Feb 18, 2014 1:14 PM by Ian Auzenne
A New Iberia city councilman will keep his seat after a judge denied a suit claiming he was ineligible to hold office.
Judge Gerard Wattigny ruled that David Merrill is qualified to hold office because drug possession charges against him were dismissed after he completed a court-appointed drug program. Wattigny said under state law, that dismissal has the same effect as an acquittal.
Merrill was arrested in 2003 for possession of marijuana and cocaine. He pleaded guilty in 2003 to the charges and entered the drug program immediately thereafter. The Iberia Parish Drug Court dismissed his arrest, prosecution, and conviction in 2005.
District Attorney Phil Haney's office contended that Merrill was not eligible to hold office because the Louisiana Constitution prohibits anyone from serving within 15 years of completing a sentence for a felony conviction.