GONZALES — A state district judge ruled Tuesday that four people arrested in a brawl at the East Ascension High School graduation May 11 do not pose a risk to the public and released them either to their parents or on their own recognizance, court officials said.
Judge Alvin Turner Jr., of the 23rd Judicial District Court, issued the ruling at a hearing Tuesday after mental evaluations were conducted on the four arrested in the fight, court minutes say.
Assistant District Attorney Shawn Bush said Wednesday that after Turner made the finding, he gave “a stern lecture” to Destiney Latrell Thompson, 17; Delencia Latrice Williams, 17; Rodneisha Patterson, 18; and Travonshay Mills, 20.
Bush said Turner told them they needed to think about consequences of doing something like fighting at a high school graduation ceremony. “ ‘We’re not going to tolerate this,’ ” Bush said Turner told the girls and women.
Thompson and Williams, both of Prairieville, and Patterson and Mills, both of Belle Rose, were arrested late last week on misdemeanor counts of simple battery and disturbing the peace in the fight that occurred in the stands of Spartan Stadium, police have said.
The fight, which happened near the end of the graduation ceremony and was recorded and posted on Facebook, has sparked disapproval from various local officials. Turner called the brawl “just unbelievable” in a bail hearing Monday.
Gonzales police detective Lee Stromberg testified Monday the fight stemmed from an ongoing dispute between Patterson and Thompson over a man.
Stromberg told the judge that Thompson and Williams sought out Patterson and Mills in the stands. Patterson and Mills were at the ceremony to watch Patterson’s sister graduate.
While Patterson and Mills’ attorney argued they were only defending themselves in the melee, Thompson and Williams’ attorney challenged Stromberg’s narrative of the events leading up to the fight.
Stromberg said detectives don’t know who threw the first punch.
All four were released from Ascension Parish Prison near Donaldsonville between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Court minutes obtained Wednesday afternoon showed Turner actually set bail at $1,000 for each defendant, but Turner allowed the parents of the 17-year-olds to sign them out of jail without having to post bail. The adult defendants signed themselves out.
Bush said what that means is if any of the four fail to show up for court in the future, they or their parents will have to put up $1,000 in bail.
Turner, who ordered the mental examinations Monday, also ordered the four to stay away from one another as a condition of release.
He also ordered Thompson and Williams, who are East Ascension High students, to show proof they are in school or trying to get their GEDs. Stromberg testified Monday both Thompson and Williams had extended absences from the high school this school year.
Turner ordered Patterson and Mills to maintain employment. The judge also ordered the four to allow the parish Sheriff’s Office to visit them, submit to drug and alcohol testing, not own a firearm and remain in the 23rd Judicial District, which encompasses Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes, until their court date, which has not yet been set.
Under the settlement of a class-action lawsuit last year over bail procedures involving poor defendants charged with misdemeanor crimes, Ascension Parish Court Judge Marilyn Lambert and parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley agreed that most misdemeanor defendants would be released on their own recognizance after booking at the jail.
Those arrested on simple battery, disturbing the peace and several other violent misdemeanors could be held in jail until a hearing to determine if they should be released without bail.
Turner is not part of Parish Court but was serving this week to set bail in the case. Misdemeanor defendants in Ascension end up in Parish Court for adjudication of their charges.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter @NewsieDave.