Mayor Cantrell’s support for juvenile offender provokes confusion, outrage

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 5:28 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Thousands of New Orleanians took to social media and wrote to councilmembers after hearing that Mayor LaToya Cantrell showed up at juvenile court to console a 14-year-old who carjacked and robbed three women.

Councilmembers say the response was deafening.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever received as many emails as I have over the weekend because of this particular situation,” says Council President Helena Moreno.

More: Crime victims upset after Mayor Cantrell attends court in support of juvenile perpetrator

The teen was found guilty of robbing three women in separate incidents with a fake gun, and stealing their cars and belongings.

The victims told FOX 8 they were traumatized by what happened and felt victimized all over again when Mayor Cantrell showed up as a character witness for the juvenile offender.

New Orleans Juvenile Justice Center
New Orleans Juvenile Justice Center((N.O. DA's Office))

“I couldn’t believe it. Three women were shedding tears and holding each other and comforting each other and she’s sitting next to this mom. I’m looking at the situation, and I’m confused. Did I do something wrong here? Was I at fault for something? That’s what I felt,” says one of the victims.

Judge Renard Darensburg sentenced the juvenile to a three-year suspended sentence, meaning no jail time. Judge Darensburg said he had no idea the Mayor was going to show up in support of the 14-year-old and he said her presence did not influence the sentence.

Councilmembers are concerned that the mayor’s presence in the courtroom sent the wrong message to the citizens of New Orleans.

“It goes to show that when you’re mayor, your appearance at different events, different locations, whether you’re going to be there to support or oppose something shows a very strong signal. And this is about the signal that this sent to victims of crime... to people of this city who are very concerned about the violence in our city,” says Moreno.

Mayor Cantrell's support for juvenile offender provokes confusion, outrage
Mayor Cantrell's support for juvenile offender provokes confusion, outrage

Mayor Cantrell’s administration told FOX 8 that she was there to support a child who made a mistake.

The judge says the teen participated in a city program called Pathways for eight months and was compliant at the time of sentencing.

Kendra Parson, director of the Pathways program, said the juvenile wholeheartedly participated and is doing much better.

“Midway, his attitude changed. He ended up meeting with the mayor mid-program because that’s what she does. She comes and is a Pathway cohort. She answers questions and gives them insight into what a mayor is, how they can change, and she gives them encouraging words. He successfully completed and graduated June 10,” says Kendra Parson.

D.A. Jason Williams said in a statement that he was extremely disappointed with the sentence and that it was clear based on the facts that serious jail time was required to ensure public safety.

“As I’ve said repeatedly since taking office in January 2021, the violent offenders wreaking havoc in our neighborhoods must be held accountable, and we are practicing what we preach at the DA’s Office. In this case, our prosecutors fought and argued for the judge to impose the maximum possible sentence. It was abundantly clear based on the facts, evidence, and circumstances that serious jail time was required to ensure accountability and public safety. We are extremely disappointed in the sentence that was ultimately handed down. Our office is deeply committed to securing justice for victims and survivors, but - especially as it pertains to juvenile offenders and our young people in New Orleans more broadly - it will take all of us to turn the tide. Nobody at the DA’s Office, myself included, was given advance notice of the Mayor’s presence or can provide any context for her participation at yesterday’s hearing.”

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