Embattled East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from her 2018 arrest at a teen party in her neighborhood, avoiding a trial that had been set for next month.

Bernard, 59, had been charged with simple battery, and entering and remaining after being forbidden, as a result of her profanity-laced confrontation in August 2018 at a Lakeside home.

She was accused of putting her hands to the neck of a young party-goer.

Bernard, who had pleaded not guilty last year, went to court Dec. 10 with her attorney, John McLindon, and pleaded guilty to the entering and remaining charge, and prosecutors dismissed the battery charge. She had been set for trial Jan. 4.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Wednesday the dismissal was at the request of the victim after many discussions with him and his parents.

"These charges have generated much media and public interest. The facts of this case were particularly concerning given the public office that Ms. Bernard holds," Moore said. "The seriousness of the facts of Ms. Bernard's case, her criminal history, and ultimately the wishes of the family were all considerations in the resolution of her case."

State District Judge Ron Johnson put her on unsupervised probation for three months, fined her $300 and ordered her to perform 20 hours of court-approved community service work.

"Connie regrets going into the neighbor's house, even though it was a teenage party with no adults present," McLindon said Wednesday. "She realizes now she should have called the police and not try to handle it herself. She has apologized."

Johnson ordered Bernard to complete the court's effective decision-making school; write a letter of apology to the victim's family; and pay $235 in court costs.

An online entry in her case indicates she completed the decision-making school, and paid the fine and court costs. Moore said Bernard also provided proof of her community service hours.

Each of the misdemeanors Bernard faced carry a sentence of up to six months in jail. Simple battery also carries a fine of up to $1,000, while entering and remaining after being forbidden carries a fine up to $500.

Johnson will review Bernard's case on Jan. 26.

A viral video of the 2018 incident shows Bernard putting her hands to the neck of a young man at a house on High Lake Drive, down the street from her home. She has said she went to the home after hearing loud noises.

She said she knocked on the door and knows the owners of the home, whom she called “close personal friends.”

Three days after the incident, Bernard apologized for the profanity she used that night and the embarrassment the incident caused to friends and family, as well as distracting from her work on the School Board. She didn't apologize at that time for going into the house to begin with or any of her other actions that night.

Afterward Bernard faced calls to resign her District 8 seat.

She also was the subject of a recall petition after remarking in a June TV interview that people needed to know more about the life of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — and for shopping online for clothes amid a board debate over renaming Lee High School.

Protesters marched in July to Bernard's South Baton Rouge home as part of the recall effort. Organizers gathered signatures from voters in Bernard's district, including some from her neighbors, on a petition to put the recall on the ballot.

The recall effort, however, fell far short of the required 7,600-plus signatures needed by a Monday deadline to force a recall election. Organizers said they may try again next year.

The School Board in July changed Lee High's name to Liberty High School. A majority of board members, including Bernard, approved the name change.

Bernard was first elected to the board in 2010 and was re-elected to a third term in July 2018, just weeks before the incident at the party, after no one qualified to run against her.

She has said she will serve out her term, which expires at the end of 2022.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.