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Month: March 2019

Northshore Technical Community College and District Attorney’s Office Create Diversion Partnership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                        March 29, 2019

Northshore Technical Community College and District Attorney’s Office Create Diversion Partnership

Lacombe, LA—Northshore Technical Community College (NTCC) and The Office of District Attorney Warren Montgomery have partnered to create an educational opportunity for low-risk, first-time offenders enrolled in a rehabilitative program offered by Montgomery’s Office.

Through the new partnership, participants in the District Attorney’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program, commonly called Diversion, will be able to attend NTCC as a condition of the program and an alternative to prosecution. Diversion is typically offered to first-time offenders of non-violent crimes. Participants are required to complete a number of conditions, aimed at changing the behavior that led to the criminal offense. Those conditions often include substance abuse counseling, anger management, drug screening, community service, and more.

“This partnership is designed to provide misdemeanor offenders with employable skills in an effort to help them become productive citizens that support our community,” Montgomery said. “By investing in our Diversion participants now, we significantly decrease the risk that my office will have to prosecute them in the future for criminal behavior.”

On Friday (March 29), Montgomery and Dr. Daniel Roberts, Acting Chancellor of NTCC, signed the Memorandum of Understanding, outlining the agreement.  “This new collaboration represents a partnership between government and education that works to advance innovative ways to give people who need an opportunity for a fresh start,” Roberts said.

The signing of the agreement provides Diversion participants who wish to continue their education a pathway for Adult and Post-Secondary Education through NTCC. The college’s staff will work with the potential students to identify financial assistance and guide them in their career endeavors.

The partnership was initiated as part of the Diversion Program’s efforts to expand the options for participants to better themselves. Dr. Jim Carlson, Vice Chancellor of Strategic Initiatives at NTCC, worked alongside Collin Sims, Criminal Division Chief at the District Attorney’s Office, and Lisa Murphy, Diversion and Criminal Support Supervisor, to develop the initiative.

“The energy and intention that created this opportunity resulted in something important to the people in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes,” Carlson said. “This new program is not intended to be a soft alternative.  It is an opportunity to think outside the box and give individuals who made a mistake a chance to earn an employable education or skillset.”

For more information about the Diversion Program, go to:

http://damontgomery.org/services/pre-trial-intervention-pip/

About Northshore Technical Community College

Northshore Technical Community College (NTCC) is a comprehensive community college with a rich history of providing workforce training and academic pathways to regional universities for the greater Northshore region. The 2010 National Center for Higher Education Management Study acknowledged the increasing demand on the Northshore for higher education infrastructure specific to the fields of STEM—results led to the legislation to establish state-of-the-art facilities in Lacombe, Louisiana. In 2015, NTCC was recognized by the Brookings Institution as the first in the nation for economic value of its graduates. The Chronicle of Education recognized NTCC in 2016 as third in the nation for fastest growth among community colleges of its size. As an ACT college and career readiness exemplar, NTCC continues to provide relevant programs and timely responsiveness to local and regional industries.

Jury Convicts Covington Woman Of Raping Child Over Several Years

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 28, 2019

Jury Convicts Covington Woman Of Raping Child Over Several Years

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery announces that a St. Tammany Parish jury found Sandra E. Gaines, 39, of Covington, guilty Thursday (March 28) of two counts of aggravated rape and three counts of sexual battery for repeatedly raping a child under age 13 with another adult over several years.

The jury deliberated 38 minutes before finding Gaines guilty of all charges. She faces mandatory life in prison when she is sentenced before Judge William J. Burris on April 10.

Gaines’s longtime boyfriend, Robert Cardell Flowers, was convicted by a St. Tammany Parish jury on the same charges in June 2015, and he was sentenced a month later to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The victim, now 18, testified during Gaines’ trial this week that the pair began touching her sexually when she was about 5 years old and that the abuse progressed and continued for several years through 2012. The victim testified that she was repeatedly raped during that time.

Gaines’ attorneys acknowledged that the girl had been sexually abused by Flowers, but they said she lied when she included Gaines in the allegations. After almost two days of testimony, the jury rejected that argument, convicting Gaines on all five counts.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Adair told the jury: “Listen to what you’ve heard. Your decision should be based on reason and common sense. Don’t leave your common sense in the jury box when you leave. You are required to take it with you when you deliberate.”

Assistant District Attorney Michael Cochran assisted in the prosecution.  The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation.

Jury Convicts Alabama Man In Stabbing Death of Girlfriend Near Covington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 28, 2019

Jury Convicts Alabama Man In Stabbing Death of Girlfriend Near Covington

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that a St. Tammany Parish jury found Johnathan Lee Nall, 39, of Mobile, Alabama, guilty Tuesday (March 27) of second degree murder and terrorizing in the stabbing death of his girlfriend. Nall faces mandatory life imprisonment when he is sentenced May 15 by District Judge August Hand.

