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Inside New Orleans 

Arresting Facts

his year, Mayor Marc Morial didn't need to put his customary spin on the number of Mardi Gras arrests, and New Orleans Police didn't fudge the figures. Instead, the media did it all for them.

Reporters and editorial writers at The Times-Picayune as well as The Associated Press, the Baton Rouge Advocate, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times all parroted under-reported arrests for the 11-day Carnival season. A notable exception -- along with Gambit Weekly -- was veteran Times-Picayune reporter Susan Finch.

After the traditional Ash Wednesday (Feb. 28) press conference at City Hall, most of the media erroneously reported the 512 arrests for the Eighth Police District (which includes the French Quarter) as the Carnival season arrest total for the entire city. Apparently, the reporters based their figures only on the misstatements of Chief Richard Pennington. "The New Orleans Police Department made a total of 512 arrests and most of those were in the French Quarter, starting from Feb. 16 through Wed., Feb. 28," Pennington said. "This represents a 13 percent reduction in arrests over the previous year."

At the conference, Finch of the T-P told the chief that on Lundi Gras, Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti had reported more than 1,000 arrested persons taken to his jails over the weekend before Mardi Gras. "Well, his numbers are a little different than mine," the chief replied. "We're talking about the number of individuals arrested along the parade route. Sheriff Foti counts every arrest throughout the city. That's the difference."

Well, no. Any reporter who perused the mayor's press release read correct -- albeit limited -- facts about Carnival arrests: "As of 3 a.m. [Ash Wednesday] a total of 512 arrests were made in the 8th District, 236 of which were for lewd conduct."

When Gambit Weekly called Foti's office on Ash Wednesday, we were told the sheriff was out of town. Foti spokesman David Bowser, who formerly worked in the NOPD public affairs office, said that preliminary figures showed a total of 2,677 people were arrested citywide during the 11-day Carnival season for all types of offenses.

Connick backs Ahern

rleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick says he's supporting a former prosecutor's campaign for judge in the April 7 special election. And the DA says he will support his right-hand man's judicial ambitions as well.

Connick says he will support Janet Ahern's candidacy for the Division L seat vacated by Judge Max Tobias. Ahern, now a family lawyer, worked for Connick as a law clerk and then as prosecutor from 1986 to 1991. "The breadth of her practice is varied enough to make her a good judge," says Connick. Other candidates in the race include Ken Andrieu, Pamela Gibbs, Darryl Harrison, Morris Reed and Kern Reese.

Connick adds that he will also support the judicial aspirations of his current First Assistant District Attorney, Tim McElroy. "That's next year," Connick says. "I know he wants to be a judge. He's been with me for 16-plus years. Which seat he runs for will depend on a number of things, including which seats will be available."

Sprinting for Judge in Jeff

hree candidates are vying in the Carnival-shortened campaign for the April 7 primary election to fill the 24th Judicial District Court Division "A" seat vacated by the election of Walter Rothschild to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. Any runoff election will be May 5.

The three candidates include two veteran prosecutors of the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office: Joan Benge and Quentin Kelly, and Kenner City magistrate Bruce Lizana, an 18-year veteran of the court. Both Benge and Kelly resigned from the DA's office to run for the judicial seat, a spokesman for DA Paul Connick said.

The conservative district contains 72,394 voters, but less than a third are being targeted as "chronic voters." The district includes Metairie, River Ridge, Harahan and two precincts in Kenner.

Benge opened her campaign headquarters March 10 at 1128 Clearview. Ray Teddlie is handling Benge's media campaign. David Walker, a pollster from Lafayette who has conducted election surveys for Connick, Gov. Mike Foster and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, will conduct any polls. Her campaign anticipates spending $250,000 in the primary and $350,000 in the event of a runoff.

Kelly's campaign headquarters is set up at 126 Sauve Road in River Ridge, and his Web site address is Bill Allerton is his campaign manager. Kelly is endorsed by former U.S. Attorneys John Volz and Harry Rosenberg, and Jefferson Parish School Board member Libby Moran, Allerton said, and a direct mailout is underway to 25,000 households. Liquor wholesaler William Goldring is campaign chair, lawyer James C. Exnicios serves as campaign treasurer, and Kelly himself is campaign committee vice president, campaign records show.

Kenner magistrate Judge Bruce H. Lizana's campaign headquarters is at 4501 W. Napolean Suite 104 near North Woodlawn Avenue. He said last week he anticipates he will need to spend $200,000 in the primary campaign alone. Lizana is supported by Jefferson Parish Council chair Aaron Broussard, who chairs his campaign, and by parish President Tim Coulon. Lizana last week won the endorsement of the Conservative Civil Council. Greg Buisson and Todd Murphy are handling the media campaign. Lawyer David R. Sherman serves as campaign treasurer. Lizana will host a campaign fundraiser from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday (March 20) at the Windham Hotel on Canal Street. Tickets are $150 per person.

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