I-Team: The Revolving Door - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: The Revolving Door

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By David Spunt - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some criminals have found a way to turn courthouses into a revolving door. One man has been arrested more than 50 times, while another has over 60 arrests on his RAP sheet. Looking through records, it was discovered there are thousands of similar cases.

Law enforcement officers are frustrated. They often arrest someone only to find them back on the streets in a matter of hours. Certain repeat offenders seem to have found ways to beat the system. However, there is hope on the horizon, in a program called ROPES.

Ricky Hill, 47, is sitting in a state prison. He's been arrested more times than his age and then some. Documents show Hill has 64 arrests to his name.

"Something failed in the years previous," said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore. "Obviously, he's been in and out of the jail or having received multiple summons."

Moore's office said Hill's criminal career began in Jan. 1990 with a simple assault charge. Just four months later, cops picked Hill up again; this time as a fugitive. Eight months later, he was picked up for burglary.

Records show 1994 was another busy year for Hill. Police documents indicate he was arrested six times that year. He was arrested for theft on May 11 and just one day later, he was taken into custody on burglary charges.

Louisiana state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, is an outspoken victim's advocate who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. Whether it's a burglary or a more violent crime, Dorsey said the repetition is what's dangerous.

"Small crimes develop and they grow into bigger things," she explained. "A lot of people don't know that I was a victim of violent crime, but you're never the same again. You always have a fear when you're alone."

According to court paperwork, James Moore has 53 arrests to his name. He's in prison for 25 years. His RAP sheet goes back to 1976. In December 1982, he was arrested for driving drunk. Just over a year later, he was charged with the same crime. Moore's RAP sheet continues with burglary, theft, drug charges and battery, just to name a few.

To curb these problems, D.A. Hillar Moore is undertaking a new program to deal directly with repeat offenders. It's called ROPES.

"When this repeat offender is arrested, we attempt to gather information to give to the court to let the court know, 'Judge, this is a repeat offender. You may want to take a look more closely at this one,'" Moore said.

Moore added suspects with six felony arrests or two felony convictions become the newest members of the ROPES list. Most of the areas surrounding Baton Rouge do not have similar programs.

Some think the program may come in handy in Tangipahoa Parish. Christopher Wilson of Ponchatoula is someone who Police Chief Bry Layrisson calls a repeat offender who's "fallen through the cracks."

"There's just no excuse for it," Layrisson said. "This subject was arrested numerous times in the past. He's a convicted felon."

Layrisson released the details of Wilson's RAP sheet. It includes 31 pending charges with the Ponchatoula Police Department, with 15 of those listed as felonies. Another document obtained shows Wilson was recently able to sign himself out of jail on his own recognizance after Judge Ernest Drake approved the move.

"We go through all of this work, putting their lives at risk and then they find out he's home before they're home from doing the paperwork on a Friday night. I mean it's just unacceptable. There's no excuse for it. This man should be in prison. He's a violent offender," Layrisson explained.

Drake was questioned at home about why a repeat offender would be able to get out of jail so easily. He said he did not regret his decision to let Wilson sign himself out based on what he knew at the time. Layrisson said had Wilson been part of a repeat offender program, the judge may have not let him leave jail so easily.

Back in Baton Rouge, Hillar Moore said the program has been a success, but it's not bullet proof. He added it will take time before it completely catches on and becomes a daily routine.

"We're trying to correct any issues that have been there in the past and identify these guys, so that an officer who is beginning his career today doesn't end his career 20 or 30 years down the road arresting Mr. Hills for a period of 20 years. It's very frustrating," Moore said.

The Ponchatoula case of Christopher Wilson is currently heading to court. According to Layrisson, Wilson has filed a civil lawsuit against two police officers in Ponchatoula, accusing them of excessive force. 

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