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Month: January 2016

Man Driving While Naked on Mandeville Lakefront Pleads Guilty

Keith Cangiamilla
Keith Cangiamilla

COVINGTON—Keith A. Cangiamilla, 51, of Mandeville, pled guilty Tuesday (Jan. 26) to one count of obscenity for driving naked and exposing himself during an incident last summer along the Mandeville lakefront. District Judge Allison Penzato sentenced Cangiamilla to three years in prison, which she suspended if he successfully completes five years of probation and pays a $1,000 fine.

This was Cangiamilla’s first felony conviction. He was arrested on June 30, 2015, after Mandeville police received a call about 6:30 p.m. that a naked man was sitting in his Cadillac with the door open and masturbating in public. Cangiamilla drove off, but when officers caught up with him a short time later, he was still naked.

Cangiamilla told officers that he’d stripped from his clothes because he had wet them trying to wipe water from his windshield and that he’d opened the car door to urinate. Officers found no wet clothes in his car.

Assistant District Attorneys Becky Jo Hollen and Jay Adair handled the case.

Bogalusa Man Gets Life in Prison; His Nephew Gets 60 years for 2014 Murder


FRANKLINTON—David C. Allen, 46, of Bogalusa, was sentenced to life in prison Monday after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and other charges for his role in the stabbing death of a Bogalusa man and the throat slashing of another during a robbery for illicit drugs. Allen’s nephew, Christian “Chase” Henry, 20, also of Bogalusa, pled guilty to manslaughter and other charges and was sentenced to 60 years in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.

District Judge William J. Knight accepted the pleas and handed down the sentences on the day that both men were set to go to trial for killing Demarquis Wilson, 25, and seriously wounding Charles Ramsey, 21.

The incidents took place on October 13, 2014, after Allen, Henry, and a third defendant, Robert Shane Taylor, 28, arranged a meeting in Bogalusa with Ramsey, supposedly to buy drugs. Instead, the men planned to rob Ramsey of his heroin, crack and money. While carrying out the robbery, Allen slashed Ramsey’s throat. Henry then attacked Wilson, stabbing him seven times. Ramsey survived the throat slashing, but Wilson died from the injuries cause by his stab wounds.

Allen, Taylor, and Henry fled the scene with heroin and crack and were picked up by a fourth defendant, Bridget A. Martin-Roach. She pled guilty in October 2014 to accessory after the fact and was sentenced to a suspended five years in prison and five years of probation. Taylor also pled guilty earlier to two counts of armed robbery, and he awaits sentencing.

On Monday, Henry was sentenced to 50 years on the manslaughter charge, but he and Allen also pled guilty to two counts of armed robbery, for which they were sentenced to 60 years in prison. In addition, Allen and Henry pled guilty to the following charges and received the same sentences, which will all run at the same time: attempted first degree murder, 50 years; and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, 30 years.

Assistant District Attorney Collin Sims, Chief of the Criminal Division, and Assistant District Attorney Jerry Smith prosecuted the case.

District Attorney Warren Montgomery Notes First Year Achievements

COVINGTON— District Attorney Warren Montgomery marked his first year in office this week by noting a number of accomplishments that have helped to create an overall more professional, competent, and ethical operation.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of Washington and St. Tammany parishes the past year,” said Montgomery, who became the first newly-elected District Attorney in 30 years when he was sworn into office this time last year. “I’ve tried to implement positive changes that will transform not just the image of the office, but the way it functions. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we still have much work to do to get where we want to be.”

That goal, Montgomery said, is to be the best District Attorney’s Office in the state by the end of his six-year term.

In addition to putting together a well-qualified team, Montgomery said he focused early on administrative changes that would improve the way the office is run. For the first time in recent memory, the 2016 budget is in complete compliance with legal requirements. Also, to comply with state legislative mandates, the District Attorney’s Office submitted for review its policies and procedures, including those regarding the use of office credit cards. An external review of monthly credit card statements resulted in a clean bill of health for this administration.

Other administrative changes over the past year have included the adoption of direct deposit of paychecks for the District Attorney’s employees, a computerized daily time and attendance verification system, and a comprehensive employee policy and procedures manual. The manual also addresses shortcomings that had been identified by a 2014 legislative audit of the previous administration and sets clear, written vacation and sick leave policies for non-clerical workers, who follow parish government guidelines.

New Screening Department and Bond Hearing Process

Among the more significant changes in the Criminal Division was the creation of the Screening Department. The enhanced unit now includes a supervisor, three-full-time prosecutors, an additional prosecutor who screens cases in Washington Parish part-time, and three law enforcement officers on loan to the District Attorney’s Office—two from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and one from the Slidell Police Department—and various support staff. The officers, based in the District Attorney’s Office, represent the kind of interagency cooperation that will strengthen the prosecutorial process, Montgomery said.

