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Month: May 2016

D.A. Warren Montgomery’s Statement on Mandeville Gas Station Shooting

On April 4, 2016, a legally armed citizen used deadly force to repel the attacks of Shawn Breland. The Mandeville Police Department concluded that Mr. Breland was the aggressor and that the actions of the lawfully armed patron did not warrant an arrest. Although Mr. Breland’s death is a tragedy, this office agrees that the shooting was legally justified under the circumstances and will not pursue criminal charges based on the evidence submitted to date.

911 Calls




Sex Offender Gets 20 Years in Prison for Twice Failing to Register

Thompson AlvaCOVINGTON—Alva Thompson, 44, of Lacombe, was sentenced Monday (May 23) to 20 years in prison without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence after pleading guilty to failure to register as a sex offender for the second time. The sentence also includes other charges related to his attempt to flee from police officers trying to arrest him.

Assistant District Attorney William Macke handled the case before District Judge William J. Burris.

Thompson has seven prior felonies on his record, including aggravated incest. He pleaded guilty to the incest charge in May 2007 and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison. When he failed to do so, he was charged with failure to register. He pleaded guilty, and in April 2013 was sentenced to two years in prison.

Upon his release from prison, he again failed to register as a sex offender.  In November 2015, officers went to arrest Thompson on several outstanding warrants, but he noticed them following him and fled in his vehicle, weaving recklessly through yards in a residential area. A huge ditch stopped him, but he dashed out of the vehicle and tried to run away. Police caught up to him, but he fought them. He was charged with flight from an officer, resisting an officer, battery of a police officer, and possession of a Schedule IV controlled dangerous substance (clonazapam).

Thompson was scheduled to go to trial this week, but he instead agreed to plead guilty, settling all of the charges.

Jury Finds Man Guilty of Strangling Girlfriend’s Husband in 2009 Murder Plot

Rodriguez CarlosCOVINGTON—A St. Tammany Parish jury found Carlos Rodriguez, 45, formerly of Kenner, guilty Friday (May 20) of first-degree murder for carrying out a plot with his girlfriend to kill her husband in 2009.  After a weeklong trial, the jury deliberated 23 minutes before returning the verdict against Rodriguez, who faces life in prison.

This was the fourth and final conviction in the murder-for-hire scheme that left Mario Scramuzza, a Lacombe Fire District paramedic, strangled in the laundry room of his Covington home. District Attorney Warren Montgomery was among those who filled the courtroom Friday to hear closing arguments. “This murder occurred in 2009,” Montgomery said. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Scramuzza’s wife, Gina, pleaded guilty in 2013 and is serving a life sentence for her role in the crime. She and both accomplices—Luis Hernandez and Erly Montoya—testified against Rodriguez. Luis Hernandez refused to answer questions, but prosecutors played a statement he gave to St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office detectives after his arrest.

The testimonies and recorded statements of all three painted a chilling portrait of the scheme that unfolded when Gina Scramuzza picked up Rodriguez, Hernandez, and Montoya in the parking lot of the Wal Mart in Covington on the afternoon of Feb. 27, 2009. She first stopped at her bank to withdraw $1,000—$500 for each of the accomplices—and drove them to the home she shared with her husband in Covington.  Gina Scramuzza then returned to her job as a C.A.T. scan tech at East Jefferson General Hospital and left the three men in her home to wait for her husband. While waiting, Hernandez and Montoya, who said they were unaware of the murder plot and thought they were just going to burglarize the house, rounded up various electronics and other items they wanted, including even two LSU towels, embroidered with the name of the couple’s then 13-year-old son, and a pet rabbit.  When Mario Scramuzza made it home, he was ambushed at gunpoint and strangled by Rodriguez, who bound Scramuzza’s hands behind his back with zip ties and strangled him with zip ties and a towel.

“On that day, he met his judge, his jury, his executioner. It’s because of this man seated right here that we are here today,” Assistant District Attorney Joey Oubre said, turning toward Rodriguez during the closing statement. “For money. It wasn’t even for love.”

Rodriguez’s attorney had claimed during opening remarks that his client was just using Gina Scramuzza for money but was not involved in the murder. The attorney said Rodriguez only put Gina in touch with Hernandez and Montoya to do construction work in her home.

That story quickly fell apart, though, as prosecutors presented what they called a “mountain of evidence,” including the testimonies and recorded statements of Gina Scramuzza, Hernandez, Montoya, bank records, phone records, DNA evidence from beer bottles at the crime scene, GPS data that backed up the other defendants’ testimonies about their whereabouts, and even life insurance records showing that Gina Scramuzza had increased the policy on her husband.

Gina Scramuzza broke into tears during her testimony earlier in the week when asked if she was still angry at Rodriguez after all these years.  “I ruined my life and my family,” she said. “I hurt the people I love so much, and now they hate me.”

