Case against Bridge City escapee tossed as Orleans DA misses another juvenile transfer deadline
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The attempted murder and armed robbery case against a Bridge City youth detention center escapee accused of shooting a man in Uptown New Orleans last July was tossed last week after the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office missed a deadline, court records show.
Kendell Myers was accused of robbing and shooting Scott Toups in a carjacking outside a Mardi Gras beads collection station on Nashville Avenue last July 17, the day Myers and five others escaped from Bridge City. Toups spent more than two months hospitalized in intensive care, fighting for his life through multiple surgeries, 24-hour dialysis, cardiac arrests and a ventilator.
“It’s been an emotional journey,” Toups tells Fox 8. “This guy did a number on me.”
Toups’ wife Stacie was a vocal champion for her critically wounded husband, demanding and receiving assurances from District Attorney Jason Williams that her spouse’s accused attacker, who was 17 at the time of his escape, would be prosecuted as an adult. Stacie Toups died unexpectedly last Nov. 22. She spent much of the last four months at her husband’s bedside.
Now, as first reported by NOLA.com, court records confirm that a judge on Thursday (Feb. 2) granted motions to quash the cases against Myles and alleged juvenile accomplice Kayla Smith, because Williams’ office missed its deadline to charge the teens in adult court.
Williams’ office has appealed the decision by ad hoc Judge Raymond Bigelow. But the collapse of the Myles case marked the second time in six weeks that prosecutors failed to follow through in time with an indictment or bill of information against an accused juvenile gunman whom Williams had promised to prosecute as an adult.
“Apparently the district attorney’s office didn’t return the indictment, which was the vehicle used to transfer the case from juvenile court to adult court, until September 14. Well after the 30-day window in this,” Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission said.
A similar set of circumstances led Judge Laurie White on Dec. 21 to quash an attempted murder and armed robbery case against Cruz Matute, a 16-year-old accused of shooting and paralyzing University of New Orleans student Noah Hansard during a holdup last August. As with Myles, in that case Williams promised the victim’s family that the teen’s alleged crime was so egregious he would be tried as an adult, rather than in a juvenile system that can only hold inmates until their 21st birthday.
But, as with Myles, the DA’s office then failed to bring charges in adult court before a 30-day window had expired. It also is appealing the judge’s decision in the Matute case.
“And now we’re going to have not one but two cases before the Fourth Circuit dealing the with DA missing the deadline,” Goyeneche says. “These are two cases that cry out for a transfer from juvenile to adult court.”
According to the Louisiana Children’s Code, a juvenile 15 or older charged with certain violent offenses can be charged in adult court if indicted in adult court within 30 days of arrest if detained, or if the DA’s office files a bill of information in adult court after probable cause is found at a hearing in juvenile court, also within 30 days of arrest. Another method would be to hold a transfer hearing in juvenile court, where the transfer can be ordered at the discretion of a juvenile judge.
Williams’ office released the following statement:
“First, these defendants are still in custody and we will endeavor to ensure that remains the case.
“This a case of being careful rather than careless. We worked systematically to build cases that we could win at trial, which included visiting the victim’s bedside and listening to the wishes of the family during the victim’s incapacity. It is imperative that this matter is handled with the appropriate level of care, in a way that is lasting rather than hasty. We owe it to Scott Toups and the memory of his loving wife to do this right and in a way that offers the best odds of prevailing at trial.
“The system is not set up to be able to make a thoughtful and informed decision within the limited time period. However, the law is clear that even if the State doesn’t to meet this time limit, dismissal of the prosecution is not an appropriate remedy. Therefore, the judge who quashed the indictments in these cases did so in error and we are taking this matter to the Court of Appeal and State Supreme Court if necessary.”
Myles remains in custody. He already was sentenced to juvenile life for a separate violent crime when he escaped the Bridge City facility last summer, meaning he will be jailed at least until the age of 21. Court records show Myles, now 18, was transferred out of the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center into the adult Orleans Justice Center jail on Jan. 18, by order of Judge Bigelow and at the request of JJIC administrators.
District Attorney Williams, meanwhile, pledged in September that Myles would be tried in the Toups case as an adult.
“If this case were to remain in juvenile court, this would mean that Myles would have no accountability for these horrible actions and my office will not allow that,” Williams said in a statement on Sept. 15. “The juvenile sentencing limits would be inadequate to ensure that these young people are appropriately held accountable for these crimes.”
Williams ran for office on a campaign pledge not to prosecute juveniles in adult court, after criticizing predecessor Leon Cannizzaro for doing so in certain violent crime cases.
It’s unclear how long the appeals process will take, but Goyeneche believes no matter the outcome, these cases could end up in the Supreme Court.
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