WBRSO major's arrest could impact cases
PORT ALLEN - A legal expert believes the arrest of a high-ranking West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Major could have a far-reaching impact on open and closed cases in West Baton Rouge Parish.
Mervin Jerome Fontenot was arrested Monday for possession with intent to distribute drugs and malfeasance in office. Investigators said he was found with pills and crack.
Fontenot was transferred from head of the Narcotics Division to the I-T Division last year, according to Col. Richie Johnson.
"Obviously this would possibly affect not only convictions but also cases currently pending before the district attorney's office," Southern University Criminal Law Professor Shenequa Gray said.
The cases could be called into question because Fontenot used to work in the Narcotics Division and now faces drug charges himself.
"What would typically happen at a point like this is all of the attorneys and district attorney's office are reviewing their files to see if he was involved in any of those drug cases," Gray said. "If they determine he was involved they will file the appropriate motion in order to get this back on the docket and set for a hearing."
Although the exact details on what led to Fontenot's arrest are unclear at this point, Gray said the impact to open and closed cases could be problematic. In Pennsylvania last year, at least 80 pending cases were dismissed due to a similar problem.
"These individuals who served their sentences they may be able to get convictions set aside and dismissed to not have it on their record," Gray said. "That possibility is there."
Gray said this could put a major burden on the court. At this point it's unclear how many cases could be affected.