Click here to watch DA Williams’ full presentation to the New Orleans City Council.
NEW ORLEANS – Today, District Attorney Jason Williams provided updates to the New Orleans City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee on the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office’s (OPDA) 7-prong strategy to increase safety and hold violent offenders accountable. Additionally, DA Williams highlighted four of the office’s requests for strategic investment by the City Council to support the work of OPDA to secure justice.
“Earlier this year, I presented a 7-prong strategy to the City Council on my office’s plan to surge back against crime in New Orleans. We have been working diligently to execute this plan and deliver for the people of New Orleans,” said District Attorney Williams. “The people of this city can rest assured that we are doing everything we can to secure justice for victims and ensure that those who wreak havoc in our community are held accountable. Our updates to the Council are proof positive of this commitment.”
DA Williams’ strategy, presented in January 2022, includes: 1.) prioritizing screening and prosecuting violent crimes, 2.) prosecuting carjackings as armed robberies, 3.) utilizing firearm sentencing provisions to ensure minimum sentencing requirements for gun crimes, 4.) using Gwen’s Law in domestic violence cases to allow for more informed bail hearings for domestic violence offenders, 5.) securing Grand Jury and Special Grand Jury indictments for violent crimes, 6.) securing guilty pleas during COVID-19 court closures, and 7.) solving cold cases even with limited resources.
DA Williams and the entire OPDA team have been working tirelessly on this plan. Updates on these prongs include:
PRIORITIZING SCREENING AND PROSECUTING VIOLENT CRIMES
To ensure OPDA is screening violent crime cases effectively and efficiently, the Screening Division has been restructured. Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Andre Gaudin has been appointed to serve as Chief of Screening. ADA Karen Avery has been appointed to oversee Domestic Violence screening. Additionally, OPDA brought on three new ADAs as screeners to help work through the backlog of cases that accumulated over the course of the pandemic as well as the increase in cases that OPDA has received as a result of the crime surge.
Since the beginning of the year, OPDA has accepted 95% of murder and manslaughter cases, 82% of robbery cases, and 73% of car theft cases.
PROSECUTING CARJACKINGS AS ARMED ROBBERIES
Under Louisiana law, an adult prosecuted for carjacking faces a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison. When substituting armed robbery charges in appropriate carjacking cases, adults face 10 to 99 years in prison; juveniles face a sentence of up to 21 years of age.
Since the start of this year, eight cases that were referred to OPDA by law enforcement as carjackings or attempted carjackings were charged as armed robberies.
UTILIZING FIREARM SENTENCING PROVISIONS TO ENSURE MINIMUM SENTENCING REQUIREMENTS FOR GUN CRIMES
Just within the last month, OPDA has filed 35 motions to utilize the firearm sentencing provision of the Criminal Code. Since the resumption of jury trials in March, OPDA has had the opportunity to invoke the provision in court, including with the conviction of defendant Trae Williams for Manslaughter.
With only a Manslaughter charge, the defendant faced a sentence of 0 to 40 years in prison. After filing the firearm sentencing motion, the minimum amount of prison time the defendant faced was 20 years. He was ultimately sentenced to 28 years.
USING GWEN’S LAW IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES TO ALLOW FOR MORE INFORMED BAIL HEARINGS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENDERS
OPDA has filed a motion for a Gwen’s Law hearing in 29 cases since DA Williams took office, with 19 of those coming just since January 1, 2022, when the DA’s strategy to surge back against crime began to take shape. These cases include:
- One involving a defendant who had several charges against the same victim. The Gwen’s Law hearing was granted when it was determined that the defendant was calling the victim from jail and was sending people to her house to attempt to get her to drop the charges. Because of OPDA’s argument in that hearing, the Magistrate Judge set bail at $294,000.
- One in which a defendant was accused of shooting a one-year-old child in the head while the child was in the car with their mother. In this case, the Gwen’s Law hearing allowed for prosecutors to successfully argue for the initial bond amount of $604,000 to be increased to over $1.7 million.
SECURING GRAND JURY AND SPECIAL GRAND JURY INDICTMENTS FOR VIOLENT CRIMES
Since the start of the year, OPDA prosecutors have secured over 40 grand jury indictments for violent crimes, consisting of approximately 150 counts in total. Some of those indictments included:
- A special grand jury indictment of four individuals who were arrested for committing a string of eight armed robberies, involving 11 victims, across New Orleans in one day.
- Indictment of defendant Tyrone Steele on four counts of First Degree Murder, one count of Aggravated Burglary, and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Burglary plus a superseding indictment for an additional homicide and two other shootings.
- Indictment of the four defendants involved in the murder of Ms. Linda Frickey.
SECURING GUILTY PLEAS DURING COVID-19 COURT CLOSURES
Since the start of this year, OPDA has secured over 1,100 convictions via guilty plea, including cases like the murder of 60-year-old Portia Pollock last year.
SOLVING COLD CASES EVEN WITH LIMITED RESOURCES
OPDA continues to doggedly pursue cold cases where new evidence and information have come to light through the combined efforts of our Violent Crimes Unit, Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Unit, and Civil Rights Division. In addition to the indictment we obtained in December 2021 for the 2016 murder of Tulane graduate Thomas Rolfes, we have obtained indictments in a number of sexual assault cases dating as far back as 1989.
While OPDA is proud to be delivering for the people of New Orleans in this way, the truth is that we could do so much more with more strategic investments from the New Orleans City Council. The four particular investments outlined by DA Williams to the Council today include funding for additional Assistant District Attorneys so that we can adequately staff our Screening and Trials Divisions, an in-house Cold Case Unit to take repeat shooters and killers off the streets, increased DNA testing and coordination to strengthen cases and achieve more secure convictions, and cloud-based technology upgrades to allow for interagency transfers of data.