St. James School Board member pleads not guilty to charges of altering a prescription _lowres

Tyler Jasmin

First-term St. James Parish School Board member Tyler J. Jasmin must step down from his elected post in less than two weeks after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors that allowed him to avoid prison over pharmacy shopping charges.

Jasmin, 27, 2045 La. 18, Vacherie, admitted Monday at the Parish Courthouse in Convent to photocopying a valid prescription for hydrocodone and using it Aug. 22 at various pharmacies to receive extra tablets he had not been prescribed, a plea agreement says.

As part of the deal, Judge Jessie LeBlanc, of the 23rd Judicial District, gave Jasmin a three-year suspended prison sentence, three years probation and ordered him to step down from the board by April 25.

Jasmin, no party, represents District 6 on the west bank. He won the seat in November 2014 when he beat Democrat Frieda Boughton 53 percent to 47 percent. He took office in January 2015.

Under state law, an elected official convicted of a felony while in office must step down immediately, but that doesn’t bar the official from running again under a recent court ruling.

Former Democratic state Rep. and Sen. Derrick Shepherd, of Marrero, prevailed in late January in a challenge to a state constitutional amendment that barred convicted felons from running for office for 15 years after their sentences ended, if they had not received a pardon.

The state Supreme Court threw out the 1997 amendment on a technicality. The ballot language voters backed in 1998 did not match the bill’s final language, the court found. Shepherd spent two years behind bars for public corruption after a guilty plea in 2008 and was disqualified from running for his old House District 87 seat last year.

The state Supreme Court ruling opens the door for convicted felons to run for office without the long lapse.

Under Jasmin’s plea agreement, prosecutors with the state Attorney General’s Office also did not bar him from seeking office again.

Jasmin was slated to enter his guilty plea in February but balked then over the condition that he step down.

“It was a condition that Mr. Jasmin needed time to think about because he enjoyed serving,” his attorney, Nghana Gauff, said Tuesday, “But at this point, he’s committed to moving forward with his life and has not foreclosed the possibility of his running for office in the future.”

Bipartisan legislation is moving through the Legislature to close the opening left by the Supreme Court, which indicated in the Shepherd ruling that a properly written law would be constitutional.

State Rep. Gregory Miller, R-Norco, has proposed House Bill 275, which would essentially reinstate the 15-year waiting period.

As an amendment to the constitution, the bill needs two-thirds of the House and Senate and voter backing in November. The House adopted the bill, 79-19, April 5.

But Gauff noted that Jasmin entered his plea under a provision in the state criminal code that allows him to seek to have his conviction set aside and his record expunged after he finishes his sentence. The law is for first- and second-time offenders of noncapital offenses.

After his arrest Nov. 11 by State Police, Jasmin faced four counts each of obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud, altering a prescription and possession of a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance.

He pleaded guilty Monday to a single count of obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud.