It all started with a call from a concerned resident in the Parish of St. Martin. That is how much of our work begins. Someone has just had enough. They have reached the point of boiling over. They have witnessed or heard of too many shady things, and they reach out to us in much the same way people of certain faiths pursue confession to be absolved of their sins. They are guilt stricken, not because of their involvement in the corruption, but because they have witnessed far too much and feel they have not done enough.
16TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
One concerned citizen who contacted us was initially worried about how criminal prosecutions were being handled in the Parish of St. Martin (16th Judicial District). They went on and on about a small group of influential political leaders who meet regularly in secret over cigars and whiskey. The claim is that during these meetings decisions are made about prosecutions in the parish, not in a courtroom or government offices. They recalled a time when crime rates in St. Martinville were much lower. The low crime era was under the leadership of the incorruptible prosecutor, Chester Cedars.
Based on information provided by multiple citizens, we attempted to look into a handful of criminal prosecutions. ‘Prosecutions’ is a term we must use lightly here, because it implies some action was taken to ensure the offender was held accountable for his actions. Unfortunately, in many of these instances, that’s not what happened.
In December of 2022 we sent public records requests to the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Specifically, that request was issued to the supervising attorney for St. Martin Parish, Robert Chevalier. That’s who we had been instructed would be the proper person to respond. To date those three simple requests have not been fulfilled. In a January 19, 2023 written response Chevalier indicated the records would be ready by January 31, 2023. However, the records have never been produced and no further written updates have been provided. Despite numerous attempts to follow-up on the status of the request, including reaching out to District Attorney Bo Duhe directly, these simple requests remain unresolved. According to court records it is not just public records request the district attorney’s office doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to.
Darron Carter’s criminal behavior was well known in Lafayette before he made his way to St. Matin Parish. Carter was charged with drugs offenses and possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance (07/16/2014); two counts of burglary (09/18/2014) and drugs offenses, possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance and illegal carrying of a firearm (12/22/2014), posting bail each time and returning to the streets to find another victim.
Then on March 12, 2015 Darron Carter was arrested following the issuance of an arrest warrant by Judge Anthony Thibodeaux for six counts of attempted first degree murder and one count of aggravated criminal damage to property. Judge Thibodeaux set bail at $250,000 for each count of attempted first degree murder and $30,000 for the offense of aggravated criminal damage to property. According to court records, no further action has ever been taken by the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the alleged offenses. But Carter’s alleged crime spree wouldn’t stop in St. Martin Parish. If the name Darren Carter sounds familiar there is a reason.
This was the same offender that appeared in a highly publicized Crime Stoppers video made by the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and specifically, former Captain and current Congressman Clay Higgins. At the time Carter along with other members of the “Gremlin Gang” were wanted. Following that video, Carter surrendered to Abbeville Police and was booked into the Vermilion Parish Jail on a $1 million dollar bond. Carter was arrested again in early 2018 for first degree murder and three counts of attempted first degree murder for his role in a Christmas Day shooting in Eunice, Louisiana.
Lafayette Sheriff Mark Garber speaking at local political luncheons made it a talking point to brag about the February 9, 2022 arrest of Carter by his office. That arrest came just days after the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office indicated that they would not allow Carter to be booked into the Parish Jail on an outstanding Parole Warrant. Attempts to obtain records of the communication from LCG were obstructed. Carter has since leveraged his criminal record into a $1 million dollar music contract.
On September 13, 2021 an arrest warrant was issued by Judge Vincent Borne commanding the arrest of Jason Daigle for distribution of Methamphetamine, criminal conspiracy, extortion, obstruction of justice and human trafficking. The District Attorney’s Office filed a Bill of Information charging Daigle with human trafficking and extortion in November of 2021. The matter was set to go to trial before Judge Anthony Thibodeaux on February 14, 2022, but the District Attorney’s Office asked for a continuance. Then, according to court records, on March 8, 2022 the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges without any further explanation. Additionally criminal charges against a co-defendant, Jose Garcia-Armenta, for human trafficking and drug related offenses were dismissed the same day.
Javon Pete was arrested on July 13, 2016 for possession with the intent to distribute schedule I and II narcotics, possession of schedule IV narcotics, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance. Pete would post bail in the amount of $40,000 the same day and was released from custody.
Pete has subsequently been arrested on multiple drug offenses, charged by the District Attorney’s Office through a Bill of Information and subsequently entered into a plea agreement. Pete was sentenced to five years hard labor, but his entire sentence was suspended and he was placed in probation for a period of three years. Pete is alleged to have ties to a high-ranking law enforcement officer in St. Martin Parish. According to court records, no further action has ever been taken by the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the alleged 2016 offenses.
On July 6, 2021 an arrest warrant was issued by Judge Vincent Borne, ordering that Bryce Meche be arrested on a charge of Video voyeurism. Meche would post bail in the amount of $25,000 the following day and was released from custody. According to the offense report, due to a conflict of interest that arose involving the Henderson Police Department the matter was turned over to the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office. As it turns out, Meche is the son of Henderson Council Member Jody Meche. According to court records no further action has ever been taken by the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the alleged offense.
Then there is the arrest of Dusty Guidry, the contactor with the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office who recently pled guilty in federal court to his role in a public bribery scandal that is just beginning to unfold. Guidry was arrested on December 10, 2021 on multiple drug related offenses and booked into the St. Martin Parish Jail. Guidry posted bail in the amount of $15,000 the same day and was released from custody. According to court records no further action has ever been taken by the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute the alleged offense.
This is just a random sampling of criminal cases in the Parish of St. Martin we were able to look into, but each tell a similar story. If you think the criminal justice system doesn’t work, perhaps you should consider that it works in exactly the way the politicians who have the most to gain from the system want it to work. Some law enforcement sources estimate that upwards of seventy percent (70%) of criminal arrest in St. Martin Parish have gone unprosecuted. What the exact number is remains unknown. Of course, we have requested information from the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office which may be helpful in determining if this in an accurate assessment. That request also remains unanswered.