A longtime Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy was convicted by a judge late Friday on a misdemeanor count of aggravated assault after the 17-year-old victim testified that an off-duty Gregory Degruy raised a handgun to the teenager’s belly while threatening him in June at Degruy’s mailbox in New Orleans East.
Degruy, 55, a 28-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, has been on suspension as a reserve deputy pending the outcome of the case, said his attorney, Robert Jones IV.
Despite the victim’s testimony that Degruy pointed a gun at him, Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter — a popular choice among defense lawyers for trials to be decided without a jury — rendered the guilty verdict on a weaponless count that carries a maximum six-month sentence.
The victim acknowledged under cross-examination that in his original statement to police he did not say Degruy raised the gun to his belly.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Ferrier was pressing for conviction on a felony count of aggravated assault with a firearm, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
Hunter set a Jan. 8 sentencing date for Degruy.
The deputy had stopped by his house for the mail about 9 p.m. June 5 with his girlfriend, she said. The teenager either was walking close by or else approached Degruy and stopped, depending on the telling.
“I will knock your head in the dirt,” Degruy allegedly said while pointing the weapon.
Jones, his attorney, said after the verdict that the threat was conditional — if the teen didn’t “keep moving.”
Degruy, out on bond, did not testify in his defense. Instead, Jones disputed the claim that his client raised the black handgun to the teen, though not that he had the weapon out and in view.
Jones said that with the frequency of armed robberies in the city, Degruy, who was out of uniform, was just being cautious — and delivering a warning — outside a property he owns in the 4700 block of Bundy Road.
“Over what?” Jones said of the conviction. “Are you supposed to wait till you’re on the 9 o’clock news (to defend yourself)? When he had an opportunity to retreat, he retreated.”
Degruy drove away from the scene with his girlfriend in a BMW, according to police, who arrested him a week later. The department issued a news release on the booking, though with no mention that Degruy was a sheriff’s deputy.
During the trial, Jones referenced an earlier situation that he said Degruy faced “on a different occasion at the mailbox (when) five strange young men … suggested they wanted to shoot him, ‘Pop, pop, pop.’ ”
Ferrier argued that the incident was unprovoked and the teen was simply “walking down the street, heading home, minding his business, passing the defendant, and the defendant pulled a gun out on him.”
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