The trial of former Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King will go ahead next week after a judge on Tuesday denied a bid by state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office to delay it — a plea that King’s attorney described in court papers as an attempt by Caldwell to duck an election-season tempest.
King spent less than a year on the bench before a grand jury indicted her in March 2014 on charges of filing false public records and forging election documents. She is accused of lying when she claimed a New Orleans domicile on her candidate qualifying papers in 2013.
Caldwell’s office, which is prosecuting her, claims King was living at a house she bought in 2006 on Chancer Lane in Slidell. That’s where King held a homestead exemption that she claims was filed in error. It’s also where she listed her domicile on bankruptcy papers she filed in federal court a few months before her successful run for the bench.
Her case appears to be the first criminal prosecution ever brought in the state over an allegation frequently lodged against political hopefuls — of not living in the parish or district where they want to run.
On Monday, Assistant Attorney General Sonceree Smith Clark asked ad hoc Judge Michael Kirby for a trial delay of 30 to 45 days. Clark said she has another hearing date in Assumption Parish on Monday and will be out on a personal matter the rest of next week.
King’s attorney, Clarence Roby Jr., cried foul, noting that Caldwell faces a Nov. 21 runoff against fellow Republican Jeff Landry. Roby called the request “an unnecessary dilatory delay of the trial until after the conclusion of the runoff election for Attorney General’s Office.”
He added that the state “has no legitimate bases for a continuance — certainly none that can overcome the outrageous prejudice to Ms. King (and the taxpayers).”
In his motion, Roby also said Caldwell’s office offered King a plea deal that she “summarily refused.” Roby declined Tuesday to describe the purported offer or to comment on the criminal case.
Kirby denied the request from Caldwell’s office in a ruling late Tuesday, saying prosecutors had plenty of time to resolve the conflict before “this, the eleventh hour.”
The suggestion of political chicanery is far from the first such accusation from King, who was suspended by the Louisiana Supreme Court last year pending the outcome of the criminal case, then was unseated by voters last fall.
King earlier alleged that District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office was waging a clandestine campaign to get her tossed from her hard-won seat. She claimed a Cannizzaro operative had threatened her with payback if she didn’t drop out of a runoff against Doug Hammel, the DA’s choice for the Section E seat at Juvenile Court that King won.
Cannizzaro dismissed that allegation, noting that his office recused itself from prosecuting the case against King, deferring to Caldwell.
But while she fought her suspension from the bench, King described meeting with the FBI to cooperate in an investigation, suggesting it was over the alleged threats. In her criminal case, Roby has pressed the state and the FBI to turn over evidence that might help her defense.
Just what part those allegations of political revenge will play in King’s defense remains uncertain.
A spokesman for Caldwell’s office declined to comment directly on Roby’s motion but noted that such delay requests are not unusual. The spokesman, Aaron Sadler, also noted that Roby had earlier requested his own continuance in the case. Roby said he asked for that delay because he hadn’t yet received all discovery materials from the state.
King ran for re-election last year while suspended from the bench and facing criminal charges. She came in third, with 16 percent of the vote, in a six-person race ultimately won by Desiree Cook-Calvin.
It took King three tries to submit a proper domicile address in New Orleans.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.