It was shameful for The Advocate to publish Mr. Simerman’s story regarding Jacobia Grimes. The story is deliberately drafted to give the illusion that the District Attorney’s Office was threatening to put a shoplifter in jail for 20 years. The author must play this sleight-of-hand because no such threat was made. The Advocate cannot point to a single case in which my office has sentenced a shoplifter to a 20-year sentence, so it simply manufactured a controversy.
The sad part about these cases is that no one cares about them until one of two things happens: the defendant is repeatedly returned to the streets without any rehabilitation and he ultimately hurts an innocent person or himself; or he is given a harsh prison sentence because of his extensive criminal history.
Since 1996, Mr. Grimes has been arrested 24 times. He has five convictions for theft as well as five other convictions for crimes such as illegal possession of stolen things, unauthorized use of a moveable, possession of drug paraphernalia, obscenity and distribution of false drugs. Many of these convictions resulted in the imposition of a suspended sentence. Where were all the “reformers” after those convictions?
The DA’s Office has repeatedly requested funding to place similarly situated offenders in its diversion program. This would allow such offenders to get out of jail, receive mental health and substance abuse counseling, and avoid the consequences of another conviction on their records. The city, however, has routinely denied these requests. As such, the DA’s Office must choose between the lesser of two evils — putting this defendant back on the street without any rehabilitation or putting him in jail.
Until the city is willing to fund real rehabilitative programming and until the courts are willing to strictly mandate that probationers partake in said programming, the community will continue to be victimized again and again by this cycle of recidivism. In the meantime, shoplifters will not be doing 20-year sentences, but you will not hear that from the “reformers” because it does not fit well with the narrative of their political agenda.
Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr.
Orleans Parish district attorney