NEW ROADS, LA (WAFB) - A police captain in New Roads is drawing attention after he disregarded a judge's felony warrant by asking a second judge to issue paperwork that made the case look like a misdemeanor.
The case stems from an incident on March 25, when New Roads Police officers responded to a woman's home for a domestic violence call. The woman told officers her boyfriend, Keedrick Jack, 31, "struck her in the face and strangled her," according to the incident report. The responding officer noticed red marks, bruises, and swelling on the woman's face and forehead, "along with red fingernail marks around the victim's neck," the report said.
The victim told the officer she didn't want to press charges, but also didn't want Jack in her home "because he had recently been released from jail for beating on her before."
Though the woman did not want to press charges, it wasn't solely up to her at that point because of a state law which gives officers discretion to file charges in cases where domestic battery is obvious.
"If they see something that looks like domestic abuse battery, they've got to decide then and there whether they're going to arrest someone and remove them from the scene, even if the victim doesn't want to pursue charges," said Joseph Scott, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor who is not associated with this case.
That's what the officer did by charging Jack with domestic abuse battery with child endangerment due to two children being inside the home at the time, one a few years old and another just weeks old. It's why the victim said "she would be taking the children to go stay with her mother, for a safer environment," according to the report.
An arrest warrant for that felony was signed by Judge Kevin Kimball. The next day though, that officer's captain, Delaney Lee, went to a justice of the peace, drawing up a brand new warrant. This time, it was for a misdemeanor summons, meaning no arrest.
"They issued a felony warrant for him the night of and then afterwards, she came in and said she didn't want to file charges as well as Captain Lee looked at the extent of her injuries and he felt it should be misdemeanor grade," said New Roads Police Chief Kevin McDonald.
But the initial officer said in his report the case involved strangulation and child endangerment. Scott said strangulation and child endangerment automatically make a domestic violence charge a felony.
"Based on those facts, that would be something I would think needs to be charged as a felony," said Scott.
"But in this case, I understand the child was there at the residence and the mother said he was never in harm's way," said Chief McDonald.
"Child endangerment occurs when a child is present at the residence when a domestic abuse battery occurs," said 18th Judicial District Court Assistant District Attorney Chad Augillard.
Since the WAFB 9News Investigators started digging, the chief went to the district attorney's office and the charge has now been upgraded back to a felony.
"I learned about it after you guys contacted me. I looked into it deeper and contacted the DA's office and I requested it get billed as a felony," said Chief McDonald.
Augillard said when he received the case from the New Roads Police Department, it came to him as a misdemeanor charge, but he felt it warranted a felony charge.
The 9News Investigators went digging into Jack's past:
- Jan. 2009 - arrested for simple assault
- June 2009 - arrested for indecent behavior with juveniles
- 2011 - arrested for misdemeanor theft
- 2012 - pleaded guilty to entry/remaining after being forbidden
- 2015 - arrested for drug possession and simple robbery
- 2016 - convicted of aggravated battery/domestic violence
"He's been convicted of domestic abuse battery and was convicted previously," said Augillard.
"Second offense domestic violence is also a felony," said Scott.
Plus, Scott said Louisiana's Code of Criminal Procedure clearly states "a warrant of arrest remains in effect until executed."
"Something has to be done to resolve that felony warrant, whether it's going to get the judge to recall it, having him arrested on the felony charge and then bond out," said Scott.
But the 9News Investigators found the original felony arrest warrant was never quashed or recalled and Jack was never arrested. That arrest warrant is still active.
"I think he [Capt. Lee] was acting in good faith," said Chief McDonald.
"I think I wouldn't want to be representing the New Roads Police Department in regards to the actions of the officer in this matter," said Scott. "It has what we would call the appearance of impropriety, whether it's actually improper or not, it gives the wrong message to the public."
Scott said that message was, "That if you know the right people at the police department, you can go get somebody's charges downgraded."
Capt. Lee was not disciplined over the matter. Instead, Chief McDonald said he was acting in good faith because he knew the couple involved. The chief added, "Lee was counseled, but no discipline."
New Roads Mayor Anthony Daisy said the chief, Augillard, and himself met with Capt. Lee and all told him "that's something he cannot do."