An East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member accused of putting her hands to the neck of a young party-goer during a 2018 confrontation was given a Jan. 4 trial date Wednesday, but her lawyer said he hopes to avoid a trial.

"We think we're going to resolve this. We really do," attorney John McLindon, who represents Connie Bernard, told state District Judge Ron Johnson during a brief status hearing in the misdemeanor case.

After court, McLindon repeated that he and his client hope to resolve the matter "short of a trial."

Bernard, 58, is 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.

Bernard, who pleaded not guilty last year, was not in court Wednesday because she was not feeling well, McLindon told the judge.

Each of the misdemeanors Bernard faces 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. 

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 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 is 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 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.