She said she had met Rodriguez and begun flirting with him the year before the crime when he brought a Spanish-speaking family member to East Jefferson hospital for a C.A.T. scan and acted as the interpreter. Rodriguez left with Gina Scramuzza’s telephone number. Over the ensuing months, she spent lavishly on him, buying him a cell phone so that they could talk secretly, a red Hummer, and giving him cash, including $3,400—$1,700 on two different occasions—to kill her husband. She said she had complained to Rodriguez that her husband was abusive and that Rodriguez had offered to help her “get rid of him.”  She said Rodriguez called her after the murder to say the job was done.

Rodriguez faces life in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Hernandez was found guilty of first degree murder in 2012 and received a life sentence. Montoya, who pled guilty to manslaughter and armed robbery with a firearm, faces between 10 years and 144 years in prison when he is sentenced at a later date by District Judge August Hand.

Assistant District Attorneys Jerry Smith and Blake Peters prosecuted the case, along with Oubre.

Special Olympics

Warren Montgomery, Tim Lentz, Randy Smith, MPD 2District Attorney Warren Montgomery was inspired by the opportunity to meet Special Olympics athletes and their parents May 5 at the Champions Together Breakfast at Benedict’s Plantation in Mandeville. Photos of Mr. Montgomery with Mike Lorino, Tim Lentz and Randy Smith.

Parish Government Responds to Montgomery Petition

Parish government officials filed legal documents Friday in response to District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s lawsuit against them over their legal representation. For those who may be interested in the parish’s position, the documents are shown below. For a printable version, please click here.

Defendants’ Answer to Petition for Declaratory Judgment
Defendants’ Joint Dilatory and Peremptory Exceptions
Defendants’ Memorandum in Support of Exceptions
Exhibits A, B & C in support of the Exceptions
-Exhibit A – 2016 St. Tammany Parish Operating and Capital Budgets
-Exhibit B – Home Rule Charter
-Exhibit C – St. Tammany Parish Code of Ordinances

Defendants’ Answer to Petition for Declaratory Judgment

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Defendants’ Joint Dilatory and Peremptory Exceptions

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Defendants’ Memorandum in Support of Exceptions

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Exhibit A – 2016 St. Tammany Parish Operating and Capital Budgets

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Exhibit B – Home Rule Charter

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Exhibit C – St. Tammany Parish Code of Ordinances

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Annual Northshore Red Mass

District Attorney Warren Montgomery joined other members of the legal community in attending the annual Northshore Red Mass, hosted by the Covington Bar Association and Saint Scholastica Academy in the school’s chapel on Friday, May 6.  Those who attend the Mass each year pray for guidance and inspiration in the administration of justice.Warren at Red Mass May 2016 b

Montgomery’s legal dispute with the Parish

A hearing will be held May 16 at 1 p.m. in Courtroom 2 (Division J) before  Ad Hoc Judge Marion Edwards in District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s lawsuit against Parish President Pat Brister and the Parish Council, regarding civil representation of parish government. The hearing will be held on Exceptions to be filed by Ms. Brister and/or the Parish Council. A hearing on the preliminary injunctive relief motion filed by District Attorney Warren Montgomery will be held May 23 at 9 a.m. before Judge Edwards.

A copy of the Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief may be seen below, or click here for a printable copy.

Slidell Felon Gets 40 Years in Prison for Possessing Gun

Thompson MarcelCOVINGTON—Marcel Thompson, 40, of Slidell, was sentenced Thursday (April 28) as an habitual offender to 40 years in prison for possessing a gun as a convicted felon and another five years for simple possession of cocaine after an undercover operation in late 2014. District Judge Allison Penzato ordered the sentences to be served concurrently without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

A St. Tammany Parish jury convicted Thompson of the crimes on April 8 after four days of trial. Assistant District Attorney Jay Adair prosecuted the case.

Thompson was under surveillance by the Slidell Police Department in November 2014, when he sold cocaine to a confidential informant on multiple occasions. Police then obtained a warrant to search Thompson’s home on Tumblebrook Street and his mother’s residence on Edwards Street, both in Slidell. Officers found a gun at Thompson’s home and cocaine at his mother’s house.

Thompson initially acknowledged that the gun and drugs belonged to him. During the trial, though, he said he was intoxicated when he made the statement and that he claimed the drugs out of fear that his mother and other family members might be arrested.

Operation Angel

District Attorney Warren Montgomery was among the public officials who stood with Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz Monday to support his announcement of Operation Angel, a new program that will enable addicts to seek help from law enforcement officers without the fear of arrest. An addict simply can appear at the police department, surrender any drugs or paraphernalia, and instead of being arrested, he or she will be brought to a Lacombe ranch that is operated by the New Orleans Mission, which provides round-the-clock treatment for people struggling with alcohol or drug addiction.

“This press conference would not have taken place two years ago,” Montgomery said. “It represents a tipping point in how our community is addressing drug addiction in a positive manner. Operation Angel is just one part of a mosaic that is treatinOperation Angel2 Operation Angelg this problem in our community in a more humane, cost-effective and smart manner.”