Honorable mention for top stories of year

Honorable mention for top stories of year

Credit: Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 29: From left, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Anthony Davis, team owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle, Austin Rivers and Ryan LeBlanc of the New Orleans Hornets pose for a photo at the New Orleans Arena on June 29, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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by WWLTV.com

wwltv.com

Posted on December 26, 2012 at 9:40 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:06 AM

Tom Benson expands his empire, saves Hornets – It seemed nobody wanted anything to do with the New Orleans Hornets before Apr. 14.  Chris Paul had bolted, attendance tanked and the NBA couldn’t find anyone to buy the team.  Then along came Tom Benson.  The local magnate agreed to buy the troubled franchise for a reported $388 million – nearly five times what he paid for the Saints -- $70 million -- in 1985.

(See the No. 10 Story of the Year)

A deal to find a new owner for Hornets ended up taking around 18 months after George Shinn sold the team in December. Rumors swirled that the Hornets' stay in New Orleans could be short-lived until the 85-year-old Benson stepped in to buy the team. 

"Tom, welcome to the NBA, you're only one player away," said NBA commissioner David Stern. 

Benson would land that player as Hornets fans’ good luck continued – or if you buy into conspiracy theories, the NBA rigged the draft – later in the year when the Hornets beat the odds and landed the first pick in the NBA draft, taking Anthony Davis.

Before the deal was even finalized, Benson looked for a change, as re-banding and re-naming the team was a priority to turn the team into a winner. “We want to change the name from the Hornets to something that means New Orleans, La.,” said Benson. The new name? It is believed to be the Pelicans.

LSU falls in national title game -- 2012 began inauspiciously for the LSU Tigers. Archrival University of Alabama humilated the Tigers in the national title game 21-0

Zero points. Ninety-two yards of offense. Five first downs. LSU crossed midfield into Bama territory once during the game.

“It’s highly embarrassing,” said Chris Faulk, an LSU lineman “I don’t even really want to go outside because I feel like we should have won this game.”

“We looked liked a high school team that just wasn’t ready."

Head coach Les Miles stuck with Jordan Jefferson, refusing to put in Jarrett Lee, as the Crimson Tide had their way with the Tigers and got sweet revenge for a tough loss in Tuscaloosa a few months earlier.

Even worse for LSU fans, Bama head coach Nick Saban won his second national title since he left LSU and later returned to the NCAA after a stint in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.

Bama fan assaults LSU fan after BCS game -- If losing and getting shutout in the national title game by your archrival wasn't bad enough, one LSU fan who passed out in a Bourbon Street restaurant was humilated by Alabama fan Brian Downing.

Downing, caught up in the post-game drunken revelry, committed a sexual act on the passed out LSU fan, while people cheered and recorded the incident.  The video quickly went viral and a manhunt was initiated to find Downing who was then unknown. He was tracked down in Alabama, fired from his job and brought back to New Orleans to face charges. 

By October, Downing, 32, pleaded guilty to obscenity charges. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

"(Downing) puts his genitals in a person's face, whether it's a man or a woman, I think there should be some punishment for that," said District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Hubig’s Pie factory fire – A beloved institution burned to the ground on July 27.  The Bywater bakery for Hubig’s pie was a total loss in the five-alarm fire.

The company said they would rebuild: "On behalf of the Hubig's Pies family we would like to thank everyone for all of the love and support we have received throughout the years and during this difficult time. The abundant amount of thoughts, prayers, and strength that is being sent our way during this time is much appreciated. We are blessed to be part of such a resilient community and we send our immense gratitude to all of the first responders who ‘put this out with their tears.’ We will continue to update you on our progress. ‘REBUILD RESTORE REHUBIG'S, WE WILL NOT LOSE OUR FLAVOR!’ With Love, The Bowman and Ramsey Families."

News that Hubig’s pies and Savory Simon would be at least temporarily out of reach sent locals into a buying frenzy, as locals went from store to store snatching up the few remaining Hubig’s pies.

Chief Justice Bernette Johnson – Legal history was made in Louisiana in 2012 when Bernette Johnson was named chief justice of the state supreme court.  Johnson was the first African American to hold the seat in the state.

But her ascension to the top legal seat was not without controversy. Johnson had served on the state's highest bench since 1994 – appointed to the court as part of a consent decree over racial discrimination.  She appeared set to take over once Chief Justice Catherine “Kitty” Kimball retired on Jan. 31, 2013.

As the longest-serving of all the justices, Johnson was expected to become the chief justice according to the state constitution, but Justice Jeffrey Victory who was sworn in on Jan. 1, 1995 opposed Johnson.  Victory claimed that since Johnson was appointed to the court her time of seniority didn’t count.

At the last moment, the state supreme court settled the differences and announced that Johnson would lead the court.

Broussard, Wilkinson, Whitmer guilty – Before scandal overtook the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Jim Letten was the worst nightmare for former Jefferson Parish leaders. Aaron Broussard and two of his top lieutenants – Tom Wilkinson and Tim Whitmer – pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges.

On Sept 25., Broussard, the former Jefferson Parish president, pleaded guilty to a payroll scheme involving his ex-wife and bribery charges.

"At 23-years-old I came into politics as a dragon slayer," said Broussard to media members as he arrived at the federal courthouse to enter his guilty plea. "At 63-years-old I'm going out as a dragon."

Broussard’s guilty plea was preceded by two his top assistants. Their guilty pleas would lay the groundwork for Broussard’s plea. On Mar. 3, Whitmer, 51, the former parish CAO admitted to Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon that he failed to report a wide range of alleged felonies by his former boss, Broussard. Tom  Wilkinson, the former parish attorney, pleaded guilty to misprison of a felony by hiding payroll fraud involving Broussard's ex-wife Karen Parker.  Parker pleaded guilty to a similar charge in January.

CCC tolls renewed – The November 6 election to end tolls for the Crescent City Connection came down to the wire.  Sixteen votes decided to continue the tolls for another 20 years.  

The margin was so slim that mail-in ballots had to be counted.  More than 308,000 votes were cast in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes, but the race was too close to call on election night. 

Several days later, military mail-in ballots were counted by the Board of Elections.  Only 20 of the 32 mail-in military ballots had votes on the issue. Of those, 14 were in favor of renewal, 6 were against, making the final margin 16 votes for the renewal.

Due to the razor-thin margin, opposition groups have legally protested the outcome.


 

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