St. Charles DA questioned in Destrehan teacher sex case

St. Charles DA questioned in Destrehan teacher sex case

ST. CHARLES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Officials want to take a closer look at the Shelley Dufresne prosecution, requesting that the Louisiana Attorney General's Office conduct an investigation into the St. Charles Parish District Attorney.

The Metropolitan Crime Commission requested that the Louisiana Attorney General's Office conduct an investigation to determine if St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel T. Chaisson, II committed any criminal violations with respect to Dufresne's prosecution.

The MCC claims that Chaisson "took preferential treatment and political considerations" over law.

Former Destrehan High School teacher Shelley Dufresne admitted to having sex with a 16-year-old student. She made a plea deal in April to avoid jail time in St. Charles Parish. She pleaded guilty to obscenity instead of the original charge of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

Dufresne, 32, initially faced a charge of carnal knowledge of a juvenile which carried up to a ten year prison term.

However, on April 10, she pleaded guilty to an amended misdemeanor charge. The misdemeanor obscenity charge is punishable by a maximum fine of $500, does not require registration as a sex offender, and does not impose the possibility of any jail time, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

Dufresne is the defendant is the daughter of a sitting jurist in the 29th Judicial District Court. The entire bench of the 29th Judicial District Court recused themselves in this matter to avoid any appearance of impropriety, according to the MCC. Chaisson did not.

The MCC writes in part to the Louisiana Attorney General's Office:

The April 10th court proceedings that resulted in the defendant pleading guilty to an amended misdemeanor charge did not procedurally conform to Louisiana law. Louisiana jurisprudence and Code of Criminal Procedure provides that once a defendant has been sentenced by the court, the district attorney can no longer make substantive amendments to the bill of information. The D.A. failed to adhere to Louisiana law by amending the bill of Nonpartisan Nonprofit Citizen Involvement in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice information on April 10, 2015 to charge the defendant with a misdemeanor obscenity offense. If the defendant desired to set aside her April 9th felony plea on the grounds that it was induced by promises that the district attorney was unable to fulfill, then Ms. Dufresne's attorney should have filed a motion for post-conviction relief. Court records reflect that the April 10th proceedings for post sentencing relief were initiated on motion of the state rather than the defendant's attorney.

The Metropolitan Crime Commission claims that Chaisson "took preferential treatment and political considerations" over law.

They requested that an impartial, external agency review the case.

Chaisson responded to MCC's statement on Thursday, directing the statement to Rafael Goyeneche, the President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

"I appreciate Mr. Goyeneche pointing out that Ms. Dufresne may have received a harsher sentence than the penalty provisions of the section of the statute to which she plead guilty allows. What he failed to mention is that pursuant to the plea agreement entered on April 9th (and reaffirmed in all respects except changing the citation on April 10th on the public record in an attempt to honor the terms of the agreement) Ms Dufresne admitted to facts that will result in her conviction of Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile (which has a mandatory sex offender registration requirement and carries a sentence of up to 10 years in jail) in the event she is prosecuted due to her seeking to challenge her plea or violating any of the terms of her felony probation on the Obsenity charge. She has met with and has been under the supervision of State felony probation officers since shortly after her guilty plea and she has already commenced her 90 day inpatient mental health treatment program required by her conditions of felony probation. State felony probation officers will continue to supervise her despite the penalty provisions of the section of the obscenity statute to which she pled. Ms Dufresne is due back in Court on September 1st for a review of her felony probation compliance and in order to make certain that she has a legal felony probation, she has agreed through her attorney that on that date they will file any Motions and take any necessary steps to correct any legal or technical issues with her felony sentence and will reaffirm all of the conditions imposed in connection with her plea agreement."

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