D.A. Dinvaut recusing office after nephew’s marijuana arrest

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut is recusing her office from the prosecution of several marijuana cases because one of those arrested is a relative.

Dinvaut told L’OBSERVATEUR her nephew, Noah D. Duncan, 19, of Reserve was one of four people arrested Jan. 2, each charged with possession of marijuana first offense and possession or distribution of drug paraphernalia first offense.

According to Dinvaut, Duncan was driving the vehicle that the four were stopped in, adding the vehicle is registered in her name.

Dinvaut said the vehicle, a Honda Civic, was a gift for Duncan’s high school graduation.

“The vehicle is registered in my name because I was the family member that had the money for a down payment and the time to make the deal for the car,” Dinvaut said.

The arrests of the four suspects followed a complaint from a LaPlace couple, stating their 17-year-old daughter had refused to come home and were told by their daughters’ friends she was with some guys “selling,” possibly in a Civic.

Police located a vehicle matching that description Jan. 2 with four people in the car, including the female.

A police narrative of the traffic stop indicated the deputy who attempted to make contact with the driver, identified as Duncan, detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.

According to police, Duncan told St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies there was a ball of marijuana in the vehicle for a friend in Reserve. A Sheriff’s Office K9 later arrived at the scene and alerted to the presence of a plastic bag containing green leafy vegetable matter, a digital scale and a marijuana grinder. A cigarillo wrapper that contained a green semi burnt vegetable like substance consistent with marijuana was also found.

Police said none of the vehicle’s occupants claimed ownership of the drugs or paraphernalia, leading to all four’s arrests.

Those charged include Duncan, 17-year-old Angel Lebouef of Reserve,  17-year-old Tyler Mclean of LaPlace and 18-year-old Andres Mendoza of LaPlace.

According to Dinvaut, her office is petitioning the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office this week to recuse itself regarding the cases, adding Duncan will be charged and the cases against the other three would be refused for insufficient evidence at this time.

Dinvaut said the arrest of her nephew, although disappointing for her family members, is an opportunity for her family to address an issue they did not know about while bringing possible solutions to light.

“This is a growing experience as a District Attorney,” Dinvaut said. “I have always sympathized with family members who have come into my office to talk about their relatives in the criminal justice system, now I’ll be able to empathize. I want the community to know this office will continue to be transparent and disclose all public information.”

According to Dinvaut, Duncan’s arraignment is scheduled for March 9.