It’s Mardi Gras season and things get a bit bucky in New Orleans this time of year. I remember my first eye-popping experience in the Big Easy back in 2001. It wasn’t all beads and – well you know what’s – however, the ship I was on did roll up the Mississippi just in time for the first parade of the season, with girls hurling necklaces to those of us maining the rails. New Orleans is a special city. It’s also one that has an incredible amount of crime. One recent flurry of non-prosecutions from an Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans has turned some heads and brought on the ire of several people who are unhappy with the decisions to not prosecute.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – “I mean it was throw me something mister and she was throwing ‘get out of free’ cards 15 times to gun cases,” says Rafael Goyeneche.
The Metropolitan Crime Commission obtained and shared with FOX 8 the Magistrate Court transcripts of Orleans Assistant District Attorney Emily Maw refusing more than a dozen gun cases on Mardi Gras Day.
The cases involve people arrested for illegally carrying guns during the carnival season.
“These transcripts prove that she committed prosecutorial misconduct in my opinion. I don’t understand how she’s still employed because any prosecutor that did this should lose their job,” says Goyeneche.
Several of the parleys back and forth concerning the crime of possession of a firearm was relayed in the FOX8 piece. While there doesn’t seem to be any actual altruistic motives revealed through the transcripts or description of Assistant District Attorney Emily Maw, a very valid case for permitless carry can be made through her actions.
In looking at what cases were discussed, the one that probably threw the biggest flag on the play was the matter of possession of a machine gun.
When Keaton Manghave appeared before a Magistrate Judge, arrested for carrying a machine gun, Emily Maw in the transcript said, “A machine gun is a pretty serious weapon. I just want to make sure, Mr. Manghave is from Tennessee. Is that right?”
The defendant says, “Yes, Ma’am.”
Maw says, “Is he planning to go back to Tennessee?”
The Public Defender says, “yes”.
Maw says, “Okay. So as long as you’re okay going back without the machine gun, then we’ll refuse the charges.”
“So, this is an individual with a prior record that she is saying, as long as you surrender your weapon and go back to Tennessee, you get out of jail for free,” says Goyeneche.
“The machine gun guy could have gotten 10 years in federal court, and they let all of these guys go home,” says FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti.
“That’s a felony offense, a federal offense, and she refused charges and this guy is gone now,” says Goyeneche.
Who exactly is Assistant District Attorney Emily Maw? According to FOX8, she was hired to head the Civil Rights Division in the prosecutor’s office.
Williams hired Maw, the former director of Innocence Project New Orleans, to head the Civil Rights Division of his office two years ago. Maw is one of the most senior members of Williams’ staff.
It does appear that the District Attorney of Orleans got what they asked for and then some by appointing Maw to head the Civil Rights Division. What were the circumstances of all the arrests? One was described as being the result of a search through probable cause due to a visible “bulge.” The story of Maw brings up very important aspects of what kind of criminal justice reform the country really needs.
With the exception of New Orleans, and a few other areas, Louisiana is a fairly free state. The right to keep and bear arms is mostly respected, and even a bill passed last year that would have brought permitless carry to the state, if it were signed into law.
What of these possession charges? Would a Mardi Gras parade fit the rubric of a time, place, and manner restriction, as described in NYSRPA v. Bruen? Or do we say “damn em’ all, possessing a firearm is not a crime unless a crime is being committed”? Maw would be looking after civil rights in that case.
The District Attorney did start to sing a tune that did not seem to be in full support for Maw. In a statement, Orleans DA Jason Williams said:
“Taking guns off the street through aggressive enforcement and prosecution under existing gun laws is a top priority of our office. Prior to Mardi Gras, the DA met with our law enforcement partners at LSP and NOPD to reaffirm our joint support for this work.
The DA’s Office is committed to a thorough screening process for each charge delivered from law enforcement, the Assistant DA assigned to the initial review of these cases during first appearances deviated from our standard practice. We communicated this to our law enforcement partners and reaffirmed our shared commitment to the importance of prosecuting gun crimes to abate violence in our streets.
The Assistant DA’s strategic decision to refuse these misdemeanors in exchange for forfeiture of the weapons at first appearance was improper and does not represent our office policy or procedure. DA Williams has ordered an extensive internal review of each matter brought before magistrate court on this date, as well as appropriate remedial measures to prevent similar unauthorized activity in the future. This instance will otherwise be handled as an internal personnel matter.
A lot has changed in the 20+ years since my first visit to New Orleans. What I can say about it in comparison from then and now, I don’t think it’s as safe. The city saw a lot happen in the two decades, and where I might have been comfortable in the past walking around at night, I certainly would not be doing so now. The crime in the city is off the charts, and in many ways turning into one of the deadliest in the country.
As we all know, we can’t blame this spike in crime on the possession or presence of firearms. We know that firearms are a deterrent to crime and lawful self-defense saves lives. DA Williams is wrong though to project that the “prosecuting gun crimes to abate violence” as an effective strategy. The situation revolving around “gun crime” would give credence to whether or not any crime was or would be committed.
What’s the city and District Attorney going to do with Maw? Hard telling. The move does not seem to be right out of a progressive play book, per se, but this non-prosecution of specifically gun infractions of the law would not play into the hand of the radical left. Something’s not completely adding up with the traditional anarchy one would expect from an individual refusing to prosecute crime. District attornies across the country need to take a look at the “gun crimes” they’re being presented with, and consider what simple possession of a firearm means in a post NYSRPA v. Bruen U.S. It might very well mean confiscating the machine gun and then cutting the accused free.