Marcellus White

Marcellus White

A former New Orleans Police Department officer who used his position as a karate instructor and fraternity youth mentor to sexually abuse at least 10 young boys faced a row of angry cops as he received a 25-year sentence on Monday.

Marcellus White, 46, pleaded guilty as charged to five counts of sexual battery of a victim under the age of 13.

The plea came as part of a deal with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office that spared his victims a trial and White a maximum 99-year sentence.

White said nothing other than to acknowledge his guilt. His attorney declined to comment on the case’s outcome. But the officers who once stood side by side with him on the city’s streets had plenty to tell their former colleague.

“I pray that every day you sit in that jail cell you think upon that awful crime you committed on the victims,” Sgt. Regina Williams said. “You used a fraternity, a karate school, and worst of all, you used the New Orleans Police Department to hurt innocent kids. You should feel like the scum of the earth.”

Prosecutors said they agreed to the sentence so that the young boys involved would not have to take to the stand and defend their credibility. Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier accepted the plea but expressed her displeasure at the arrangement.

“If it were up to me, you would stay in jail for life, and I would never want to see you again,” she said. “I would hope that the victims and their families would find some sort of justice.”

White’s guilty plea came a little more than a year after the shocking news of the 19-year veteran’s arrest. White, who resigned after his arrest, had been hailed as a model for community relations during his career with the force.

He taught troubled children from public housing developments martial arts at the Iberville Scorpions Karate Academy. He also helped young boys with their school work as a tutor for the Sigma Beta Club, a program of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Yet despite the 2003 Angel Award that he received from the Blue Cross Foundation, police said White abused his positions of trust for years.

In one case in 2000, he locked the doors of his unmarked car and forced an 11-year-old boy to show him his penis. White then touched it, according to a warrant.

Another boy was subjected to repeated sexual attacks, according to a warrant. Police said White repeatedly raped the boy.

“Maybe three or four times I can remember,” White later told investigators.

Police said this victim told them “he was afraid of Officer White because he was a well-known police officer and no one would believe him” if he reported White's actions. 

There were at least 14 victims, all of them boys under 18, according to authorities. The “pervasive” abuse continued from 2000 until one victim came forward to the Police Department in 2016, police said.

Authorities said that several victims stopped cooperating with investigators before a grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging White with crimes against 10 victims in August.

White’s sentencing on Monday was delayed for nearly two months as he sat in suicide watch at the Plaquemines Parish jail, where he was separated from the men and women he once helped put behind bars.

Speaking from the witness stand Monday, the mother of one of White's victims said she has endured constant questioning from friends and relatives about whether she should have discovered White’s predatory behavior sooner. The woman said she has urged her son to enter counseling to temper the anger he harbors against her.

“I hope and I pray that justice is being served today for not just my son and the other victims involved. I hope to get some closure out of this because that’s what I’m looking for,” she said.

The New Orleans Advocate is not naming the woman so as not to identify her son.

A police officer read a letter from another victim’s mother.

“His acts have not only destroyed our trust in him, but they have also fostered distrust in our community and the institutions he was a member of,” the woman wrote. “Marc, I ask you, how do you tell a young man to trust when those close to him betrayed that trust?”

Williams, the police officer, said her former colleague’s actions opened a rift between cops and the community they serve.

“The kids you molested had a right to seek you as a mentor. You, however, did not have the right to violate their trust and the trust of their parents. The victims no longer have to fear you. We, the New Orleans Police Department, are a close-knit family that protects and serves the citizens of New Orleans. You stepped out of that circle and committed this awful act,” she said.

The officer said she wished White could serve 25 years in prison for each victim, each family member, each fellow officer and each community member he hurt.

Flemings-Davillier said she thought it was “reprehensible” that the case ended in a plea agreement, although she acknowledged that a trial spared White’s victims from further pain.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said in an interview that the judge could have rejected the plea deal if she chose.

“She certainly had every right as the judge to reject the plea agreement if she felt that the plea agreement was somehow inappropriate or did not do justice to the facts of the case,” he said. “From our perspective, Marcellus White is 46 years old, he has a 25-year sentence, I think his credits (for time served) are less than one year, and he will get out sometime when he is over 70 years old.”

Cannizzaro said the victim’s families agreed with the plea agreement.

“I’m hopeful that this will in some very, very small measure help the victims overcome the trauma that they had experienced and get their lives back on track,” he said.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432