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Month: June 2018

Speeding through North Shore traffic court on the horizon

A new traffic court in St. Tammany Parish will be launched on July 5 in a move designed to fast track cases that do not require a trial. Judge William H. Burris of the 22nd Judicial District will preside over the traffic court.

The new traffic court “is only possible with the help and participation of District Attorney Warren Montgomery‘s Office, St. Tammany Clerk of Court’s Office and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office,” according to a news release from the court administrator’s office.

Read more here:  https://www.nola.com/northshore/inde

Louisiana Supreme Courts Confirms D.A. As Parish’s Legal Advisor


June 27, 2018

District Attorney Warren Montgomery announces that the Louisiana Supreme Court has unanimously reversed the judgment of the courts below and rendered a decision, confirming his role as the legal advisor to St. Tammany Parish.

“I attempted to resolve this dispute in a peaceful manner,” Montgomery said in response to the ruling. “After the people’s vote on November 21, 2015, I was compelled to ask the Courts for a judicial clarification of the law.  Now, the state’s highest court has spoken.”

The legal dispute between the District Attorney and Parish Officials centered on the Parish’s Home Rule Charter (Section 4-03 (A), which says, “The district attorney of the judicial district serving St. Tammany Parish shall serve as legal advisor to the council, president and all departments, offices and agencies and represent the Parish government in legal proceedings.”

Before Montgomery took office, the attorneys representing the Parish President and Parish Council were commissioned as Assistant District Attorneys but were not supervised by the previous District Attorney.  After Montgomery’s election in January 2015, he sought to perform his duties as outlined in the Home Rule Charter and re-assert his supervision over the Assistant District Attorneys providing legal services for the Parish. Parish officials objected, arguing that Montgomery’s involvement would infringe on their authority and prerogative.

Parish officials then attempted to change the Home Rule Charter and remove the District Attorney as their legal counsel with an amendment on the ballot during the November 2015 election, but 61 percent of voters rejected the measure.

When parish officials still refused to accept the District Attorney as their legal representative, Montgomery filed a lawsuit in April 2016, asking the courts to interpret whether the Parish’s Home Rule Charter obligates and entitles the District Attorney to serve as the legal advisor.

In the meantime, the Parish Council adopted an ordinance on Aug. 4, 2016, giving itself the power to appoint one or more “council attorneys” to serve as legal advisor to the Council. Then, nearly a month later, the Parish Council adopted another ordinance, delineating the duties and responsibilities of each of the Parish’s offices and departments, including a new Legal Department. The new ordinance deleted the reference to the role of the District Attorney as outlined in the Home Rule Charter and granted the Parish President the authority to appoint a full-time “Executive Counsel” to the President and authorized other attorneys in the Legal Department to serve as legal advisors to the Parish.

Under the new ordinance, the District Attorney would represent Parish Government only at the request of Parish officials.

On Sept. 18, 2016, Ad Hoc Judge Marion F. Edwards decided in a 12-page ruling that the Parish acted within its authority when it created its own legal department and that it has the right to hire its own attorneys.  The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision in a two-to-one decision, with a dissent written by the Chief Judge of the First Circuit.

Montgomery took his case to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which agreed on Jan. 29, 2018, to hear the case. Under the rules of procedure, the Parish has the right to ask for a re-hearing within 14 days of Thursday’s decision.

Montgomery said the most recent decision has brought final resolution to the case, and he looks forward to working together with Parish Government and the Parish Council on a smooth transition and moving ahead in a positive direction.

Man Gets 18 Years in Prison for Killing Pregnant Girlfriend in Car Crash


June 21, 2018

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Matthew Oneal, Sr., 26, of Picayune, Miss., was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday (June 20) for vehicular homicide and third degree feticide in the deaths of his girlfriend and their unborn child in a one-vehicle crash on Interstate 59 in Pearl River three years ago.

District Judge Richard A. Swartz, Jr., sentenced Oneal to 18 years on the vehicular homicide charge and five years on the feticide charge, but the sentences are to be served at the same time. Just prior to imposing the sentence, Swartz said this was a “tragic situation” and that any lesser sentence would deprecate the serious nature of the offenses.

The 19-year-old victim was eight months pregnant when she was killed in the crash.  She and the couple’s two-year-old son were in an SUV, being operated by Oneal on the night of February 29, 2015.  Oneal crossed the center line and struck a tree on the opposite side of the road and ended up in a ditch. The victim was killed instantly. The 2-year-old was secured in a car seat and did not suffer any serious injuries.

Oneal attempted to flee after the accident, leaving his family at the scene. He was apprehended by good Samaritans on the scene. His blood tested positive for synthetic cannabinoids.

The victim’s family attended the sentencing hearing, and her grandmother gave a victim impact statement to the court prior to sentencing. Her grandmother said that although the victim’s life ended that night “on the side of the road in a wet ditch,” for her family, especially her surviving child, this tragedy continues. “We have to live with what happened that night for the rest of our lives,” she said.