The new department replaced a one-person operation through which thousands of cases were submitted for review under the previous administration. The new, more thorough screening process was established to assure that formal charges are appropriate for the crime and to weed out cases in which prosecutors are unable to meet their burden of proof. The new system prevents potentially innocent people from sitting in jail unnecessarily. It also reduces the negotiating advantage that defense attorneys used in past years to leverage seemingly good sentencing deals for their clients. Now, with greater scrutiny initially, all evidentiary materials, including audio and video tapes, have been examined even before the case reaches the trial stage. As a result, the cases are more airtight and trial-ready, and prosecutors are less likely to negotiate reduced charges. A new plea review process put in place last year is aimed at ensuring that plea offers are based solely on the factors of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history, and not on any personal or political connections to the District Attorney’s office.

Other changes give prosecutors more immediate access to information on criminal cases. For the first time, the District Attorney’s Office has electronic access to all crime lab reports, as well as draft and final police reports, in the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office database. Montgomery said such access will assist his team in meeting one of his overall goals: swifter justice.

Likewise, beginning in mid-January, prosecutors will participate in 72-hour bond hearings. By law, a defendant must be brought before a judge within 72 hours to determine whether bond will be set in the case. Those hearings, often held in the parish jail, have in the past involved just law enforcement officials, defense attorneys, and judges. However, prosecutors attending the hearings soon will be able to connect to law enforcement officers earlier in the legal process to begin learning the details of sometimes complex cases. This will notify the District Attorney’s Office of cases sometimes 120 days sooner than before. Prosecutors also will help to assure that a defendant’s national criminal history, not just the information available in the local criminal database, is provided to the judge before a bond decision is made.

More Focus on Domestic Violence Cases

The Montgomery administration also last year intensified the focus on domestic violence cases. In past years, a single prosecutor handled 400-plus active domestic violence cases, but two additional Assistant District Attorneys were assigned last year to share the domestic violence caseload. The section changed the way cases were handled by implementing “vertical prosecution,” in which the prosecutor who makes initial contact with the victim and witnesses in a case also screens and prosecutes it. Such consistency is crucial in building trust with victims and witnesses.

The added focus on domestic violence cases is yielding good results. During the last week of December, for example, all three prosecutors in the unit went to trial and won their cases. The results were incarceration for two defendants and home incarceration over a period of four years for another.

Increase in Child Support Collections

For the office’s Non-Support division, last year ended on a high note with an increase in child support collections of $373,742.06 more than the amount collected in 2014. The total amount of support collected in Washington/St. Tammany parishes grew in 2015 to nearly $20 million.

In addition, the division finished the year ahead of the state in the percentage of cases in which paternity was established and those in which child support orders were put in place. The biggest growth occurred in St. Tammany, where child support orders were up 7.3 percent.

New Pre-Trial Intervention Pilot Program

One new initiative implemented last year by the Montgomery administration was even aimed at helping certain defendants. The office expanded the reach of its Pre-trial Intervention Program (Diversion) by waiving or reducing fees for impoverished defendants who qualify (primarily non-violent, first-time offenders) but are unable to afford the associated fees. The program offers delayed prosecution and the possibility of dismissing criminal charges for participants who meet all of the prescribed conditions. Those conditions, aimed at deterring future criminal behavior, include a range of options, such as random drug screening, community service, parenting classes, driver’s education courses, substance abuse treatment, anger management programs, and more. In the past, some offenders who qualified were unable to participate because they could not afford the program fees, which depend on a wide range of factors. Waiving or reducing the fees in some cases helps to equalize access to the program.

In addition, the Diversion program now requires program participants with sobriety issues to use a state-of-the-art alcohol detection device. The new SCRAM remote alcohol breath test provides a more accurate way to keep track of whether the identified program participants are refraining from alcohol use.

Additional Achievements

Change has been widespread in the office, including in the Misdemeanor/Traffic and Juvenile divisions, which also have improved operations by screening cases more thoroughly, contacting victims and witnesses from the outset, and utilizing law enforcement tools that had not been used previously. Fewer traffic tickets are being amended, and any adjustment is based on driving history and the facts surrounding the ticket, instead of personal connections.

Finally, Montgomery said, the office is operating in a more transparent manner with a full-time public information officer and an attorney assigned to handle public records requests. Montgomery also has maintained an open-door policy, meeting daily with constituents and traveling throughout Washington and St. Tammany parishes to address community groups.

