A whirlwind of emotion swept through a Thibodaux courtroom Thursday as a judge sentenced a Larose man for sexually abusing a girl more than 30 years ago.
State District Judge John LeBlanc announced he was sentencing Warren Danos, 83, to 10 years in prison. At that, the victim made the sign of the cross and looked upward as family members murmured in agreement with the declaration.
However, LeBlanc then said he was suspending that sentence and placing Danos on five years of supervised probation. Danos must serve 30 days in the Lafourche Parish jail and then be under house arrest for another 335 days.
Danos must also register as a sex offender for 25 years, the judge ordered.
First Assistant District Attorney Kristine Russell, who prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Joe Soignet, said it wasn’t enough.
“I did think that Mr. Danos deserved more jail time,” she said. “I know the victim’s very disappointed as well. These cases are so different than other types because they’re so personal for victims. ... Every time I meet with a family or victim, I ask them, ‘For you, what is justice?’ Everybody’s answer is different. Everybody needs something different at the end of the case. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t give what the victim needed.”
In December 2014, at age 37, the victim reported Danos to the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office. Danos was charged in July 2015 with aggravated rape, and a jury on April 28 convicted him of sexual battery.
The victim testified during the trial that Danos, who was related to her by marriage, began molesting and raping her when she was 7 years old. Louisiana law has no statute of limitations for prosecution of crimes that carry a life sentence, such as aggravated rape.
Although the charges against Danos involved one victim, two other women who had been related to Danos by marriage testified during the trial that he molested them when they were children. The statute of limitations has expired for their allegations.
The victim said today in court that while Danos had been free for years, she’d been in her own prison.
“He has taken most of my childhood and all of my adulthood,” she said tearfully. “He stole my innocence. ... I will never be able to get that back.”
She said she wanted Danos in the general prison population despite his age.
“My age didn’t matter to you,” she told him.
Danos did not give a statement.
Russell pushed for a sentence at hard labor, saying child predators can’t be cured and that she wanted to prevent Danos from victimizing other kids. She cited many factors, including the victim’s age at the time of the crime and Danos’ lack of remorse, as justifications for a tough penalty.
Thibodaux attorneys Matthew Ory and Beau Brooks represented Danos. Ory pointed out that Danos had no proven criminal history besides this crime, just allegations.
Ory said any prison time would amount to a life sentence for Danos and that he believed registering as a sex offender was punishment enough. If Danos had to be incarcerated, he argued, it should be at home.
LeBlanc acknowledged that Danos had no criminal history. However, he said, Danos committed a “deliberate act of cruelty” and the “public humiliation” of registering as sex offender wasn’t enough.
The judge was bound by the law at the time of the crime, which imposed a maximum prison sentence of 10 years for sexual battery. There was no mandatory minimum sentence.
Ory said he disagrees with the jury’s verdict, even though it was for a lesser offense, but believes the judge’s sentence was fair.
“Thirty days in parish (jail) with the remainder of the one-year sentence to be served via home incarceration is better than life imprisonment at hard labor, which would have been the only scenario had Mr. Danos been found guilty of the charge of aggravated rape that the state proceeded to trial with,” he said. “Fortunately, he was found not guilty of that charge and will enjoy the remainder of his natural life free of prison after he serves his 30 days behind bars.”
-- Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.
Posted on Fri, June 23, 2017
by Bridget Mire Daily Comet Staff Writer