New Orleans Saints NFC championship tickets warrant jail pass for Jefferson Parish inmate
Posted on Feb 1, 2010 in Local Issues, Sports
A 24th Judicial District Court magistrate released a Metairie man from jail for two days last month so he could attend the Jan. 24 NFC championship game.
But James Buisson, 31, who was jailed on a probation violation, returned two days late to the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center.
The order from Magistrate Commissioner Carol Kiff freeing Buisson caught correctional officers by surprise, leading them to double check with the magistrate to ensure it was accurate, Sheriff Newell Normand said.
“Release from 1-23-10 at noon until 1-25-10 at noon so he can go to the Saints-Vikings game – He has tickets,” Kiff wrote in the Jan. 19 order.
Normand said he learned of Kiff’s directive when Buisson failed to return to jail on time.
“That’s the first time that I’m aware of that we let somebody out to see a Saints game,” Normand said Monday.
Kiff declined comment Monday. Chief Judge Robert Murphy called the action “inappropriate” because she amended Buisson’s sentence on her own without giving prosecutors a hearing in which to object.
“The district attorney had no opportunity to do that, and the commissioner was in error,” Murphy said.
Buisson remains in jail, said Normand, who on Thursday notified 24th Judicial Distrct Judge John Molaison of Kiff’s decision. Molaison, the deputy chief judge who oversees commissioner’s court, said he will present the matter to a court committee.
Kiff is appointed by the judges to oversee some preliminary criminal matters, including signing warrants and determining whether police have enough evidence to keep people in jail.
Bussion’s attorney, Gerry Archer, said Monday he left court Jan. 19 after Buisson admitted to the probation violation and was taken into custody. He said he was unaware Kiff released his client until a court clerk notified him the day after the game that Buisson hadn’t returned to jail.
“As an officer of the court, … I told him to report immediately,” Archer said. “He turned himself in the following day.”
He said he didn’t ask Buisson if he attended the Saints game. Buisson could have asked to delay the hearing until after the game but did not, Archer added.
“She probably gave him credit for taking responsibility for his actions,” Archer said of Buisson acknowledging the probation violation.
The matter stems from Buisson’s Feb. 15, 2009, arrest, when deputies saw him discard “a clear plastic baggie” of marijuana onto the jail floor during booking, according to a probable cause affidavit. The affidavit does not specify why Buisson was arrested in the first place.
Buisson pleaded guilty April 15 to misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Kiff, who presided over the case after former Judge Joan Benge transferred it to commissioner’s court, sentenced Bussion to three months in jail. But Kiff suspended the sentence and gave him a year of probation, records show.
In July, Buisson tested positive for marijuana and was $841 in arrears in paying his probation fees and court costs, according to the Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office. On Jan. 19, Kiff reinstated the original 3-month jail sentence, but she added the caveat that he be allowed to attend the Saints game.
“I can’t believe this,” Beverly Siemssen, president of Victims and Citizens Against Crime, said Monday of Buisson’s release. “I mean, how is this going to teach him a lesson?”
She likened Kiff’s decision to former Judge Martha Sassone allowing rapper Corey “C-Murder” Miller to leave the state to promote a book and meet with a record executive while he was awaiting trials for murder in Jefferson Parish and attempted murder in Baton Rouge. Miller later pleaded guilty in Baton Rouge and was convicted in Jefferson Parish.
Siemssen said she could understand an inmate being temporarily released if there was a death in the family or to see a terminally ill family member one last time, especially if the inmate is a first-time offender. “That would be the only reason,” she said
But never to attend a Saints game, she said.
“He does the crime, he does the time, whether he has tickets or not,” Siemssen said. “That’s no reason to let him go.”
Buisson plead guilty to six counts of simple burglary 2002 and was sentenced to three years in prison, in a series of automobile break-ins. In 2007, he pleaded guilty a misdemeanor charge of battery on a Harahan police officer, for which he was sentenced to six months in parish jail.
Buisson also has arrests for narcotics-related charges in New Orleans. Records show he was never prosecuted.
Paul Purpura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3791.