Judge throws out indictment against ex-deputy over WWL-TV report

David Hammer talks about a judge throwing out an indictment against ex-deputy over WWL-TV report.

CHALMETTE. La. – A judge has thrown out an indictment against a former St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy because the sheriff’s office provided grand jury subpoenas to WWL-TV before that grand jury handed up an indictment.

Eyewitness News investigated Jarrod Gourgues last summer for alleged double-dipping on two public jobs, one as a part-time sheriff’s deputy and the other as parish road supervisor.

WWL-TV got Gourgues’ time-sheets and his exact clock-in and clock-out times at both jobs to establish that he overlapped for a total of more than 90 hours over the course of about seven months.

Gourgues was a top appointee of former Parish President Dave Peralta and the two were indicted together by the same grand jury last August.

While reporting the story, WWL-TV requested Gourgues’ employment records under the state Public Records Act, before the state grand jury subpoenaed the same records for its criminal investigation. The news station then requested grand jury subpoenas from the sheriff’s office, which turned them over – also in compliance with the state Public Records Act.

Channel 4 reported about the grand jury subpoenas on Aug. 3, one day before that grand jury met and handed up an indictment charging Gourgues with a count of perjury, a count of theft and three counts of malfeasance in office.

Gourgues remains under indictment for alleged racketeering in a separate case involving St. Bernard Parish’s dealings with a scrap-metal yard.

But last week, Judge Jeanne Nunez Juneau said the sheriff’s office violated grand jury secrecy rules and that grand jury subpoenas should not have been subject to the Public Records Act. She also said the Channel 4 investigative report that aired a day before the grand jury met could have prejudiced its members in their decision to indict Gourgues. Juneau ordered the entire indictment quashed.

The sheriff's office declined to comment on the ruling. The St. Bernard District Attorney's Office filed a motion Tuesday to appeal Juneau's ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.

District Attorney Perry Nicosia said Juneau's ruling is wrong and "sets a bad precedent" because the sheriff's office was not a party to the grand jury proceedings and wasn't bound by its secrecy rules.

"The St. Bernard Sheriff's Office's production of a subpoena along with public records was not a breach of the grand jury secrecy," Nicosia said. "I stand by our Sheriff's Office's decision to release what was obviously public records."

Meanwhile, Gourgues' attorney, Michael Magner, praised the judge and blasted the sheriff's office.

"On behalf of Mr. Gourgues, we are very pleased that the court recognized that a blatant violation of grand jury secrecy was sufficiently egregious so as to justify a dismissal of the indictment against him," Magner said. "In its investigation of a citizen, the state has all the cards. The state has virtually unlimited power to ruin a good man’s name and reputation through unlawful disclosures of secret grand jury material. The violation here was even more inappropriate because Mr. Gourgues was wrongfully accused."

But Magner had no problem with WWL-TV's reporting.

"We take no issue with WWL’s pursuing its rights and duty to report the news fully and fairly," he said. "That is an essential part of our constitutional form of government."

Gourgues remains under indictment for alleged racketeering in a separate case involving St. Bernard Parish’s dealings with a scrap-metal yard.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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