Louisiana news briefs
Louisiana following judge’s order on abortion law
BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge’s order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
U.S. District Judge John deGravelles issued a temporary restraining order late Sunday that blocked enforcement of the new law that took effect Monday. The law requires physicians at all five abortion clinics in Louisiana to obtain privileges to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the doctor works.
State Department of Health and Hospitals spokeswoman Olivia Watkins told The Associated Press on Monday that the agency won’t take action against any provider who shows he or she has applied for such privileges.
“The department’s policy is in accordance with governing precedent from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and is in line with what the state offered the plaintiffs previously,” Watkins said in an email.
It was not immediately clear whether doctors from all five clinics have applied for hospital privileges.
Maurepas man dies
in Ascension wreck
GONZALES — Authorities in Ascension Parish say a Maurepas man died Monday in a single-vehicle crash on La. 22.
State police said 37-year-old Robert Falcon Jr. was driving a GMC Yukon eastbound shortly before 3:15 a.m.
Investigators say the SUV ran off the road at a curve, then re-entered the highway and flipped several times.
Falcon was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales where he later died.
Troopers continue to investigate the cause of the accident.
killed in Raceland
RACELAND — State police say a 26-year-old man died after he was struck Monday night as he walked along the North Service Road in Raceland.
The victim was identified as Jace Sevin of Lockport.
Investigators say Seven was struck by a vehicle driven by 18-year-old Jean Claude Pierre of Raceland at about 8 p.m.
Sevin was taken to St. Anne Hospital in Lafourche Parish where he was pronounced dead.
Investigators say impairment is suspected for Sevin and toxicology tests will be performed.
No charges have been filed in the case but troopers say the accident remains under investigation.
Audit says fire district collected too much tax
GRAND CAILLOU — A state audit says the fire district that oversees the Grand Caillou Volunteer Fire Department has been over-collecting a property tax to pay off a bond debt.
The audit released by the state legislative auditor’s office found the tax yielded Terrebonne Fire District 4A $743,965 in 2013 to pay a bond debt of $420,000.
The 2.6-mill property tax is meant to be adjusted annually to generate just enough money to pay off the debt, the audit said. A mill is $1 in tax levied on every $1,000 of taxable property.
“Basically they’ve taxed too much,” said Joy Irwin, local government services director for the auditor’s office. “The state constitution says that every year the governing body is supposed to calculate how much the millage should be so that it will generate enough money to pay the bond debt.”
Auditors say the over-taxation is not illegal and is caused by the district’s failure to adjust the millage rate.
“We’re not saying that they did this illegally. Usually what happens is at the beginning of the bond term they estimate that based on their current assessment they’ll need a certain millage rate to pay the bond over its 20-year life. But over the life of the bond the millage rate is supposed to be adjusted, and unfortunately somebody at that fire district didn’t get the message and they’ve kept it at the same rate,” Irwin said.
The report suggests the district should discontinue the tax and use its existing debt service fund of $460,095 to pay the remaining bond debt and interest due over the term of the bond.
Baton Rouge officer
on paid leave after shooting
BATON ROUGE — Baton Rouge police are continuing to investigate an officer’s shooting of a man who allegedly tried to grab the officer’s gun during a drunken-driving arrest.
Police Cpl. Don Coppola Jr. says Monday that 27-year-old Derek Brent Davis of Baton Rouge is expected to survive after being critically wounded. Coppola would not disclose the name of the Baton Rouge-area hospital where Davis was taken.
Coppola says Davis tried to grab officer Matthew Jackson’s gun while threatening Jackson’s life during the arrest shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. Coppola says the fifth-year officer has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.
Coppola says Davis was arrested on suspicion of driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The police spokesman says Davis also is wanted on fugitive charges of simple burglary from Livingston Parish.
La. business owner arrested
BATON ROUGE — A Denham Springs business owner is charged with 62 counts each of computer fraud, bank fraud, theft, identity theft and monetary instrument abuse.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Col. John Fortunato said Kristin Koenig was arrested Friday after one of her clients reportedly discovered more than $500,000 missing from its accounts.
Koenig owns Accurate Business Services LLC.
Fortunato says Koenig allegedly wrote checks to herself rather than the companies with which her client was doing business.
Fortunato says Koenig allegedly had changed her client’s computer records to indicate the checks were going to the companies owed, but she diverted the funds for her own use instead.
Judge can stay on ballot
NEW ORLEANS — Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judge Frank Marullo Jr. has survived an initial challenge to his seeking a sixth term.
Marullo, 74, is running against lawyers Graham Bosworth, Brigid Collins, Rudy Gorrell and Marie Williams.
Lance McCardle, the attorney for three New Orleans voters who want Marullo’s name off the Nov. 4 ballot, said an appeal will be filed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.
Civil District Judge Kern Reese ruled Friday Marullo is qualified to run for another term and his age didn’t threaten his eligibility as a candidate.
Reese said the state constitution has only two qualifications for judicial candidates: that they live in the district where they want to run and that they have practiced law for at least eight years.
“Notably absent from the list of qualifications is any restriction on age,” Reese wrote.
Gov. Edwin Edwards appointed Marullo to the criminal court bench in September 1974, less than four months before the 1974 constitution went into effect on Jan. 1, 1975. The 1974 constitution lowered that limit to 70, but softened the rules to let judges who turn 70 while in office finish their terms.
Under the 1921 constitution, no judge could serve after turning 75.
Marullo argued that the 1921 constitution applied to him.
Reese said the drafters of the 1974 constitution made sure it would not take away any rights that sitting judges at the time enjoyed. He included Marullo in that number.
Reese also left alone a parallel argument in the suit that Marullo, who turns 75 on Dec. 31, will have to leave office that day under the 1921 law. Reese said that only the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to remove a sitting judge.
Louisiana voters will decide in November whether to repeal the retirement age for judges.