District attorney reports on 2008 activities

District Attorney William R. Billy Coenen rendered his 2008 annual report, noting that there was a sizable increase in drug prosecutions, as well as total filings of all felony and misdemeanor cases.

“Our office experienced a very large increase in felony and misdemeanor drug cases filed in 2008, with 607 total filings, including 388 felony drug cases and 219 misdemeanor drug cases filed,” he said. “This compares with 452 total cases filed in 2007, and represents an increase of almost one-third in total drug case filings. This clearly represents a lot of hard work by our sheriffs and other law enforcement personnel in continuing to aggressively apprehend drug violators.”

Coenen also noted that all felony case filings for 2008 totaled were 1,293, and total felony convictions were 741, also the largest numbers in these categories in the past six years. Misdemeanor cases, including traffic and all other misdemeanor cases, also substantially increased, with 6,167 misdemeanor cases being filed and 5,248 convictions, also six-year records for his office. Coenen also noted that DWI filings increased from 260 in 2007 to 304 in 2008, with a total of 248 DWI convictions, being the most convictions in the past four years.

Coenen congratulated his assistant district attorneys, Mack Lancaster, Penny Douciere, Doug Wheeler and Johnny Boothe, for aggressively pursuing felony and misdemeanor violators during 2008.

“These assistant district attorneys have done an outstanding job in working with law enforcement agencies and bringing the crimes they investigate to court for prosecution,” Coenen said.

The District Attorneys child support unit also continued to set new records, with the 2008 collections increasing 7 percent over the 2007 collections with a total of $4,567,071 being collected in total non-support. This represented a total of 3,293 cases handled by his office.

“Since the inception of this program, our office has collected almost $55,000,000 in child support payments, and I congratulate Assistant District Attorney Jim Berry and his staff for a job well done,” Coenen said.

The district attorney’s hot check unit was very active in 2008, handling a total of 1,962 cases resulting in $136,505 obtained in victim and merchant restitution, and $39,824 collected in fees for merchants and victims. Any merchants or victims of hot checks may obtain help by calling the District Attorneys Office directly in Franklin Parish at 435-3386, in Richland Parish at 728-3166, and in West Carroll Parish at 428-3213.

The district attorney’s juvenile section, headed by Terry Doughty, and after his recent election as judge of the Fifth Judicial District, by Joe Bruyninckx, was again quite active in 2008, according to District Attorney Coenen. Juvenile cases involving neglect and abuse totaled 72 cases involving 159 children. Juvenile criminal cases including charges ranging from traffic to weapons, burglaries and drug cases, totaled 199 juveniles. Coenen noted that the totals in the juvenile area represented a decrease from the preceding 2007 year, when juvenile abuse and neglect cases totaled 132 cases involving 223 children, and the juvenile criminal cases totaled 252.

“It is hoped that juvenile cases will continue to decrease over time, and our office has had an excellent relationship with state offices and agencies, including our sheriff’s offices, all of which do an excellent job in investigating abuse, neglect and criminal cases involving juveniles,” Coenen said.

The district attorney’s victim assistance program which is managed by Carol Mulhern, had 463 victim contacts during the past year, and assisted in collecting $15,427 in crime victim reparation assistance. The victim assistance division provides notice to victims of court dates and important hearings so that victims are kept up to date on criminal proceedings. Those wishing to use the services of the victim assistance coordinator may contact Mulhern at 728-7400.

Coenen also noted that his criminal appeals division, handled by assistant district attorneys Penny Douciere and Terry Doughty responded to 13 applications for post-conviction relief, and handled numerous criminal appeals and writs throughout the year.

The district attorney’s office civil division, handled by Assistant District Attorney David Doughty, continued to be very active during 2008, with attendance at parish school board and police jury meetings, rendering legal advice and appearing at hearings involving lawsuits in which the public bodies are involved.

“David has been an invaluable help to this office in responding to the needs of our public bodies promptly and efficiently,” Coenen said.

Coenen concluded by thanking the judges, law enforcement, probation and parole, and juvenile and family services offices and agencies and their staffs for their help and assistance to enable his office to better able to serve the public promptly and efficiently.

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