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Month: September 2015

Former Pearl River Mayor Pleads Guilty to Malfeasance in Office, Other Charges

James Lavigne
James Lavigne

COVINGTON—Former Pearl River Mayor James E. Lavigne, 75, pled guilty Monday to malfeasance in office, theft over $500, and two misdemeanors, stemming from a state legislative audit that showed he used his office to benefit personally. District Judge Raymond Childress sentenced Lavigne to five years probation but reserved the right to sentence him to up to 11½ years in prison if the probation terms are not met.

The audit found that between Feb. 17, 2012, and August 27, 2012, Lavigne used the town’s credit card to purchase a 10-foot fishing boat, which he used personally. Lavigne also spent $3,679 on the same credit card to buy a gas-powered residential generator, ostensibly for use at a sewage lift station. But the generator was not compatible for that use and was delivered to his home. Lavigne learned the generator also was incompatible there, and in July 2013 it was moved to the home of town clerk Diane Bennett Hollie. Hollie had not paid for it by the time of the November 2013 audit.

The audit also found that both Lavigne and Hollie made personal purchases on their town credit cards to avoid paying sales taxes. In addition to the two felonies, Lavigne was charged with two counts of unauthorized use of a moveable and misdemeanor theft.

Hollie, 54, pled guilty last month to similar charges. Assistant District Attorney Darrell Sims prosecuted both cases.

St. Tammany Parish Grand Jury Indicts Foster Mom in Toddler’s Death

Trenique Faciane
Trenique Faciane

COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish grand jury indicted Trenique C. Faciane, 41, of Lacombe, of second degree murder Tuesday (Sept. 15) in the death of her 22-month-old foster child.

Faciane’s arraignment hearing is set for Sept. 21 before District Judge J. William Knight. Assistant District Attorney Jerry Smith will prosecute the case.

Faciane, the co-owner of Wee Wisdom child care center in Slidell, is accused of beating the 22-month-old girl with a hairbrush, shaking her, and dropping her into a bathtub on May 22. The child later died at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.

Madisonville Man Found Guilty of Raping 4-year-old Boy

Eley James

COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury found James. R. Eley, 33, of Madisonville, guilty Thursday (Sept. 10) of the aggravated rape of a boy who was 4 years old when the incident occurred in April 2012. Eley faces up to life in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Adair prosecuted the case before Judge Allison Penzato, who is scheduled to sentence Eley on Sept. 28. The jury deliberated about 1½ hours before returning the guilty verdict on the victim’s eighth birthday.

The boy wasn’t present for the verdict, but he had testified the day before that he didn’t remember anything unusual happening to him when he was 4. But Adair, aided by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kilian, persuaded the jury that on April 20, 2012, Eley lured the boy into a neighbor’s home and molested him in the bathroom.

“I’m glad (the victim) doesn’t remember,” Adair told the jury at one point during his closing argument. But later, Adair urged: “Give him the gift of justice. Give him the best birthday gift that he will never remember.”

The child’s mother testified that she was cooking out in the backyard and talking with a friend that night when she noticed that her son, who had been playing nearby about five minutes earlier, was missing. She said she began calling his name and was walking down the street looking for him when she saw him leaving a neighbor’s home. Eley, who had been staying at the neighbor’s house, was following the child. The mother said that when she questioned her son, he told her in his childlike way that Eley had touched his private part and put it in his mouth. The boy later told a similar story on video to a specialist at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Covington and a specially-trained pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.

The jury rejected Eley’s claim that he simply had helped the child go to the bathroom. Adair pointed out that at nearly 5 years old, the boy needed no such help.

District Attorney Warren Montgomery praised the work of Adair and Kilian, a new staff attorney. Montgomery said this three-year-old case is an example of how his administration is prioritizing major cases that have languished in the criminal justice system to move them forward as expeditiously as possible.

Former Southeast Louisiana Hospital to be “Safe Haven”

District Attorney Warren Montgomery was among the public officials who stood with St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister Tuesday (Sept. 1) as she gave an overview of the parish’s plans for the former Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville.  Brister said the parish purchased the hospital and surrounding property in March and plans to transform much of the campus into “Safe Haven,” a kind of one-stop psychiatric services hub that will include a crisis intervention center.  A more comprehensive plan for the campus will be developed in the coming months.


Former Pearl River Town Clerk Pleads Guilty to Theft and Other Charges

Hollie Diane Bennett

COVINGTON—Former Pearl River town clerk Diane Bennett Hollie pled guilty Thursday (Sept. 3), just before she was set to go to trial on a series of charges, including felony theft, related to an investigation last year by the state legislative auditor. District Judge Raymond Childress ordered her to serve a total of five years of probation and to pay more than $8,000 in restitution.

Hollie, 54, of Abita Springs, pled guilty to two felonies—theft over $1,500 and unauthorized use of a moveable. As part of the plea agreement, a malfeasance in office charge was reduced to a misdemeanor theft, and a second unauthorized use of a moveable also was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Assistant District Attorney Darrell Sims prosecuted the case before Childress, who sentenced Hollie to five years of probation for the felonies and two years of probation for the misdemeanors with the sentences running concurrently. If Hollie violates the conditions of her probation, Childress left open the option of giving her jail time, which could amount to as much as 21 years—up to 10 years for each of the felonies and up to six months for the misdemeanors.

Hollie and former Pearl River mayor James Lavigne were indicted by a St. Tammany Parish grand jury last October, after a legislative audit revealed improper expenditures and use of government property. Lavigne is set to go to trial Sept. 28.

“When people who have been trusted with positions of authority abuse their power, the consequence of such abuse is that the public has less faith in government,” District Attorney Warren Montgomery said. “So, anybody who abuses the public’s trust in this way will be prosecuted by my office in a vigorous manner.”

The audit showed that Hollie was improperly paid $7,896 in extra paychecks and charged $5,215 on the government’s credit card, which included $324 in sales tax avoidance. She later reimbursed the credit card charges.

The unauthorized use of a moveable charge is related to her use of a generator that was bought with public funds and at one point moved to her home.

DA Warren Montgomery Presents Outstanding Service Award

District Attorney Warren Montgomery presented an outstanding service award Tuesday morning to retired Constable Tilman “Pete” King, 82, of Bush.  King worked 39 years (from 1975 to 2014) as a Justice of the Peace and Constable for Ward 2 in St. Tammany Parish. King (seated) is pictured (left to right) with his grandson, Brandon;  son, Marcus, a retired St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Captain; and Montgomery.  Montgomery thanked the elder King for his dedication and long service to the community.


Tilman King Presentation

Tilman King Presentation2