A dozen Orleans Parish jail inmates, including several accused of murder, filed into a courtroom on Thursday to face new attempted murder charges from a jail attack in December that sent two inmates to the hospital.
According to a sheriff’s office report, a search of their Orleans Parish Prison tier shortly after the Dec. 9 attack turned up six shanks. One of the victims, as well as a jail deputy, identified the defendants, according to the report.
All 12 initially were booked with two counts each of aggravated battery, but Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office upped the charges to attempted murder. The bill of information was filed on Feb. 12, a day after one of the victims, 37-year-old Ravanell Williams, pleaded guilty to simple battery, criminal trespass and unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.
Criminal District Judge Byron C. Williams ordered a medical evaluation and treatment for Ravanell Williams and also ordered Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office to move him to an out-of-parish jail pending his April sentencing date, court records show. The other victim of the attack, Jamol Rickmon, 36, remained jailed Thursday in Orleans Parish on aggravated rape and burglary charges.
The report doesn’t describe the injuries to the two inmates. But Ravanell Williams’ attorney, Aubrey Harris, said he suffered “numerous, serious wounds to his head and body.”
All 12 of the accused inmates pleaded not guilty before Criminal District Judge Frank Marullo, who set bonds ranging from $150,000 to $250,000.
Among the defendants in the case:
• Bobby Troy Jr., 22, is awaiting trial date in the high-profile October 2011 killing of Brent Hachfeld in the French Quarter. The 37-year-old Slidell optometrist was found face-down at Dauphine and Dumaine streets about 4:20 a.m. after leaving a friend’s bachelor party at Rick’s Cabaret on Bourbon Street. Troy, a former Dillard University student, also faces a pair of contraband charges and two counts battery on a corrections employee from incidents while in jail. He allegedly refused to enter a holding cell without a sandwich last year, wrested a set of handcuffs from sheriff’s Lt. William Holmes, then punched and choked deputies Thomas Sutherland and Brandon Jackson, causing them minor injuries, according to a report.
• Keith Phillips, 24, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tiesha “Tee Tee” Nix, who was gunned down at a New Orleans East apartment complex in December 2012. Nix was the mother of Phillips’ estranged girlfriend, who he also is charged with shooting in a murder attempt.
• Jonathan Alexander, 20, stands accused of murder and three counts of attempted murder in a January 2012 shooting in the Desire neighborhood that killed 21-year-old Gerald Barnes Jr.
• Kermitt Bernhart, 22, awaits trial in the October 2012 killing of 21-year-old Christopher Lambert near the former Lafitte public housing development.
• Jerel Clavo, 29, and Chris Williams, 31, were acquitted by an Orleans Parish jury last month in the murder of 51-year-old Shane Bell in 2011, and the slaying two months later of a witness to Bell’s murder, Aristotle Seals.
Eusi Phillips, an attorney for Chris Williams, said he suspected the attempted murder charges in the bloody jail fracas were a response by prosecutors to the verdict.
“I think it’s a factor,” said Phillips, a former Orleans Parish prosecutor.
“You have 12 people, and I believe they found six shanks. My understanding is they booked everyone who was in the day room with these guys. They do that to leverage a plea.”
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, cited office policy in declining to comment on the stabbing case, but said the insinuation of sour grapes doesn’t “merit a response.”
“Our office screens all cases where there’s an arrest made,” Bowman said. “We will charge what we believe is the most appropriate charge.”
Jake Lemmon, an attorney for Glenn Cole - another defendant in the jail attack case - said the charging of the dozen inmates “seems like a knee-jerk reaction to a very serious problem in Orleans Parish Prison.” Cole is behind bars on simple burglary, extortion and drug charges, according to court records.
Others who were charged and have pleaded not guilty to the attack are Derwin Alexander, 20, Michael Brooks, 19, Kenneth Jones, 25, Bradley Bright, 26, and Kim Lee, 31. Alexander and Jones were in jail on attempted murder charges, among other counts.
A spokesman for Gusman’s office did not respond to questions about the injuries sustained by the two inmates. Both were treated at Interim LSU Hospital.