Trung Le, the lone known suspect in this summer’s mass shooting on Bourbon Street, could face a jury within a month.
Retired Criminal District Court Judge Jerome Winsberg, who is handling the case, set Dec. 1 as a tentative trial date during a brief hearing Monday.
Le is alleged to be one of two gunmen who exchanged fire June 29 in the 600 block of Bourbon Street, injuring nine people and killing 21-year-old Brittany Thomas. His attorney has argued that Le fired in self-defense. The second gunman has not been identified.
Monday’s hearing dealt with a handful of issues, ranging from Le’s safety inside Orleans Parish Prison to which judge will preside over the trial.
Le pleaded not guilty Monday to a battery charge stemming from a fight that occurred while he was in jail. According to a Sheriff’s Office report, Le punched fellow inmate Blair Taylor in the head numerous times on Sept. 30.
His lawyer, Martin Regan, told Winsberg he believed Le was in danger in prison and asked the judge to transfer him to a facility in St. Charles Parish. Winsberg said it is up to Sheriff Marlin Gusman to decide whether Le is safe.
Phillip Stelly, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said Le is being held in “protective custody.” He did not immediately respond to a question about what that involves or how long Le has been kept there.
After the hearing, Regan said Le was being taunted and harassed in jail because of publicity surrounding the case. He did not deny that Le, who is 5-foot-2, threw punches at Taylor, who is 6-foot-1.
Taylor was allegedly the triggerman in an August drive-by shooting in the Lower 9th Ward that killed two people and injured five others, including two toddlers.
He was arrested for a jail fight on his first day in prison, but those charges were later refused.
Also on Monday, Winsberg scheduled a status conference for Nov. 10 to discuss witness statements Regan has been asking the District Attorney’s office to provide. Prosecutor Laura Rodrigue said she would provide them to Regan by Friday.
Regan and Rodrigue have squabbled in a number of hearings over access to evidence and other materials, and Monday was no different.
One issue was whether the District Attorney’s Office is required to provide an unredacted copy of a 30-page supplemental homicide report to Regan.
Winsberg ruled that Regan isn’t automatically entitled to it and must file a motion requesting the unredacted version.
It’s not clear how long Winsberg will be hearing the case, however. He has been filling in for Judge Julian Parker, who has been ill for months and is not running for re-election. However, Winsberg’s time on the Section G docket ends next week, when retired Judge Calvin Johnson is scheduled to take over.
Johnson is slated to run the court until Jan. 1, when either Paul Sens or Byron Williams, who are running for Parker’s seat in Tuesday’s election, will be sworn in.
Both the prosecutor and defense said they would prefer if Winsberg stayed on, given his familiarity with the case. Winsberg said that is up to the State Supreme Court but that he would be willing to stay on.