Louisiana news briefs
BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Legislature will pay at least $40,000 over the next few weeks for 19 lawmakers to travel to different conferences and gather with colleagues from other states.
First up is the Southern Legislative Conference in Mobile, Ala., which started Saturday and ends Wednesday. Next is the American Legislative Exchange Council on Aug. 7 to 9 in Boston, followed by the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting on Aug. 12 to 15 in Atlanta.
Conference registration, travel and hotel costs for the legislators will total about $28,000, according to information provided by the state House and Senate.
On top of that, lawmakers get $149 a day, a per diem they receive for expenses while in legislative session, at interim committee meetings or on other business related to their work.
Medicaid contract lawsuit delayed
BATON ROUGE — A state judge has delayed a Maryland company’s lawsuit that challenges the Jindal administration’s abrupt cancellation of its nearly $200 million contract to process Medicaid claims.
Judge Tim Kelley granted a six-month stay Tuesday of the civil proceedings over the objection from lawyer Lewis Unglesby, who represents Client Network Services Inc.
Kelley said he based his latest ruling on law enforcement investigative files that state prosecutors provided him for a private review.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration canceled CNSI’s multiyear contract in late March after news broke of a federal investigation into the contract.
State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein, who had been a CNSI executive, resigned a week later.
Former strip club employee may change plea
LAFAYETTE — A former Carencro strip club employee has indicated in court documents that he will change his plea in a federal investigation into drug dealing and prostitution at the club.
Elias White, a former employee of Desperado’s Gentlemen’s Cabaret, and nine others, including club owner James Panos, were charged in a May 8 indictment that alleged customers met dancers for sex in the VIP room and drug sales.
A grand jury charged seven defendants, all former club employees, with one count each of conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises. White and the other defendants pleaded not guilty.
Child found abused, walking alone in Houma
HOUMA — Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputies say a 10-year-old boy was found starving and scarred as he walked alone along Grand Calliou Road Tuesday morning, and his father now faces child abuse charges.
Dawn Foret said Nicholas Verdin, 34, allowed his son to walk to his grandmother’s East Houma home alone.
When deputies stopped the child to ask why he was by himself, Foret says the child told them that he was walking home.
Deputies say the boy had both old and fresh cigarette burns on his hands and feet.
The Department of Children and Family Services has taken custody of the child.
Verdin was booked with cruelty to a juvenile, and is being held at the Terrebonne Parish jail.
Crash claims life
of Kaplan man
KAPLAN — State police say a 31-year-old Sunset man has been booked with driving with a suspended license and having an expired license plate after being involved in a fatal accident in Vermilion Parish near Kaplan.
Trooper Jared Sandifer says Charles Milton was southbound on La. 700 about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday when he allegedly struck and killed 25-year-old Jeremy J. Little of Kaplan.
Sandifer says Little was wearing dark clothing and there were no streetlights in the area where the accident occurred.
He said Little was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sheriff apologizes for park arrests
BATON ROUGE — East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux says he will push for lawmakers to remove an unconstitutional anti-sodomy law from Louisiana’s criminal statutes.
Gautreaux apologized Monday for sting operations at a park in which his deputies used the unenforceable law to arrest men agreeing to have consensual sex with undercover agents.
But some legislators said efforts to erase the law would be difficult.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office wouldn’t say Tuesday if the governor would support taking the unconstitutional statute off the books.
Jindal spokesman Sean Lansing said, “That’s an issue for the Legislature to look at.”
Gautreaux’s apology came after widespread criticism about arrests of at least a dozen men since 2011 under the law, thrown out 10 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Drowning investigated at Cajun Lagoon
DENHAM SPRINGS — Livingston Parish authorities are investigating a drowning at the Cajun Lagoon water park off La. 16 near Denham Springs.
Authorities said a 14-year-old boy drowned Tuesday afternoon. Medical personnel tried to revive him but were unsuccessful.
Deputy Chief Joe Koczrowski says the parish’s District 5 firefighters and sheriff’s office were called around 1 p.m. about the drowning.
Further details about what happened were not immediately available. No information about the victim was released.
Man kills self after firing gun at office
COVINGTON — Police say a man killed himself after firing numerous shots inside and outside of a law office in Covington.
Acting Covington Police Chief Jack West identified the suspect as Roderick Rist, 47, of Slidell. West says police began receiving numerous emergency calls about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday about a man standing in a parking lot and firing a weapon.
The man eventually went into the law office where more shots were fired.
Police entered, rescuing one office employee who had hidden as the shots were fired. West says the body of the shooter was found inside.
The motive for the shooting was unknown.
West said at least 60 empty cartridge cases were fired. Police also have recovered two .22-caliber handguns and two 9mm semi-automatic handguns.
FBI: Agent shoots, kills man in incident
NEW ORLEANS — The FBI says an agent shot and killed a suspect while on the job in eastern New Orleans.
Mary Beth Romig, an agency spokeswoman, says the agent was part of a task force conducting a surveillance operation outside a motel as part of an ongoing investigation involving drug-related activity.
Neither the agent’s name nor the suspect’s was released.
Romig, in a news release, said an autopsy will be performed today to confirm the cause of death.
The FBI has said little more about the incident. A news release says the agent involved was performing official duties and that the agency’s inspection division in Washington and the local field office would be involved in the investigation.
Romig says while the internal investigation is conducted, the agent involved will remain on duty.
Texas A&M training ship visits Port of New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Texas Maritime Academy’s training ship and its 50 cadets are visiting the Port of New Orleans this week.
The 224-foot-long “General Rudder” docked Tuesday and will remain through Thursday, said port spokeswoman Renee Aragon Dolese.
Cadets will conduct training exercises such as standing watches and vessel maintenance. Other activities include a visit to the National World War II Museum.
The Texas Maritime Academy, part of Texas A&M at Galveston, is among six state maritime academies. Cadets learn seamanship, navigation and ocean engineering.
“The Port of New Orleans is thrilled to welcome the Texas Maritime Academy,” said Gary LaGrange, Port President and CEO. “I want to offer all of the support and hospitality to this class of cadets who represent the bright future of the maritime industry.”
The General Rudder was built in 1983 as the USNS Contender for anti-submarine surveillance. As the T/V Kings Pointer, it was the flagship training vessel of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. It’s named for a World War II Army general, Earl Rudder, who later was president of Texas A&M. He led Rangers at Pointe du Hoc during the D-Day invasion.
This is the ship’s first visit to New Orleans. Stops earlier this year included Mobile, Ala., and Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Pensacola, and Tampa, Fla.
“Although the cadets have enjoyed other cities during their training they are the most excited to get to New Orleans,” said Bob Wright, spokesman for the Galveston campus. “The Port of New Orleans is a great liberty port due to the Julia Street Cruise Terminal’s proximity to the historic French Quarter and other attractions.”
From The Associated Press.