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Brawl in front of Criminal Court leads to questions about handling of cases

A brutal, middle-of-the-street fight in front of Criminal Court attracts the attention of Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Bail bondsman Matt Dennis works directly across from the court. Dennis explains, “I just witnessed bedlam across the street. Group of people, bunch of guys grabbing on a girl and one in particular, had her bent over, was holding her by her dreadlocks and just giving her upper cuts, just pounding on her.”

At around 10 a.m. Friday morning when the fight broke out, Dennis ran to the girl's aid and held onto the man he says was the main aggressor until deputies arrived. Kendrall Adams, 31, was arrested and charged in Municipal Court with battery. But some digging by Dennis proved Adams was booked into OPP that day with the wrong first name.

Dennis explains, “I was telling them over and over and over again who they had and they did not care. They absolutely did not care.”

Dennis tried so hard to alert the sheriff's office because Kendrall Adams has an extensive criminal history. In fact, according to Cannizzaro, he was due in court Friday morning to appear on weapons charges. He made it to the courthouse, but Cannizzaro says he didn't show up before the judge, and then the fight ensued.

“This is a dangerous person. He was not charged with the most serious offense, a simple battery, but it certainly seems to me he was gaming or playing the system,” Cannizzaro said.

The DA believes Adams intentionally gave the wrong first name and birth date when he was arrested because charges in Municipal Court are prosecuted by the city attorney rather than the DA's office.

Cannizzaro explains, “He is hoping, as I said, he can slip through the cracks and get out of the jail before anyone really learns who he truly is.”

Dennis was able to reach the DA's office and Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission Friday night to explain who Adams really was. The information was passed along to the sheriff's office and Adams was kept in jail.

This is a problem that Cannizzaro says can be easily fixed by having his office prosecute all cases in Municipal and Traffic Court as well as at Criminal Court. “If he goes into the court and we have a sort of seamless or a unified prosecution team handling all of the criminal cases, this would prevent a very dangerous person from getting out on the street,” Cannizzaro said.

The DA proposed the idea to the Landrieu administration and says he hopes to sit down with the mayor in the coming weeks to seriously try to make it work.

Adams' attorney, Robert Hjortsberg, denies his client intentionally gave the wrong name to deputies and says he didn't try to skip Friday morning's hearing before a Criminal Court judge - he was simply waiting for a trial date to be set. We reached out to the sheriff's office for comment on this story but didn't hear back.

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