NAPOLEONVILLE — A judge on Monday refused to reduce the bail of a former Avoyelles Parish sheriff’s deputy accused of allowing an Assumption Parish prisoner to leave a jail transport van to buy drugs and then providing false information when the prisoner didn’t return.
Judge Jessie LeBlanc, of the 23rd Judicial District Court, said Michelle George, 47, failed to understand the risk the incident posed to the community and to prisoners and refused to reduce her bail from $250,000 to $20,000.
LeBlanc also said during the hearing at the Napoleonville courthouse that she considered the seriousness of the allegations and George’s past brushes with the law when she made her decision.
Assumption sheriff’s deputies have said the incident occurred March 26 when George was transporting female prisoners from Assumption Parish to the Avoyelles Parish jail. The Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport has long housed Assumption Parish’s female inmates, transporting them back and forth for court.
George is accused of allowing prisoner Felicia Daigle to walk free in a known drug area of Paincourtville, purportedly to get illegal drugs.
When Daigle did not return, George sent a second prisoner to look for her. Sheriff’s Capt. Darren Crochet testified Monday that the second prisoner was questioning Paincourtville residents on Daigle’s whereabouts.
George later came up with the cover story that Daigle ran out of the van several miles from where George had let her out, leading deputies initially to search in the wrong place, deputies have said. Daigle was found hours later in Labadieville.
George was arrested on counts of malfeasance in office, obstruction of justice and assisting an escape several days after the incident. Prosecutors have not charged her nor has she been arraigned.
During questioning Monday by Parish Assistant District Attorney Tommy Daigle at the Napoleonville courthouse, George acknowledged past problems with alcohol that contributed to prior brushes with the law.
Daigle questioned her about past arrests for two counts of felony hit-and-run in 2008 and 2012, simple battery in 2014, aggravated assault, disturbing the peace and criminal trespass.
She said she had struggled with alcohol and had been in treatment for two years through 2014.
George, 7228 La. 451, Moreauville, testified that both hit-and-run cases and other counts had been dismissed as part of her agreement to go through treatment.
“I was doing real good,” she said as her mother and stepfather sat in the back of the courtroom.
Daigle claimed the latest incident and past arrests were part of a pattern of behavior that arose from the same drug problem going back to 2008 and argued against reducing George’s bail.
George had worked for the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office between Oct. 22 and March 30, when she was fired over the incident, Avoyelles deputies have said. But George said Monday that she had previously worked for the Sheriff’s Office on and off, as well as at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville.
She said she had not accumulated enough funds to afford the $250,000 bail. Her last job with the sheriff paid $7.50 per hour, she said.
George’s stepfather, Otis Reason, 62, said later that it has been tough trying to get her out of jail with so much publicity over the arrest but the family will continue to support her.
George’s arraignment is sent for June 1.