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Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Judge grants bond reduction

Last Modified: Wednesday, April 09, 2014 9:22 PM

By Johnathan Manning

A man accused of multiple drug charges was granted a bond reduction Wednesday in state district court.

Judge Ron Ware agreed to lower James Patrick Bertrand’s bond from more than $2 million to $75,000 after a lengthy — and at times testy — hearing. Bertrand has been in custody since Dec. 5 and at a drug treatment center in Alexandria since Jan. 18, according to court testimony.

Bertrand has eight open cases with the Calcasieu District Attorney’s Office, six of those felonies. All the felony counts happened in 2013, according to court documents, and all involve drugs.

A former local businessman and pastor, and the founder of the area Just for Jesus rallies, Bertrand appeared in court in a suit and tie.

Prosecutors Bobby Holmes and Brett Gaspard argued that Bertrand is a danger to society, since some of his arrests involved drugs and vehicles. Bertrand has had his bond lowered before, only to be rearrested, Holmes said.

“We’ve been down this road before,” he said.

Defense attorney Wilford Carter argued that Bertrand is a “cocaine addict” who hasn’t been arrested for violent crimes.

Carter, a former judge, emphatically insisted that it was outside the “legal authority” of the court to force an unconvicted person to enter rehab.

Holmes argued the court can set parameters of bond. The prosecutors also said Ware had the right to revoke bond altogether.

Ware said he did have the authority, particularly if Bertrand is a danger to society.

Dating to a felony theft conviction in 1987, Bertrand has five felony convictions on his record, Gaspard told the court. He has been arrested 20 times — 12 times in Louisiana and eight times in Texas, Holmes said.

“I believe they are all related to substance abuse,” Holmes said. “If not in recovery, he should be in jail.”

Carter said that before Bertrand “regressed into drugs” after marital problems and the death of his father, Bertrand had been sober for many years.

Bertrand is now drug-free and “a different man,” Carter said.

Bertrand told the judge that he has been clean since he was arrested in December. He was offered crack his first day in jail, but turned it down, he said.

“A true sign of a turnaround is when one hates evil,” Bertrand said, saying he wants to work against drugs.

“Everybody in jail has good intentions and makes promises to God and mom,” Ware said.

Bertrand has not failed a drug test since he has been in rehab, a woman from the rehab facility said.

Ware granted the bond reduction, but said he did not want Bertrand “running around Lake Charles by himself.”

Bertrand was arraigned on some of the misdemeanor drug charges. Carter said Bertrand should have already been arraigned.

“We should have tried him by now if he’s so terrible,” Carter said.

Holmes said the state would set a trial date of May 5 and be ready to go, putting Bertrand at the top of the priority list.

Ware lowered bond in two other cases:

Jerry Lee Miller’s bond was reduced from $75,000 to $15,000. Miller, 20, is jailed on two counts of vehicular homicide related to an accident at the La. 14 exit of Interstate 10 in February 2013.

Vance Laughlin, indicted on a rape charge April 3, had his bond lowered from $200,000 to $60,000. Laughlin, 50, originally faced a bond of $1.8 million, but that reflected $200,000 on each of the nine counts of rape he was arrested for.

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