An Orleans Parish judge on Thursday found former state Fire Marshal’s Office Capt. Richard Abbott guilty of second-degree battery for pistol-whipping a Jackson Square artist last summer outside a French Quarter bar.
Abbott, 50, who spent a dozen years with the Fire Marshal’s Office, faces up to five years in prison.
Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter rendered the verdict following a bench trial held over two recent Fridays. Hunter ordered a pre-sentencing investigation to help determine the penalty and raised Abbott’s bail from $5,000 to $50,000.
Abbott held his face in his hands following the verdict.
He moved last summer with his state-owned explosives-sniffing dog, Crash, into a French Quarter apartment. He said he had sought out a job within the Fire Marshal’s Office that would allow him to live in that neighborhood. Weeks later, on July 18, he took Crash to the Three-Legged Dog bar down the block.
While Crash roamed around the bar, Abbott sat drinking. About 8:30 p.m., he walked outside and got into a scuffle with two men. Reaching under his T-shirt for a revolver, he palmed the weapon, striking artist Curtis Courtney with it three times in the back of the head.
Courtney said he gushed blood from three lacerations.
Courtney and a friend, Marshall Edwards, testified that Abbott was drunk, slurring his words and accusing them of taking his dog.
Abbott, who is from northern Louisiana, testified that the men had called him outside in a cruel hoax, telling him the dog had been struck by a taxi.
Courtney “hollered at me and said, ‘Hey, fire marshal, your dog just got hit by a taxi out here.’ I look around in the bar and don’t immediately see Crash,” Abbott testified.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to tell me where my dog is.’ He said, ‘If that dog’s so special, you need to keep a better eye on it.’ ”
It turned out that Crash had followed a bartender into a back room.
Abbott sat back down at the bar after the incident and waited until police arrived to arrest him.
A magistrate commissioner found no probable cause for Abbott’s arrest, but District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office quickly secured an indictment accusing him of aggravated battery. That charge carries a maximum 10-year sentence. Hunter opted for the lesser felony charge of second-degree battery.
Abbott, an Army veteran who was given a medical discharge after receiving shrapnel wounds in the Gulf War, said he resigned from the Fire Marshal’s Office after the incident, not wanting to give the agency a black eye and figuring it would be difficult to continue in the job, even if he were acquitted.
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