Exclusive: Citing crime concerns, Orleans DA will ask council to restore funds

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "Our shootings, our homicides are a significant number. Those are things that we have to deal with on a daily basis, and to not fund us, in my opinion, puts the city of New Orleans at risk," said Leon Cannizzaro.

District Attorney  Cannizzaro is hoping City Council members give him the budget he says he needs to run an effective office after last year's budget cuts hampered his crime-fighting operations.

Cannizzaro spoke exclusively with FOX 8 about what he'll ask the council to do Wednesday.

"I'm hopeful that the council will reinstate the $600,000 that was taken from our office last year," he said.

Cannizzaro said last year's budget cut forced him to slash the number of assistant district attorneys on his staff. He said misdemeanors in Municipal Court had to be transferred to Criminal Court, and cuts were made to a diversion project designed to help lower-level offenders avoid conviction by providing them with rehabilitation services.

"We had to cut back on the staff with regard to diversion. As a result, the case workers are having to deal with larger numbers of individuals," he said.

The DA said it appears his office was punished last year for its aggressive prosecution of criminals.

"Well, the district attorney has an obligation to look at a case and make the determination if it's a prosecutable case," he said.

He said the proposed budget for the NOPD next year is greater than the entire budget for the district attorney's office.

"With the money that they give to the police, if they are simply going to go out and make cases and expect us not to prosecute, then you got the wrong guy sitting in this chair because that's not our philosophy," Cannizzaro said.

Throughout the year, the district attorney's policies have come under fire. His office is being sued by the McArthur Justice Center in connection with fake subpoenas served to potential witnesses. It's a practice Cannizzaro said his office ended. Another council member also questioned the number of juveniles prosecuted by Cannizzaro in adult court.

"Both juveniles who are charged with violent and non-violent crimes should be going, for the most part, through the juvenile system, and that's what's happening across the rest of the state, but it's not happening here," said Councilwoman  usan Guidry.

Cannizzaro said certain cases necessitate prosecution in adult court. Heading into Wednesday's meeting, the DA hopes the council recognizes what his office is doing.

"We are an agency in the city of New Orleans that's doing its job and serving this community, and we are doing it well, but we need the funding," he said.

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