DeSoto Parish Courthouse

UPDATE: 

MANSFIELD, La. – A grand jury that last week indicted a DeSoto Parish deputy met improperly and did not report in open court so the indictment should be quashed, the attorney representing the deputy said in court motion filed Tuesday.

But on Wednesday, District Attorney Gary Evans, who sought the indictment against Deputy Jason Allgrunn, filed a bill information on the same charges listed in the indictment.

In Louisiana, a person arrested for a crime is not formally charged until the prosecutor files a bill of information or there’s a grand jury indictment. A grand jury indictment is required in more serious felonies such as murder. But a district attorney can take any case before a grand jury for consideration.

On Aug. 28, Evans submitted five cases to the DeSoto grand jury. Two involved two former deputies who had already been fired and arrested. Allgrunn, however, had not been arrested nor had he been under investigation or the subject of a complaint.

The indictments accuse Allgrunn of two counts of malfeasance in office for unrelated incidents involving allegations of simple battery on two men – one in August and the other in October.

After the grand jury completed deliberations, the indictments were filed with the DeSoto Clerk of Court’s office instead of being returned in open court as is required by the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.

Johnson cited prior court cases in his motion, and added because of “the fatal defect of the grand jury indictment” and its failure to be returned in open court prosecution should be quashed and charges against Allgrunn should be dismissed.

Additionally, Johnson asks for a preliminary examination of the charges against Allgrunn.

A court hearing on both motions is set for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 18.  

ORIGINAL STORY posted Aug. 30:

MANSFIELD, La. – One current and two former DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputies were indicted on unrelated charges Wednesday after a grand jury session in which the district attorney took the unusual step of empaneling grand jurors away from the parish courthouse.

It is the latest chapter in a contentious political relationship between the parish’s chief prosecutor and the last two sheriffs.

Indicted Wednesday:

-- Former sheriff’s deputy Ryan Constantin, 40, of Grand Cane, who was charged with domestic abuse battery with child endangerment for allegedly using force on a child.

-- Former deputy Joseph Procell, 38, of Stonewall; charged with third-degree rape and malfeasance in office for allegedly having sex with a female who was under arrest and in his custody.

Both men were fired then arrested.

-- Current DeSoto Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Allgrunn, 31, of Gloster, was indicted on two counts of malfeasance in office alleging he committed simple battery on two men in separate incidents over the past year.

Sheriff Jayson Richardson said neither of the men had filed complaints of excessive force against Allgrunn with his office or State Police and he was unaware the D.A. was investigating.

Allgrunn has been placed on paid administrative leave “until we can figure out what is going on,” Richardson said.

Allgrunn, who has not been arrested, will fight the indictment, which his attorney, Eric Johnson of Minden, calls “very irregular and very unusual.”

A legal procedure District Attorney Gary Evans appears to have bypassed with the indictments was failing to file them in open court. Johnson plans to challenge the indictment with a motion to be filed Tuesday morning in DeSoto District Court.

“We look forward to having our day in court and I feel confident at the end of the day Jason’s name will be cleared,” Johnson said. “I find it very unusual the grand jury was empaneled and called to meet outside of the district courthouse and further they did not return the indictment in open court and file them in open court.”

Evans would not discuss where the grand jury met but defended his decision to convene it away from the courthouse, citing the sensitivity of the cases they were hearing and leaks about previous grand jury sessions.

“Grand juries are supposed to be secret. With recent events it is painfully obvious that persons have compromised that secrecy,” Evans said in a text to KTBS. “Also, this grand jury handled very sensitive matters which involved alleged serious wrongdoing of law enforcement. I am charged with an important duty of exposing criminal wrongdoing wherever it is found in DeSoto Parish and to also protect the sanctity, independence and secrecy of a grand jury. We met, as the law authorizes at a place which provided security needed.”

Informed sources, speaking on condition they not be identified, told KTBS the grand jury met at the DeSoto Parish Library in Mansfield.

State law allows prosecutors to choose where a grand jury hears testimony.

However, when indictments are returned, they “shall be returned into the district court in open court,” according to the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.

DeSoto Clerk of Court Jeremy Evans, who is Gary Evans’ son, said his office filed the indictments into the record after the D.A.’s office brought them in. No court session was held therefore no judge was in attendance for the grand jury to report its findings, he said.

“It was not on our calendar,” said Jeremy Evans, whose clerk accepted and filed the indictments.

The district attorney declined comment on how the indictments were filed, only saying, “Necessary reports as required by law have already been filed in public record.”

Gary Evans has had a contentious relationship with the Sheriff’s Office, starting with Richardson’s predecessor, Rodney Arbuckle, who resigned in early 2018 before his term ended. That’s when Richardson was named interim sheriff.

Last October, days before a special sheriff’s election between Richardson and then-Mansfield Police Chief Gary Hobbs, Gary Evans attempted to convene a grand jury to hear testimony about possible payroll fraud involving deputies in an overtime traffic-enforcement program. A DeSoto District Court judge blocked him after Richardson alleged the grand jury was being used to influence the outcome of that election – allegations Evans denied.

Richardson went on to soundly defeat Hobbs. Earlier this month, no one stepped forward to qualify against Richardson, ensuring him a full four-year term beginning on July 1.

As for the indictments this week. Evans hinted the controversy involving the sheriff’s race last year played a role in his decision to hold this week’s grand jury session away from the courthouse.

“In the very recent past, on two occasions individuals who wrongly thought they were subjects of grand jury inquiry filed oppositions which interfered with the convening of (the) grand jury,” he said.

In the case against Allgrunn, he is accused of committing simple battery on Curtis Terrell of Mansfield on Aug. 11 and against Tony Fuller in October.

Fuller was charged with resisting an officer in October, but the charge was dismissed by the D.A. in May. Terrell as a criminal record but there were no pending charges in the court record.

In addition to the deputies, others indicted Wednesday include:

  • Charles Hearnsberger, 17, of Stonewall, who is charged with molestation of a juvenile. The indictment states the victim was 5 years old.
  • Troymel Hall, 43, of Mansfield, who is charged with indecent behavior with juveniles. The indictment states the victim was 16.
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