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Johnny Lassiter

Johnny Lassiter

Former Jennings police chief pleads innocent

Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 9:56 PM

By Doris Maricle / American Press

JENNINGS — A former Jennings police chief accused of taking items from the department’s evidence room pleaded innocent Thursday in state district court to malfeasance in office and other felony charges.

Johnny Lassiter, 52, and his attorney, Robert Sheffield Jr. of Lake Charles, entered the plea during a brief court appearance in 31st Judicial District Court. He is set to stand trial Sept. 16. A pretrial date was set for Sept. 4.

Lassiter was arrested in January on charges of theft over $1,500, malfeasance, obstruction of justice and injuring public records after an audit of the department’s evidence room found that several items were missing, including drugs.

He was the evidence custodian at the time.

The charge of injuring public records has been dismissed, said District Attorney Michael Cassidy.

Retired Judge Ronald Cox was appointed by the Supreme Court to hear the matter after 31st Judicial District Court Judge Steve Gunnell recused himself. Cox, from Lafayette, is former chairman of the state’s Parole Board and serves as an ad hoc judge.

Lassiter resigned as a police officer on Jan. 8, just three days before his arrest by state police. Cassidy said Thursday that his office is still waiting on final investigation reports from state police.

Lassiter had served as police chief from 2006 until he resigned in August 2010, citing family obligations. He had worked for the Police Department since 1996 and previously worked for the Lafayette Sheriff’s Office and served in the Louisiana National Guard.

He received a department Medal of Honor and Purple Heart after being injured in a 2000 shooting that claimed the lives of Patrolman Burt LeBlanc and former police Capt. Kenny Guidry and his wife, Christine. Two other officers were also injured.

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