By Garey Forster | The Advocate | November 3, 2021
The Census Bureau says 391,000 people live in New Orleans. Louisiana’s secretary of state says Orleans Parish has 266,856 registered voters. Yet only 51,342 picked LaToya Cantrell to be mayor, and merely 41,564 elected Jason Williams as district attorney.
Those were two different election cycles. Too many voters didn’t get engaged or bother to show up. As a result, living conditions in the city decline because elections have consequences.
After the first day of early voting in this current election cycle, the Orleans Parish chief elections officer said to expect a low turnout.
Cantrell didn’t deliver on her initial promises to clean up the mess at the Sewerage and Water Board, to find new and better ways to address crime, policing, blight, short-term rentals and economic disparity, and to improve the overall quality of life, according to Gambit, a sister publication of this newspaper which chose not to make an endorsement for mayor.
Under Williams as DA, only 17% of felony cases end with a felony conviction. Nearly two out of three end in dismissal without legal consequences for the person arrested for the crime. And 20% of those felony cases dismissed were crimes of violence.
The Metropolitan Crime Commission‘s latest report examined more than 19,000 case-screening decisions and dispositions. The commission found that Williams refused 46% of violent felony arrests in 2021. That’s a whopping 84% increase over the previous DA in refusing cases like murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, robbery, carjacking and selling heroin or cocaine to a minor.
When he took office on Jan. 11, Williams promised the public transparency and accountability; he emphasized prosecuting violent felony offenders. The crime commission’s first report on the DA demonstrated that Williams had failed to fulfill those promises.
Williams should release data on what he’s been doing for ten months: the number and type of cases he’s accepted and refused, the number of lawbreakers released and rearrested.
The city has its first defense-bar district attorney. Williams hires defense lawyers to be prosecutors. Or not: maybe everyone’s job is to release the bad guys back to the streets.
Who determines whether anyone in the DA’s office has a conflict of interest in a criminal case? After all, most of the new assistant district attorneys, including the DA himself, made a living defending folks who now may be under arrest or were jailed previously.
If Jason Williams is the only one who can decide conflicts of interest in his office, might I remind you that he is currently under an 11-count federal grand jury indictment for fraud and lying related to his taxes.
Williams’s administration of “justice” fans the flames of crime throughout the city. His cavalier disregard for the safety of citizens has also had a terrible effect on morale in the police department.
NOPD is short-staffed by at least one-third, though some believe that given the significant jump in violent crimes, NOPD may be functioning at half the patrol power necessary to reverse the trend.
Williams, the city’s top legal authority, lied to voters about charging juveniles as adults to get elected, is accused of lies to the IRS about his business expenses to avoid paying taxes, gave himself a 20% pay raise, and wasn’t ready for his first prosecution after six months in office.
The DA’s office is in disarray with the exodus of experienced prosecutors. There are only two or three assistant district attorneys with the experience necessary to try murders and win convictions. If Williams devoted as much time and effort to prosecutions as he has to dismissing cases, convicting violent offenders would be a higher priority, but it’s not.
In a July National Review article, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas wrote, “these so-called (George) Soros prosecutors, or progressive prosecutors, have betrayed the public trust and made our communities less safe. Instead of fighting crime, they are abetting it.”
Cotton describes the chaos caused by Soros prosecutors in Chicago, New York City, Baltimore and Los Angeles: “In cities where they’ve taken office, progressive prosecutors coddle even violent, career criminals, often agreeing to sweetheart deals and routinely circumventing three-strikes laws.”
Consider that, as well as shootings, murders, and carjackings in New Orleans, when you pick candidates for mayor and council, because they negotiate with the DA for his budget.
Find candidates who think like you and encourage friends and neighbors to vote. Elections have consequences.