Washington, St. Tammany parishes get new DA for 1st time in 30 years

Washington, St. Tammany parishes get new DA for 1st time in 30 years

COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - As a new D.A. took the oath of office Monday, it marked the first time in 30 years that St. Tammany and Washington parishes got a new top prosecutor.

"It's humbling and it shows that people really want a change," said new District Attorney Warren Montgomery moments after his swearing-in.

Montgomery is already making good on his promise to change. He is reorganizing the office, with two former federal prosecutors - Colin Sims and Tony Sanders - heading up the criminal and administrative divisions, and Tony LeMon taking over civil cases.

"Certainly any time we lose valuable prosecutors we feel it," said U.S. Attorney Ken Polite.

Polite said in spite of the loss, he anticipates a good working relationship with a D.A.'s office that has been the subject of FOX 8 and federal investigations, with no word on when the federal probe might finish.

"Not at this time, not at this time," said Polite.

Former D.A. Walter Reed's first assistant is gone, and though many current staffers are reportedly on pins and needles, there have been no wholesale changes so far.

"I consider the people who are there now, they are my staff," said Montgomery.

His inaugural speech was interrupted by applause several times, especially when he vowed to take politics out of justice.

"The voters spoke in this election, wanted a justice system focused on justice and not politics. They wanted justice to be the priority," said Montgomery.

The swearing-in was the culmination of a tough campaign against Brian Trainor, who had been supported by current officeholders.

"At the end of the day, the campaign is over and it stops that day. Now we do the job we're sworn to do," said St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain.

"I'm not concerned about the working relationship," said St. Tammany Coroner Dr. Charles Preston. "I defy anyone to find any negative thing I said about Mr. Montgomery."

Longtime critics of the previous D.A. called this a new day.

"There's gonna be a great difference. Warren is a great person," said community activist Belinda Parker Brown, with the group Louisiana United International.

Montgomery promised, "We will be a little more transparent and have a better relationship with the press."

And the new D.A. promises to hire the best people he can find, regardless of politics.

St. Tammany is sometimes referred to as "St. Slammany" due, in part, to the previous administration's propensity to seek maximum penalties against certain defendants. Montgomery says he will be more interested in seeking justice, reserving harsh jail sentences for offenders whom he says are intent on disrupting public order. That's something that many see as a major change in direction.

Newly elected U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy gave the keynote speech. Cassidy said Montgomery has a value system that will help him lead the D.A.'s office in a new direction.

"He's a man who understands that all of us must have a standing before the law that's not built upon a personal relationship but built upon justice wearing a blindfold," he said.

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