NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Four teens are convicted of going on a brazen armed robbery spree around Memorial Day weekend last year.
"The spree took place in just about every police district in the city of New Orleans. One defendant had as many as 16 armed robberies," District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said.
For three of the convicted juveniles, it wasn't the first time they had committed a string of robberies in New Orleans.
"That's the very sad part of the this story," Cannizzaro said.
He said when Kevon Williams, Ryan Davis and Keene Brown were 14 years old, they were picked up for several armed robberies. At that time, Cannizzaro said he tried to have the juveniles transferred to the adult court for prosecution.
"We were denied that opportunity by the Juvenile Court judge. They did enter a plea of guilty in Juvenile Court, and each of the defendants received sentences of credit for time served," Cannizzaro said.
According to Cannizzaro, the juveniles spent less than a year in jail. He said within 60 days of their release, they were back on the streets robbing people across New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.
While some New Orleans City Council members have been highly critical of the DA's attempts to transfer juvenile to the adult court, the DA said this case is a prime example of why it's so important.
"Had they been brought to the adult court in the first place, had we not been denied that opportunity to bring these individuals to the adult court in the first place, then we may have saved a number of people the tremendous amount of anxiety, fear and stress they were put through as a result of their continued violent criminal conduct," Cannizzaro said.
"This was a judge's decision and had nothing to do with the conversation we've been having with the district attorney," Councilwoman Susan Guidry said. "The DA is well aware that when juveniles are not rehabilitated, then there is a reason to transfer them to the adult court. Everyone agrees with that exception."
Councilman Jason Williams released a statement that read, in part: " My position is not, and has never been, that juveniles should never be charged as adults when accused of those most violent offenses, and the DA is aware of this fact. It is easy to look at the present case in a vacuum as justification of the DA's position, but the entire story of the New Orleans criminal justice system does not lie within this case." (To read William's entire statement, click here.)
Cannizzaro also pointed out that two of the convicted teens, Williams and Davis, escaped from the Youth Study Center after being arrested this last time. He said they used a swipe card that they'd stolen the first time they were being held at the facility.
"They were so bold about it, that when they were arrested for these new charges they were arrested for these charges, they brought the swipe card with hem back to the Youth Study Center because they anticipated that they could use it to facilitate an escape and that's exactly what they did," Cannizzaro said.
Both teens were quickly captured after their escape.
Guidry said the Youth Study Center is a good facility. She pointed out that the escape by Williams and Davis was the only one since the facility was built a couple of years ago.