Louisiana news briefs
Federal judge pleads guilty to DWI charge
LAKE CHARLES (AP) — U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi has pleaded guilty to first-offense DWI.
Tim Leger, Lake Charles City Court’s judicial administrator, said Minaldi entered the plea last week before Judge Thomas Quirk. She was issued an open-container citation Jan. 23 and charged with DWI more than two weeks later.
Minaldi told the judge she made a stupid mistake and wanted “to accept responsibility.”
Minaldi’s attorney, Walt Sanchez, declined comment Monday.
Quirk deferred imposition of sentencing for one year and placed Minaldi on probation for a year.
Leger says Minaldi will have to pay $400 fine, $300 in court costs, attend defensive driving and classes sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. She also was ordered to attend church at least once a week, in lieu of community service.
Disinfectant put in coffee; woman arrested
BATON ROUGE (AP) — East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies have arrested a 31-year-old Denham Springs woman on accusations she squirted a disinfectant into a co-worker’s coffee cup with the intent of injuring the woman.
Deputies said Cristina Collica was booked on a count of mingling harmful substances.
Deputies say video surveillance footage from Feb. 1 allegedly shows Collica grab a can of disinfectant from a window sill near an employee break area and put the substance into the victim’s coffee cup.
The woman who drank the disinfectant reported feeling sick soon afterward and left work to seek medical attention.
It wasn’t clear in the arrest affidavit where the act took place or whether Collica knew the other woman.
Driver booked for vehicular homicide
CHURCH POINT (AP) — State police have arrested a 22-year-old Lake Charles woman following a fatal crash on La. 370 near Church Point.
Troopers say Emily Marcantel was westbound on La. 370 Sunday when her car left the roadway, stuck a ditch and overturned. Marcantel was not wearing a seat belt and was not injured.
Trooper Tfc.. Stephen Hammons says passenger in Marcantel’s car, 22-year-old Taylor Bellard, was taken to a nearby hospital where he died.
Hammons say Marcantel was booked into the Acadia Parish Jail on charges of vehicular homicide, reckless operation and no seat belt.
Jindal proposing new court program for veterans
BATON ROUGE — Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Friday that he’ll ask lawmakers to create a specialized court program to treat military veterans convicted of nonviolent drug crimes.
The program would be modeled after the state’s drug court program, which diverts people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes to substance abuse treatment with probation supervision, rather than prison. Successful completion of the program ends with the crime expunged from a person’s record.
Jindal said veterans have specialized circumstances and should have their own treatment programs, which would also assist with mental health illnesses, job training and housing aid.
The bill will be sponsored by Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, for consideration in the legislative session that begins March 10.
“We must remember that these veterans served our country with honor. By establishing Veteran’s Treatment Court Programs, this legislation ensures that we honor their service,” Guillory said in a statement.
Jindal also said he will push a proposal by Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, to expand residential lease protections for members of the military, to make it easier for them and their spouses to terminate home and apartment leases.
His third veterans-related measure, to be sponsored by Sen. John Smith, R-Leesville, would establish a voluntary registry for veterans exposed to open-air burn pits during wartime, to help them access treatment for any health conditions tied to the exposure.
BP loses effort to see claims documents
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — BP is not entitled to see confidential documents used by a court-appointed investigator who has alleged that some attorneys acted improperly in the claims process arising from the 2010 Gulf oil spill, a federal judge ruled Friday.
The investigator, former FBI director Louis Freeh, has said some private attorneys improperly used a lawyer who once served on claims administrator Patrick Juneau’s staff to expedite a $7.9 million claim. Freeh has recommended that the court consider disallowing the claim. He also recommended sanctions against the lawyers and improvements on controls in the claims process.
Freeh’s investigation also noted a potential conflict of interest and breach of confidentiality by an appeals administrator in the claims process, who has resigned.
BP had asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to order Freeh to turn over various documents from the probe. But Barbier on Friday said BP has shown no reason why it should see the confidential documents.
Freeh had argued against turning over the documents, arguing that they were confidential under agreements involving parties to the claims process and that reports he has issued provide sufficient information to support his findings and recommendations.
In rejecting BP’s bid for the documents, Barbier noted that Freeh’s findings in the probe have not been adverse to the oil giant.
President to step down at Houma high school
HOUMA (AP) — Officials of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux say the president of Vandebilt Catholic High School plans to retire June 30.
David Keife has served in various positions at the Houma school since 1971.
He said he will not seek renewal of his contract in order to devote more time to his family.
Bicycle crash deaths rise to 24 in 2012
BATON ROUGE (AP) — More Louisiana bicycle riders died in crashes in 2012 than in any year in the preceding decade.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says 24 bicycle riders died that year, even as the number of people who died in motor vehicle crashes declined.
Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the safety commission, says bike deaths swing widely from year to year, although officials aren’t sure why.
The commission says bicyclists are more likely crash fatally in the evening, and that a number of fatalities involve alcohol.
Five crashes killed children 15 or younger.
The commission urges cyclists to use helmets, wear bright clothing and use lights and reflectors at night. It also recommends cyclists use hand signals for stops and turns and ride far to the right.
9 arrested in Lafayette prostitution sting
LAFAYETTE (AP) — Lafayette authorities arrested nine people during the weekend in an undercover operation aimed at halting sex trafficking and the online solicitation of juveniles.
With help from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and Lafayette police narcotics officers, Trooper Stephen Hammons said state police prowled online networking websites for people searching for prostitutes.
Hammons said there were some details of the operation he could not divulge because it might jeopardize future online undercover operations.
Man kills self in Iberia Parish deputy’s car
NEW IBERIA (AP) — State police are investigating the death of a 22-year-old New Iberia man who apparently shot and killed himself while handcuffed in an Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office vehicle Sunday night.
Trooper Stephen Hammons said Victor White III was reportedly fighting with others when deputies responded to a call in New Iberia.
Hammons says deputies who searched White said they found illegal drugs, cuffed his hands behind his back, then placed him in a squad car for transport to the sheriff’s office for processing.
Hammons says White produced a handgun and fired one round, striking himself in the back.
White was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Sheriff Louis Ackal asked state police to investigate the death.
From The Associated Press.