A Lafourche Parish councilman convicted of falsely declaring he is a permanent resident in his district was held in contempt of court Thursday and sentenced to two days in jail after appearing intoxicated at his hearing.
As lawyers consulted with District Judge Steven Miller in preparation for the hearing, Bourgeois told a reporter seated in the courtroom he had been unfairly maligned because of his military service.
“I’m a military guy,” Bourgeois said in a whisper. “That’s what I do. Everyone respects it. But you know what? It’s been used against me. I hope America sleeps at night because like Jack Nicholson said in ‘A Few Good Men,’ you hate people like me but you sleep at night because there are people like me. I’m that guy. I served our country. I guarantee you if America didn’t have guys like me you would be speaking another language. Everyone who’s saying bad things about me hasn’t been to Iraq, Afghanistan or Thailand to fight for the core values of America. I’m beyond offended (prosecutors) minimized my service to this country.”
Miller then asked the defendant to sit in the jury box as the hearing began. After Bourgeois admitted to being impaired, the judge held him in contempt and sentenced him to the jail time.
The hearing followed a three-day trial that ended when a six-member jury unanimously convicted Bourgeois of maintaining or filing false public records.
Bourgeois is the councilman of District 5, which encompasses Bayou Blue and parts of Pointe-aux-Chenes and Raceland. According to parish law, council candidates must be domiciled in their respective districts for at least one year prior to the end of the qualifying period.
Bourgeois qualified as a candidate on Dec. 2, 2015, and indicated in his paperwork he was domiciled at 68 Magnolia St. in Raceland.
Prosecutors accused the 51-year-old of actually being domiciled in Metairie after getting married in 2014.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Chatagnier described Bourgeois’ Raceland home as a “camp,” where he held occasional crawfish boils, parties and other events but always returned to the house in Metairie.
The Raceland residence had fallen into disrepair and neglect, indicating it was rarely occupied, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys contended the Magnolia Street house had been neglected because the defendant’s military service and other job responsibilities required him to do extensive traveling for long periods of time.
After Bourgeois was convicted, Miller set a hearing to determine a sentencing date and a bond amount for the defendant’s latest arrest.
“I allowed Mr. Bourgeois to get out of jail after he was arrested without posting any bond because I wanted him to be available for his trial,” Miller said. “I didn’t want it to influence the jury.”
Bourgeois has multiple pending charges including an arrest Tuesday at a Raceland restaurant for allegedly violating a protective order that currently prohibits Bourgeois from coming within 50 yards of Councilman Jerry Lafont Jr., authorities said.
Lafont filed for the protective order in April after Bourgeois made threats against his life following an argument at the April 24 council meeting, authorities said. Bourgeois has also been charged with a misdemeanor crime of simple battery in the incident.
Following a council meeting Tuesday, Bourgeois walked into a Raceland restaurant where Lafont was present, the Sheriff’s Office said. Although Bourgeois saw Lafont, he remained at the restaurant in violation of the order.
It was the second such arrest this summer for the defendant. Bourgeois was charged with violating the protective order on June 12 when he used the wrong entrance at the council meeting. Both men may attend council meetings but must use separate entrances, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Miller felt Bourgeois’ latest arrest represented an alarming disregard for the law.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Miller said. “It does indicate to the court just a disinterest in following the court’s orders.”
Bourgeois’ Metairie attorney Thomas Calogero argued his client had been invited to the restaurant and didn’t know Lafont was there.
“He sits down and orders his food,” Calogero said. “As he’s waiting on his food he looks up and sees Mr. Lafont. He looks up again and he’s gone. He’s so nervous that he goes to the bathroom and vomits his lunch. We believe this was done out of malice.”
The judge set Bourgeois’ bond amount for the conviction at $7,500 and $500 for the violation of protective order. As a condition of his bond, the defendant must allow deputies to verify he has no firearms at his Raceland home.
Prosecutors also requested the defendant undergo a psychological evaluation.
“There’s been some kind of snap, some kind of mental disturbance with the defendant in the past three days,” Chatagnier said. “I would ask as a condition of a bond that the defendant submit to a mental health evaluation.”
The defendant agreed to the request and Miller set Bourgeois’ next court date for Oct. 31.
Bourgeois was elected on April 19, 2016, filling the seat vacated by John Arnold, who withdrew from the March 2016 race after being charged with election offenses when he falsified his own address.
Prosecutors declined to comment about the future of Bourgeois’ council seat.
Lafourche Parish Councilwoman Luci Sposito took to social media to address the issue.
“The Council and council clerk are carefully monitoring the situation,” she said. “We are all committed to seeing that ALL RESIDENTS of Lafourche Parish are represented well and doing so often requires us to cross district lines. This situation is NO different.”
-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.
Posted on Fri, September 14, 2018
by By Dan Copp Daily Comet Staff Writer