“We’ve been very busy,” Montgomery added. “These are just a few of the highlights. Of course, we have some challenges ahead, but overall, it’s been a very good year.”

Jury Convicts New Orleans Man of Defrauding Covington Bank

Valentine Jeffrey
Jeffrey Valentine

COVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury convicted Jeffrey Valentine, 52, of New Orleans, Tuesday (Jan. 12) of bank fraud for trying to cash a fraudulent check for $1,982.10 at a Mandeville bank in June 2014. Valentine, who has at least two prior convictions, faces five to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced by District Judge William Burris on March 24.

A jury deliberated about 1½ hours before finding Valentine guilty of trying to cash a check bearing his name from the account of a Covington business about 11 a.m. on June 25, 2014, at American Bank & Trust. An astute bank teller noticed something suspicious about the payer’s signature and alerted the bank manager, who photocopied a valid Louisiana ID card that had been presented by Valentine. The manager then contacted the business, whose office manager said that the business had not issued the check.

The bank manager called the Mandeville Police Department, but Valentine fled before officers arrived. A warrant was issued, and Valentine was arrested Feb. 10, 2015.

Assistant District Attorney William Macke prosecuted the case; he was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Blake Peters.

Slidell Man Charged with Aggravated Arson

David Rutledge
David Rutledge

David F. Rutledge, 58, of Slidell, has been charged with aggravated arson and 32 counts of attempted second degree murder for causing a fire that heavily damaged the Act X Condominium Complex, located at 4504 Pontchartrain Drive in Slidell. The District Attorney’s Office filed a felony Bill of Information Monday (Jan. 11) against Rutledge, who had been a resident of the complex.

Slidell Man Sentenced to 15 Years

Jimmy McCrystal
Jimmy McCrystal

Jimmy McCrystal, 37, of Slidell, was sentenced Monday (Jan. 11) to serve 15 years in prison for simple burglary, theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, illegal possession of stolen things, and possession of methamphetamine. District Judge Scott Gardner sentenced him to 15 years on each of the counts, but they are to run concurrently. On Feb. 9 last year, McCrystal broke into a Slidell business, where he once worked, and stole tools personally owned by employees, about $1,140 in cash, several bottles of liquor, a handgun, silver coins, an electronic tablet, and other items. The business owner identified McCrystal using surveillance video. A warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found about a week later when Slidell police officers responded to a call about a disturbance at a home and discovered him hiding under the bed. Assistant District Attorney Jason Cuccia handled the case.

Kenner Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Molestation


Jeffrey Miller
Jeffrey Miller

Jeffrey Joseph Miller, 41, of Kenner, was sentenced Monday (Jan. 11) to serve 25 years in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on two counts of molestation of a juvenile. District Judge Scott Gardner sentenced him to 25 years on one count and 10 years on the other, but the sentences are to be served at the same time. Miller was accused of touching a minor in a sexual way from August 2008, when the victim was about 8 years old, until September 2014.

Slidell Woman Sentenced to 7 Years for Drug Possession

Stephanie Matthews
Stephanie Matthews

Stephanie Matthews, 50, of Slidell, was sentenced Tuesday (Jan. 12) under the state’s habitual offender statute to serve 7 years in prison for possession of a legend drug (Gabapentin) during a traffic stop in Slidell on Aug. 27, 2014. She has multiple prior convictions and pending misdemeanor charges. Assistant District Attorney Jason Cuccia handled the case.

Slidell Man Gets 15 Years in Prison for Attempted Murder of Brother and Friend

Dondrique Lewis
Dondrique Lewis

COVINGTON— Local rapper Dondrique Lewis, 28, of Slidell, was sentenced Wednesday (Jan. 6) to spend 15 years in prison for the attempted second-degree murder of his half brother and a longtime friend in a shooting incident three years ago in Slidell.

District Judge Scott Gardner sentenced Lewis to 15 years without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence on the first count of attempted second degree murder and 10 years on the second count. The sentences are to be served at the same time.

A St. Tammany Parish jury in November found Lewis guilty of shooting his brother, Damian L. Lewis, 30, and a longtime friend, Andre A. Jackson, 38, on March 21, 2012. The Lewis brothers were visiting their sister in Slidell when the first shot was fired. Damian Lewis, who was standing outside, began running after hearing the shot. About a block away, he realized his brother was running beside him and stopped running. But Dondrique suddenly pulled a gun from behind his back and shot Damian in the back of the head as Damian tried to run away.

Dondrique then walked about two more blocks, knocked on a door and shot Jackson. The motive of the shootings remains unclear. Dondrique was arrested the same day.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Cuccia prosecuted the case with the assistance of Assistant District Attorney Harold Bartholomew.