual donors.

The event began at 9 a.m. with volunteers from the participating agencies and three District Judges—William J. Burris, August J. Hand, and Reginald T. Badeaux, III—set up at various stations to receive the paperwork.  The pre-screened participants met with volunteer attorneys, who walked the paperwork through each of the stations to get the needed signatures. The District Attorney’s Office, the arresting agency in each case, and the clerks’ offices had been provided the names and records of participants in advance for review. The judges signed each order of expungement, and the clerks certified the records through closing time at 2 p.m.

A total of 93 men and women walked away with orders of expungement. Certain crimes are not eligible for expungement under state law, including violent crimes, crimes involving minors, crimes involving the distribution or manufacture of illegal drugs, possession of heroin and crimes that require sex offender registration.

Community partners included the Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Louisiana United International, NAACP of St. Tammany, and the New Orleans Paralegal Association, who all assisted in the intake and screening of more than 300 potential applicants. Informational exhibits were set up in the halls outside the event by Delgado Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, Celebrate Recovery of First Baptist Church of Covington and Louisiana United International.