EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - An attorney representing East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard pleaded not guilty on her behalf to misdemeanor entering and remaining after forbidden, and simple battery charges Thursday, Mar. 28.
Those charges are related to the leak of an explicit video in which she appeared to be involved in a physical and verbal dispute with a teenager on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says he waited months before filing charges in an attempt to allow Bernard’s legal team to provide information about the incident on her behalf, but the lack of response from them ultimately led to him formally charging Bernard.
Moore says he anticipates he will meet with Bernard’s legal representation to continue discussions. “All options are open from diversion to trial,” said Moore.
Moore says he is still willing to accept information from her lawyer before making a decision.
The original video appears to show Bernard entering a neighbor’s home, where a party was happening, to investigate and take photos. One party-goer seized Bernard’s phone, offering to return it once she agreed to exit the residence. In the video, Bernard can be heard screaming “call 911” before grabbing the young man in the neck area and again demanding her phone. Deputies arrived on scene and issued Bernard a summons for her actions.
Warning: The video below contains explicit language.
Bernard issued a statement apologizing for the incident. The statement read:
In response to recent news reports about an incident in my neighborhood Friday night, first, as a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, I want to offer an apology for distracting from the important work our students, educators and staff are doing.
Carrie Griffin Monica, executive director of a Louisiana based education group called Stand For Children Louisiana released a statement on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018:
Bernard was absent from a school board meeting the same Thursday. A spokesperson said the absence was planned before the video surfaced. Other board members declined the opportunity to address the controversy. Legally, the board was not able to remove one of its own members. A voter recall was the only plausible way forward outside of Bernard resigning willingly.
"I think that a recall is definitely a possibility," Monica said. "I think what we would like to see is a calling for her resignation, and ultimately we would like to see her do the right thing."
Bernard’s attorney, Aidan Reynolds, had no additional comment, saying his client stood by her apology. Bernard was automatically re-elected in July of 2018 after no challengers qualified to run against her. Stand For Children wanted to see more candidates step up to the plate.
"What we would like to see, and I know right now is an election season for school board, is we want bold, courageous leaders who are on the board who hold themselves to a really high standard," Monica said.
The group planned to put more pressure on other board members and candidates to join in their push for Bernard’s resignation which ultimately came on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. Bernard resigned from her role as vice president but remained as a member of the board.
In her resignation, Bernard stated the reason for her resignation was her husband’s cancer diagnosis, not the backlash from the video.
You can read the full statement below:
Bernard has a status hearing set for May 23, 2019.