The jury deliberated about 1½ hours before convicting Nall of fatally stabbing Melinda Denny, a 26-year-old mother of four, and disposing of her body in a wooded area near Covington.

The couple was traveling through St. Tammany on the way to Texas in the early hours of Feb. 22, 2014, when their car ran out of gas. The pair began arguing, and Nall called his mother to ask for money. Nall’s mother became so concerned that she alerted the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, which dispatched deputies to conduct a welfare check on the couple at a grocery store parking lot on Highway 21 about 1:38 a.m.  The deputies allowed the couple to leave after about 45 minutes.

Hours later around noon, officers encountered Nall again at a gas station in Covington, where he held a gun to his head, threatened to kill himself and caused a two-hour standoff with deputies. The event ended when Nall fired the unloaded gun, and deputies subdued him with bean-bag rounds. Meanwhile, Denny was reported missing, and five days later her body was discovered in a wooded area off Brewster Road near Covington.

A timeline, presented in court by Assistant District Attorneys Blake Peters and Holly McGinness, showed that Denny was killed between the hours of 2:45 a.m. and 3:56 a.m. The prosecutors also showed jurors a videotaped confession from Nall, who eventually admitted to arguing with Denny, retrieving a knife, and pretending momentarily to be sleeping in the front seat of the car, before leaping into the back seat and stabbing her repeatedly.

A medical expert testified that Denny was stabbed 12 times in the back and that from the appearance of the wounds, she most likely had been sleeping before the attack.

Nall’s attorneys did not dispute that he killed her, but they argued that he was insane and did not understand what he was doing—a claim that was refuted by prosecutors. Peters and McGinness told jurors that Nall was indeed psychotic but that his mental state was self-induced from taking drugs, which does not meet the legal criteria for an insanity defense.

Prosecutors also pointed to Nall’s meticulous efforts to cover up his crime—hiding the body, hiding the knife, hiding his Jeep, washing his bloody hands, changing clothes, contacting family members to assist him in getting out of town after the crime—as proof that he knew right from wrong.

“This is an incredibly sad case, all the way around…,” McGinness said in her closing statement. “But to be clear, we are all here for one reason. On Feb. 22, 2014, the defendant decided to take Melinda Denny off this earth. He decided to end her life. He had a specific intent to kill her.”

Bush Man Gets 50 Years in Prison For Killing and Burning Ex-Girlfriend

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 13, 2019

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Gary L. Harris, 57, of Bush, was sentenced Tuesday (March 12) to serve 50 years in prison for killing his estranged girlfriend and burning her body in 2015.

District Judge Raymond Childress sentenced Harris to 40 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and 10 years for obstruction of justice by tampering with evidence. The sentences are to be served consecutively.

Childress also sentenced Harris’s brother, Ray S. Harris, 67, of Bush, Tuesday to five years in prison for accessory after the fact.

The case began unfolding on Sept. 20, 2015, when the victim, Nannette King, 42, was reported missing after she left work and never made it back to the Bogalusa motel where she and her daughter were staying. Three weeks later, King’s badly burned body and car were found in a wooded area near Sun.

Gary Harris, who had lived with the victim many years and had an adult daughter with her, became a prime suspect when the investigation found inconsistencies in his story. His relationship with the victim was volatile, which had resulted in the victim and her daughter moving to Bogalusa.

Investigators believe Gary Harris lured King to the home they once shared to pick up her things and strangled her. Ray Harris ultimately confessed to picking up his brother from a location near where King’s body was found and to helping hide evidence of the crime.

Assistant District Attorney Blake Peters prosecuted the case with assistance from Amanda Gritten, a student practitioner.

Covington Lawyer Gets 20 Years in Prison For Child Pornography

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 12, 2019

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery announces that Victor R. Loraso, 38, an attorney who lives in Covington, pleaded guilty Monday (March 11) to 26 child pornography charges. District Judge Martin Coady sentenced Loraso to a total of 20 years in prison.

Loraso pleaded guilty to four counts of distribution of pornography of children under 13 and one count of distribution of pornography of children under 17. He also pleaded guilty to 13 counts of possession of pornography of children under 13 and 8 counts of possession of child pornography under 17.

The investigation began in Canada in 2017, when police arrested an individual, seized his computer, and determined that he had been exchanging pornography with someone in the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security then turned the investigation over to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, which tracked the pornography to a computer owned by Loraso. The computer also revealed online accounts, which Loraso admitted belonged to him, in which he was chatting with pedophiles about the desire to molest children.

The case was investigated by Brian D. Brown, Supervisory Special Agent of the Attorney General’s Investigation Division.

Assistant District Attorneys Elizabeth Authement and Michael Cochran prosecuted the case.