NewsLocal NewsIn Your ParishLafayette Parish

Actions

Accused abuser pleads guilty

Lafayette Parish Courthouse
Posted at 5:53 PM, Nov 17, 2023

A Lafayette man accused of domestic violence pleaded guilty in court Thursday.

As we reported on Wednesday, an Acadiana woman was upset about the plea deal she told us about, but on Thursday she went ahead and agreed to what the District Attorney's Office had worked out.

In December 2020, her ex-husband, Jamar Brown, allegedly poured gas around her home while she and their children were in it. A month later, he allegedly pulled a loaded gun on her with their small children present, and threatened to kill her. Six months later, he allegedly pulled a gun on her and her children again.

The Lafayette Parish District Attorney's Office filed two bills of information in those cases; Brown was formally charged with attempted aggravated arson, aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, four counts domestic abuse aggravated assault with child endangerment, and possession of a firearm with obliterated serial number, records show.

On Thursday, he accepted a plea deal that disposed of all of the charges. He'll serve three years of misdemeanor probation with a two-year prison sentence suspended; that means if he violates his probation the court could send him to prison for two years.

He pleaded guilty to amended charges of domestic violence simple battery first offense, simple criminal damage to property, simple battery and illegal carrying of a weapon. The other charges against him were dismissed.

He was ordered to stay away from his former wife, and he can't possess or own any firearms. A permanent protective order designed to keep him from having any contact with the victim was put in place.

Brown will be able to continue to see his children under a custody order out of St. Martin Parish, which allows supervised visits at a special family protection program there.

The victim was sworn in, and told the judge she agreed to the plea deal.

There was some discussion when Brown's attorney balked at the three years of misdemeanor probation; he said it was his understanding Brown would have only 12 months of probation.

But Judge Royal Colbert said he wanted Brown to have the maximum probation he could give him.

"I have two priorities here: first, I want everybody to be protected. Second, I want these children to have as normal a life as possible," Colbert told the lawyers. "I don't want her to be in any danger. I don't want him to be in any danger. Everyone needs to be protected. But these children need to come first. These are two adults, but there are also kids involved. And children need both their parents."

Brown said it was difficult for him to "go all the way to New Iberia" to see his children at the protection program. He said he was afraid for his safety.

"That's your kids," the judge said. "You have to do what you have to do. Grow up and think about these kids."

Colbert wondered aloud what Brown was afraid of about New Iberia, but said if he was concerned, call law enforcement on his way in and again on his way out. The victim told the court that there's a deputy at the protection program, and that she isn't there when he's there.

We had reached out to the DA's office before the plea was taken, but hadn't heard back. On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Lance Beal returned our call and explained he wasn't able to respond while the case was still pending. After the plea was final, he told us that the district attorney's office tries to make the best deal for the community and the victim.

"We always support our victims in any domestic violence case," he said. "The District Attorney's Office takes any domestic violence seriously, and our aim is to ensure the safety of the the victim and any children involved in any domestic violence case."

Brown's attorney, Alfred Boustany III, said the plea deal came because the victim had had other cases in the past and a judge had found her not credible. He said a lot of evidence that affected the case was presented in a January hearing.

He also explained what Brown said about being afraid to go to New Iberia. He's been through the court process to see his kids in two jurisdictions, Boustany said.

"He doesn't want to have something happen there that would cause some issues with that," he said.

Brown is relieved the case is concluded, he said.

"He's happy to move on," Boustany said.

As Colbert explained to Brown in court Thursday, domestic violence laws in Louisiana have compounding sentences. When you're convicted the first time of domestic abuse battery, the minimum is 30 days in jail, with at least 48 hours without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. That goes up to 60 days for a second offense, with four days without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence. For the third offense, the mandatory minimum is a year, with all of that served without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

If someone is convicted of a fourth-offense domestic abuse battery charge, the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years in prison with the first three years to be served without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.