The 14th Judicial District Court judges sent a letter to Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier this week, telling his office to stop letting defendants buy gift cards and money orders in exchange for court-ordered community service.
The letter, dated Nov. 18 and signed by Chief Judge Mitchell Redd, relates to the program where defendants could donate gift cards or money orders to the 501C District Attorney's Community Assistance Foundation in order to cover up to half of their community service. Reports by KATC-TV and the Washington Post were critical of how the program was handled in terms of its accounting.
DeRosier said on Thursday that the letter from the judges "wasn't unanticipated," and that he doesn't blame them for taking that position on the matter.
The district attorney said he sent a memo earlier in the month to misdemeanor probation officers, informing them that any defendant wishing to change the terms of their misdemeanor probation would first have to go before the judge that assigned it.
DeRosier said the foundation currently has up to $25,000 in gift cards and up to $85,000 sent in through money orders.
He added that the foundation's seven-member board of directors has been "totally independent" from the district attorney's office since September.
The gift card program will stop being used for misdemeanor probation, but will continue as part of the pretrial diversion program, DeRosier said. Pretrial diversion, he said, is under his authority.