By Natasha Robin | WVUE | February 21, 2022
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – A 31-year-old man accused of stealing an Amazon delivery truck full of packages was previously arrested on similar charges and released earlier this year after the district attorney failed to bring charges.
At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, an Amazon delivery driver dropped off some packages in the 2500 block of North Tonti. Surveillance video shows a man approaching the driver and displaying a gun, while yelling for him to get out.
The driver took off running and the gunman took off in the truck, filled with packages. Police later arrested Rochard Sabattier, 31, for two counts of armed robbery, theft of a motor vehicle, and aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon.
Court records indicate Sabattier got out of jail in January on a 701 release after being accused of another carjacking.
Article 701 ensures defendants the right to a speedy trial by setting deadlines the prosecution must file charges by. In most felony cases, the D.A.’s office has to bring charges within 60 days. If no charges are brought by that time and the person bonds out of jail, they’re released from their bond obligations after 150 days.
“This is a concrete example of when a case falls through the cracks and a violent offender is 701 released, they’re setting the stage for other kinds of violence. This is a concrete example of one 701 deadline missed and more violent crime added to the crime stats,” says Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
A recent Lee Zurik investigation shows the number of 701 releases skyrocketed after District Attorney Jason Williams took office. Nearly 1,500 alleged offenders timed out of jail or bond obligations in 2021, up drastically from 127 in 2020.
Williams acknowledged they just weren’t screening cases fast enough.
“These numbers are the result of a system breakdown and because it happened on my watch, we are taking swift and corrective action on every single level to correct these numbers,” said Williams.
Goyeneche says cases like Sabattier’s are a prime example of what can happen.
“Apparently, he was released on a 701 on January 2nd, and here he’s re-arrested on February 19th for two armed robberies,” says Goyeneche.
“After a deeper internal review, it is clear to me that there are areas that we can and absolutely need to make improvements,” says Williams.
Williams says he’s shifted staff, demoted some people in top positions, while also bringing in new assistant district attorney screeners, and paying overtime to ADAs in other divisions to help screen the backlog of cases.
“That’s why I say that when you’re dealing with these violent offender cases, we have to prioritize screening,” says Goyeneche.
Sabattier remains locked up on a $250,000 bond.