East Baton Rouge goes after gun-toting felons

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A spike in homicides last year led the federal and East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor to focus on felons carrying firearms.

Both District Attorney Hillar Moore and U.S. Attorney Donald Cazayoux said firearms seized for any reason should now be processed as if they’re evidence from a murder scene. That includes checking the weapons for DNA.

Federal law forbids any felon to carry a gun. State laws make it illegal for some felons to possess firearms.

The prosecutors say they meet regularly to decide which court system would be likely to give a heavier prison term to defendants who could be prosecuted in either.

“It’s simple,” Moore said. “If he’s a really bad actor, we want him to get the most prison time possible.”

Moore added that his office also checks with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Metro Gun Task Force.

He said he and Cazayoux want to know whether defendants have criminal records because such defendants can more easily be convicted and returned to prison.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Mark Upton said cherry-picking felons with firearms for prosecution could mean some offenders would be treated more harshly in state court while others would receive longer prison terms in federal court.

Upton said prosecutors know which system is likely to produce tougher results in a particular case.

Penalties in federal court can range from probation to life imprisonment, Upton said. Probation is rare, but possible, he added.

Some offenders convicted in state district court face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

“Our resources are limited, so we try to target the most violent offenders who are out there,” Cazayoux said.

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