The defendant also gave a statement, apologizing for his actions. He said he misses the victim every day.

Oneal pleaded guilty March 5 before Swartz, who ordered a pre-sentencing investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Becky Jo Hollen, who was assisted by Assistant District Attorneys Luke Lancaster and Holly McGinness.

Jury Finds Woman Guilty of Killing Best Friend’s Fiancé


June 15, 2016

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that a St. Tammany Parish jury found Margaret Stockstill, 33, of Franklinton, guilty of second degree murder in the death of her best friend’s fiancé.  Stockstill faces a mandatory life sentence when she appears before District Judge Peter J. Garcia for sentencing Aug. 16.

The weeklong trial centered on what happened the night of April 14, 2017, when Stockstill shot Cody Couch, 27, to death.  The jury rejected Stockstill’s claims that she shot Couch in self-defense.

“She was going to get the last word no matter what,” Assistant District Attorney Blair Alford argued in her closing statement. “She was mad, yes. Justified, no.”

Alford, assisted by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Authement, argued that Couch’s fiancée, Kristin Copeland, initially planned to spend the evening with Couch and Stocksill, playing cards and drinking at home in Folsom.  But things went awry when Couch instead left home to play pool at a bar with friends. Copeland testified that she became angry when he did not respond to her repeated calls and text messages. She then sent him a text message that said she was ending the relationship and burning his clothes and a photo of the burning clothes.  Couch returned to the house around 10 p.m., and an argument broke out between him and the two women.

Copeland testified that when Stockstill pulled out her gun, Couch threw out his hands and said: “What are you going to do? Shoot me?” Stockstill fired a shot, striking Couch in the lower abdomen.

Alford and Authement argued that the evidence showed that Couch was the one under attack by the two women, who had once shared a brief romantic relationship. The prosecutors played and dissected a cell phone videotape that Stockstill captured in the moments before shooting Couch. Before shutting off the video, Stockstill can be heard saying: “Got your a–!”

The jurors deliberated less than an hour before returning the verdict.

“This was a difficult case, but the successful prosecution is due to the thoroughness of the investigation and the preparation of my two Assistant District Attorneys, Blair Alford and Elizabeth Authement,” District Attorney Warren Montgomery said. “We’re blessed to have a high-performance team of prosecutors at the D.A.’s Office.”

Grand Jury Indicts Father Accused of Killing Infant Son


June 14, 2016

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that a St. Tammany Parish grand jury indicted Corey Michael Nauck, 25, of Folsom, Thursday (June 14) of first degree murder in the death of his seven-month-old son.

Nauck is accused of beating the infant, who had been left in his care at the family’s Folsom home on Feb. 26. The child died two days later.

Five People Indicted in February Murders of Two Pearl River Friends


June 14, 2018

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery announces that a St. Tammany Parish grand jury indicted four people Thursday (June 14) in the kidnapping and murders of two Pearl River residents in February and another person with assisting after the fact. The defendants and their charges are:

• Jason David Landry, 18, of Slidell, two counts of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a firearm,

• Brittney Michelle Savell, 26, of Slidell, two counts of second degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a firearm,

• Derrion Joseph Lemoine, 23, of Big Spring, Texas, two counts of second degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a firearm, obstruction of justice by tampering with evidence, and possession of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon,

• Steven Lee Olivieri, 27, of Slidell, first degree murder, obstruction of justice by tampering with evidence, possession of a firearm or carrying a concealed weapon by a convicted felon, and manufacture or possession of a bomb,

• James Keith Mitchell, 30, of Slidell, accessory after the fact and manufacture or possession of a bomb,

Landry, Savell, Lemoine, and Olivieri are accused in the murders of Reagan Elizabeth Day, 20, of Pearl River, and her friend, Dustin Ross Hartline, 28, of Pearl River. Day and Hartline were reported missing Feb. 16, and their bodies were found nearly three weeks later in Day’s car, submerged in the East Pearl River. Both had been shot in the head.

Jason Landry et al Indictment (2)

Mandeville Man Is Found Guilty of Domestic Abuse Battery


June 13, 2018

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Vincent Pierce, 39, of Mandeville, was convicted Monday of domestic abuse battery for attacking a woman in 2015.

District Judge Scott Gardner, who issued the ruling, sentenced Pierce to six months in jail with all but one month suspended for the misdemeanor conviction. For the one-month jail sentence, Pierce was ordered to spend 15 weekends in jail. Gardner also ordered Pierce to attend anger management classes, perform community service, and have no contact with the victim.

The attack occurred Aug. 12, 2015, while Pierce and the victim were out drinking at a bar. When they began arguing, Pierce grabbed the victim by her hair so hard that some of her hair was ripped out. He then threw her to the ground. Pierce also injured the victim’s fingers by bending them backwards on a table.

Assistant District Attorneys Roy Burns, Jo Heller, and Darrel Sims prosecuted the case.