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New head of Louisiana District Attorney’s Association no friend of reform

Supreme Court of Louisiana

New head of Louisiana District Attorney’s Association no friend of reform

Earlier this month, District Attorney Ricky Babin was elected president of the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association.

He’ll take on this new role at a critical time for criminal justice reform. But Babin’s history and past statements suggest he will not be a voice for change, and will instead defend the status quo that has made Louisiana the most carceral state in America.

Babin has been the district attorney of Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes since 2009. During his time in office, Babin has repeatedly expressed support for the state’s policies that lock people up, and according to his own website prosecuted about 3,500 felonies a year— a large number for a district with about 170,000 people.

Babin has stood in the way of reform before. Earlier this year, Gov. John Bel Edwards formed a task force aimed at decreasing the number of incarcerated people in the state. The LDAA came out strongly against proposals that would reduce the sentences of people convicted of violent crime.

And Babin was one of the most vocal critics of the task force, at one point claiming that everyone in a Louisiana prison deserved to be there.

“These people have criminal records as long as my leg,” said Babin in a New Orleans Times-Picayune article. “There is not a single person that we put in prison that doesn’t deserve to be there.”

As the chairman of the Louisiana Sentencing Commission, Babin was criticized for focusing on punishment, over other areas like rehabilitation. The sentencing commission also looked at marijuana convictions in the state but did not make their findings public, and opposed legislation that would have given juveniles sentenced to life in prison a chance at parole.

The state legislature passed a bill saying the commission had strayed too far from it’s original mission. “It was just a subtle reminder of what the Sentencing Commission is supposed to do,” said state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, in an interview with The Advocate.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who sponsored legislation that created the Sentencing Commission when he was a state legislator, said the commission wasn’t interested in reducing the prison population even though it costs taxpayers $600 million a year. Louisiana jails people for nonviolent offenses at three times the rate of Florida and twice the rate of South Carolina.

“What they should be focused on is how to keep the state from spending hundreds of millions of dollars by locking people up instead of being smart on crime,” Richmond stated.

Two North Carolina prosecutors indicted after hiring each other’s wives for phony jobs

Rockingham County, NC, is highlighted. Person and Caswell Counties are the next two counties over.
UNC School of Social Work

Two North Carolina prosecutors indicted after hiring each other’s wives for phony jobs

Two elected district attorneys in North Carolina have been arrested and one has pleaded guilty for a scheme that authorities said involved both men hiring the other’s wife for bogus jobs.

Craig Blitzer and Wallace Bradsher were both accused of taking about $100,000 in state money from the North Carolina payroll program for jobs that didn’t really exist.

Blitzer has pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor failure to discharge the duties of his office and his law license has been suspended. The case against Bradsher is still pending and Blitzer is expected to testify against him in the criminal proceeding, a civil whistleblower suit and in proceedings the North Carolina Bar will have against Bradsher.

Blitzer was the district attorney for Rockingham County while Bradsher was the district attorney for Person and Caswell counties.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, whose office is prosecuting the case, has said the former prosecutors will not face jail time if convicted but could face community service. The two men could also face punishment from the North Carolina Bar, including disbarment.

The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation started looking into the prosecutors last year after employees in their offices began complaining.

Pamela Bradsher had worked as a legal assistant for her husband for four years. When the district attorney sought to promote his wife, he was told by state officials that his wife actually needed to resign due to a state law that prohibited an elected official from hiring their spouse.

Blitzer hired his wife as a legal assistant when he took office in January 2015, but state officials almost immediately told him that Cindy Blitzer had to resign.

The two district attorneys responded by hiring each others wives. But court records said both women only worked sporadically, with Cindy Blitzer also being a full time nursing student.

According to the Greensboro News & Record “Cindy Blitzer never had security access to the Person or Caswell County courthouses, which means, if she came to work, she would have to go through metal detectors before being allowed entry. Employees in those offices said they saw her fewer than fives times in her nearly two-year employment there, which was from Jan. 13, 2015, to Oct. 25, 2016.”

The newspaper also said that Pamela Bradsher swiped a keycard to gain access to the Rockingham County district attorney’s office on 36 of the 156 business days she was employed.

Meanwhile, employees of both prosecutors eventually complained to state officials. One filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Bradsher alleging she was fired after she complained.

Another prosecutor claimed Blitzer ordered him to take an online algebra class for his wife while a victim-witness coordinator also took tests for Cindy Blitzer and did her homework.

Blitzer resigned in March after state investigators raided his office. Bradsher resigned in May. In June, the two were officially indicted.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper appointed former Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith to replace Blitzer and appointed Assistant Attorney General Jacqueline Perez to replace Bradsher. The two will finish out the terms of Blitzer and Bradsher, which conclude at the end of 2018.

Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

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Cook County prosecutor fights to keep a new mom out of jail

SA Kim Foxx

Cook County prosecutor fights to keep a new mom out of jail

In a highly unusual move, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office recently became embroiled in a fight to keep a new mother from being locked up.

Karen Padilla Garcia, 26, went into labor after she was detained in the Cook County Jail following a probation violation last month. Garcia was taken to Stroger Hospital where she gave birth to a baby girl.

Due to Garcia’s circumstances as a new mother, Foxx’s office arranged for Garcia to be granted bond so she could go directly home from the hospital with her child.

But the prosecution’s efforts to help Garcia return home, rather than jail, did not rest well with Judge Nicholas Ford, who had originally ordered Garcia detained after she violated her probation. Ford held a hearing after Garcia got out to determine if she should be locked up again.

Garcia had originally pleaded guilty to stealing cash from the register of a restaurant where she worked. Placed on probation, Garcia was subsequently jailed after she missed court dates and meetings with her probation officer, failed to reimburse the restaurant for the money she had stolen, and picked up traffic tickets even though she didn’t have a license.

Prosecutors were adamant that Garcia, who had no history of violence, did not belong in jail.

“You cannot incarcerate people for — it’s not a debtor’s prison we’re running here, your honor,” said First Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sussman during what was reported to be an increasingly heated exchange with Ford.

As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Ford at one point threatened to hold Sussman in contempt of court for interrupting. He ultimately let Garcia go on her own recognizance, but not before repeatedly chastising her for violating various terms of her probation.

After the fact, Ford received heavy criticism for locking Garcia up in the first place. ABC7 also reported that Ford may have violated the law when he jailed Garcia and set her next hearing for 60 days in the future, even though Garcia was over seven months pregnant. Legal experts told the tv station that Ford was supposed to hold a bond hearing within 14 days.

There was also no prosecutor or public defender in court when Garcia was initially detained.

While the affirmative role that Foxx’s office played in seeking Garcia’s release may have seemed unusual, it also may be a sign of things to come. In June, Foxx announced that her office would be recommending that people charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies who do not have a history of “violent crime” or pose a risk to public safety be released pre-trial. Both Foxx and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart have criticized the use of money bail and supported efforts to get rid of it.

Bail reform is gaining traction around the country. The District of Columbia and states like Kentucky and New Jersey have moved away from cash bail and states like California are now considering legislation that would bring about similar reforms. Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia, has vowed to end cash bail if he’s elected. Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have also co-sponsored the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act, which would “encourage states to reform or replace the bail system.”

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