KVCL Local News

A study released by the American Bar Association says Louisiana has far fewer public defenders than it needs to effectively represent poor people caught up in the criminal justice system. The study was released this month against a backdrop of recurring litigation and public debate over the state's system of providing lawyers for the indigent. The study by the ABA and the Baton Rouge-based accounting and consulting firm Postlethwaite & Netterville says the state needs 1,769 full time public defenders; it has the equivalent of about 360. The study was done on behalf of the Louisiana Public Defender Board. It concludes that the state public defense system currently has the capacity to handle 21 percent of the workload required to provide effective counsel.

A Louisiana tax preparer faces felony charges for what state officials say was a scheme that cost taxpayers an estimated $300,000.00. The Louisiana Department of Revenue said in a news release that Melissa Cato of Gibsland was arrested on charges involving the altering of clients' state income tax returns to claim losses for businesses that did not exist. The department said that charges were brought after auditors noticed a suspicious pattern with hundreds of returns Cato filed in the tax years 2012 through 2015. The department said it is working to recover funds from Cato's clients.

Louisiana's deficit-closing special session ended Wednesday with lawmakers passing a deal to erase a $304 million budget gap. After days of negotiating, the House delivered the critical vote with only hours to go before the session had to end, agreeing to spend $99 million from Louisiana's "rainy day" fund to help lessen budget cuts. Governor John Bel Edwards had supported, and the Senate had passed legislation authorizing the $99 million. But Republican leaders in the House tried to minimize the use of the savings account. In the end, the House voted 92-9 for the measure, well above the 70 votes needed. The governor called the 10-day special session to rebalance Louisiana's $27 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

A Harrisonburg man has been arrested after he accidentally shot his girlfriend in the head. The incident occurred on February 20, 2017 around 10:20 p.m. Harrisonburg Police were flagged down by a male identified as 43 year-old Jonathan Scott Williamson. Williamson told the officer that he had just accidentally shot his girlfriend in the head area with a 22 rifle. The victim, identified as 44 year-old Shelley Mixon Waller of Harrisonburg, was transported to the Rapides Medical Center in Alexandria, where she is currently in the ICU unit on life support. Detectives interviewed the boyfriend and other witnesses throughout the night and the following day. Willamson was arrested and booked into the Catahoula Parish Jail late Tuesday for attempted manslaughter.

Federal officials have approved Louisiana's plans for spending $438 million in disaster aid allocated by Congress after the 2016 floods. The Edwards administration released the approval letter late Thursday from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most of the money is earmarked for homeowner repairs, with an estimated 4,000 households expected to benefit. This is a fraction of the 112,000 homes estimated to have been damaged. The aid will go to elderly and disabled residents in low- to moderate-income households without flood insurance. The remaining money will pay for assistance to renters and businesses. Louisiana is awaiting HUD approval to spend a second $1.2 billion aid allocation from Congress, and is seeking additional money from Washington.

Governor John Bel Edwards raised nearly $3.3 million for his re-election bid during his first year in office, giving him a hefty campaign account years ahead of the 2019 governor's race. The governor's latest fundraising report, covering all contributions and spending for 2016, was filed Wednesday with the state ethics administration office. Edwards reported that he ended the year with about $3.3 million cash on hand, after accounting for dollars left from 2015 and campaign expenses. The governor's campaign said that nearly all the contributions came from Louisiana residents. in comparison, former Governor Bobby Jindal brought in nearly $3.5 million in his first year in office.

Winn Parish Sheriff's Department Arrest Report:

On Wednesday, February 15, the Winn Parish Sheriff's Department arrested Monica Frazier, of Winnfield. Frazier was charged with possession of a Schedule III CDS. Also arrested was John Wise, of Winnfield, on four warrants for failure to appear. On Thursday, February 16, deputies arrested Myesha Mitchell, of Natchitoches, for introduction of contraband into a correctional facility and malfeasance in office. On Friday, February 17, Lori Lebaron, of Winnfield, was arrested for criminal trespassing, cruelty to juveniles, and illegal possession of stolen things. On Saturday, February 18, Shuntale Milsap, of Natchitoches, was arrested on three warrants for failure to appear. On Monday, February 20, Huey Steven Barton, of Winnfield, was arrested for criminal trespassing.

LifeShare Blood Center will hold a blood drive at Brookshire's in Natchitoches Monday, February 27, from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. There will also be a blood drive at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Wednesday, March 1, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Winnfield Senior High School is participating in "Pennies For Patients," sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Pennies For Patients is a program that gives students the opportunity to work together to help raise awareness and funds to help people fight against blood cancers. Donations may be made to a WSHS student, by dropping a donation off by the school, or by mail. For more information, contact Theresa Fletcher at 628-3506, or send an email to tfletcher@winnpsb.org.

Congressman Ralph Abraham has announced satellite office hours for Central Louisiana parishes. Office hours for Winn Parish will be in the Winn Parish Police Jury meeting room at 119 West Main Street, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month. Constituents are encouraged to visit the staff during these hours if they need help with any federal agency. Staff members are also available during business hours at the Central Louisiana District Office in Alexandria, which can be reached at 318-445-0818.

The next meeting of the Louisiana Crime Victims Reparations Board will be on Tuesday, March 14, at 9:00 a.m., at the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement Office, at 602 North Fifth Street in Baton Rouge. The public is invited to attend this meeting, and assistance will be provided to those who need special accommodations in order to attend this meeting. For more information, persons may call 225.342.1500