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Letters to the Editor 

It Takes a Justice System

On Oct. 5, my cousin and I witnessed a vicious mugging on Dumaine near Royal Street. One of the shoeshine scam artists in the French Quarter attacked a man who wouldn't pay for a shine that he didn't want in the first place.

My cousin called 9-1-1, and I trailed the assailant until the police caught and arrested him. He was booked with simple battery under the municipal code. On Nov. 9, he went to Municipal Court, Section B (Judge Bruce McConduit) and was released for time served (34 days).

Later I saw this thug back on Bourbon Street pulling his scam. He recognized me and became confrontational. It made me question whether I should have bothered to get involved. It also motivated me to find out why this guy is back so soon.

I learned the assailant has been arrested numerous times on charges from armed robbery to possesion of crack. Why didn't the police officer charge him with battery under state law, which carries a stricter penalty of six months to a year? Sources at NOPD answered that DA Eddie Jordan routinely rejects all simple battery charges. The DA has a very low success rate in bringing arrests to conviction (about 5 percent vs. the national average of 54 percent). To improve his record, he has become very selective about accepting charges and rejects all simple battery charges. The police know this and so charged the assailant under the more lenient municipal code to increase his chances of serving some jail time.

Why did Judge McConduit release the assailant for time served? Probably to avoid the expense of keeping him in jail longer.

A better police force or more citizen involvement -- which seems where public discussion is now focused -- won't solve our crime problem. To make New Orleans safer the whole criminal justice system -- NOPD, the DA, state and municipal judges, the criminal sheriff -- will have to work much better, individually and together.

Leo Watermeier

Shell Game

Wow, Shell's Frank Glaviano is the New Orleanian of the Year (Jan. 29), primarily because of Shell's corporate actions. What, did Hurricane Katrina turn down the honor?

Your one-sided recitation of Shell's PR efforts does look impressive. I would expect a more balanced analysis from New Orleans' weekly alternative paper of record.

Here's a couple inconsistencies that spring to mind:

Shell built ice houses for the commercial fishing fleet whose infrastructure was destroyed by the hurricane, but they're proceeding with plans to develop Gulf Landing, a liquefied natural gas terminal in the Gulf off Cameron Parish, which is opposed by fishing interests as well as federal and state marine biologists, conservation groups and many of their own employees due to the potentially adverse impact the terminal could have on our fisheries.

Shell supports the America's Wetland PR effort to marshal national sympathy for the restoration of our wetlands, but they're one of the primary energy corporations that had a hand in dredging the oil and gas exploration and navigation canals that caused over one-third of the wetlands loss.

How about Shell going back in and removing its footprint and restoring the marsh it's decimated? Perhaps a Shell-led initiative to close off their canals, restore wetlands hydrology they've altered and shut down the saltwater intrusion they continue to hasten would soothe the jittery insurance companies, one of the most significant hurdles to rebuilding New Orleans.

While I'm glad to see a thriving One Shell Square in New Orleans' CBD, if Shell really wants to follow its corporate policies on sustainability and become the good neighbor it proclaims itself, it must modify or abandon the Gulf Landing LNG terminal and fund some immediate, significant projects to restore the coast.

Aaron Viles
Gulf Restoration Network Campaign Director

Now and Then

In reference to "After the March" (Commentary, Jan. 23): "Indeed, the first week of the New Year here saw disturbing images of both rising violence and a crippled criminal justice system, a system whose principals seem far more skilled at fighting one another than fighting thugs and drugs."

'Twas ever thus.

Lt. Jack Willoughby
New Orleans Police Department, (Retired)

Youthful but Wise

Only when Alison Fensterstock clues her readers in to her age "slightly younger than the X'ers" ("At the Apollo," Jan. 2) does one really appreciate her knowledge, insight and passions, so perceptive and heartfelt from one so young. Her lament of the improbability of replacing the masters is tempered by the fact that she is cut from the same cloth, and her age allows her to influence, teach and inform hers and future generations (not to mention entertaining the priors).

Tommy Lyons


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