DeRosier announces plans to retire

john f. derosierCalcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier announced Wednesday his plans to retire on Dec. 31.

www.calcasieuda.com

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election and will retire on Dec. 31 after 15 years as district attorney.

“This pandemic has caused me to take stock of what’s really important in life,” DeRosier said. “I’ve taken this time to consider and appreciate all of the accomplishments of our office over these 15 years and how we’ve improved public safety throughout our parish.”

He said he had been elected to his position three times but said “it’s time” to close the door on this chapter.

DeRosier, 73, in announcing his plans to retire, highlighted some of the accomplishments he said his office had made over the years.

“One of the first things I did after being elected was to write ‘doctor shopping’ legislation, which has also since been adopted in other states, and has greatly stemmed the tide of opioid overdoses,” DeRosier said. “Tens of thousands of lives have been saved by this work.”

He said the ability to save lives also inspired him to create “the very first specialty courts in our parish, now numbering four, which are among the flagship programs in our state and nation.”

DeRosier said those four programs, which he called “life saving courts,” focus on drug treatment, DWI offenses, mental health and veteran’s treatment.nwrh.0728.tos.banquet-1.jpgDistrict Attorney John DeRosier serves dinner during the Tournament of the Stars scholarship banquet at the Charleston Hotel in Lake Charles, La., Friday, July 27, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

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“Each of these courts have saved countless lives and families and have drastically improved public safety in our parish,” DeRosier said. “The widespread improvements accomplished by these courts will be felt, literally, by generations to come.”

In response to questions about controversial programs of the District Attorney’s office, such as the LACE (increased patrols by law enforcement in high-crash areas) and gift cards programs, DeRosier said he had no regrets about either of them.

“The LACE program was a drastic improvement to safety in Lake Charles,” he said. “We did put more officers on the street and we saw an impact and reduction in traffic accidents.”

As for the gift cards, DeRosier said, “We’ve helped thousands of people with toys for children, feeding people and helping non-profits. I’m glad we did it and would do it again.”

The gift card program, where certain defendants could buy gift cards and money orders to cover up to half of their court-ordered community service, drew national attention to DeRosier and his office. At issue were how gift cards and money orders were documented. Judges in state district court sent a letter in 2019, ordering DeRosier’s office to stop accepting gift cards and money orders in exchange for community service.nwrh_0520_mock_trial-5Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier speaks with a member of the prosecution team during a 2019 mock trial in 14th Judicial District Court involving a broken cookie jar and stolen cookies. Fifth-grade students at Our Lady’s Catholic School in Sulphur participated in the trial as the last part of a 12-week forensic science study.

Rick Hickman

Another program he said he was proud of was the Positive Change Initiative, a mentoring endeavor his office started to curb incarceration rates in young African American males. Recently, the program began also mentoring young African American females.

DeRosier said since taking office, he had significantly improved the financial condition of the District Attorney’s office, which he said directly affects public safety.

“This allows our DA’s office to be able to withstand repeated threats to cut funding on the state level,” he said. “Due to this effort, we have been able to retain and pay our prosecutors and staff throughout this pandemic. Unfortunately, not all DA offices are in the same boat. New Orleans, for example, just had to lay off 43 percent of its staff.”

Among the cases he said he would especially remember were two murder trials — those of Kevin Daigle and Felix Vail.

DeRosier said Vail was the oldest cold case conviction in the entire criminal justice system nationwide and he said the Daigle case was the only capital murder case he actually participated in. Daigle was found guilty of murdering Louisiana State Trooper Steven Vincent in 2015. A jury in 2019 found Daigle guilty of first-degree murder and voted for the death penalty, but he has not yet been formally sentenced.

The district attorney said a recent poll showed that 64 percent of Calcasieu Parish residents approved of his job performance as D.A., a number he called “satisfying and humbling.”

Although he’s happy with his decision to retire, DeRosier said it was also a little bittersweet.

“I’ve enjoyed being able to impact the quality of life in Calcasieu Parish,” he said. “Making sure justice is served is a sacred obligation.”

DeRosier said he’s looking forward to many things after leaving office, including “kicking back a little, teaching my granddaughter to fish, and practicing law with my son.”

He said he had one bit of advice for the next district attorney: “Take a good office and make it even better.”

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