Ever since Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni was caught sexting with a 17-year-old boy in 2016, he’s been a pretty radioactive figure.
The entire parish council, as well as other local politicians, called on him to step down. Voters tried to recall him, although they fell short of the considerable support required by law to trigger a vote. The school board barred him from the campuses it oversees. A candidate for sheriff, John Fortunato, had to rescind his public support not just for Yenni’s continued service but for his reelection later this year (Yenni has yet to say whether he’ll be a candidate in the fall parish president election). Fortunato’s initial support may well have figured into his loss to Joe Lopinto.
A Jefferson Parish judge declared a mistrial in a sexual battery case Tuesday after Parish President Mike Yenni chatted with a juror on her lu…
Still, what happened this week in a government building is ridiculous.
According to videotape, Yenni briefly greeted a passing juror in the hallway, shaking hands and chitchatting for mere moments, not even long enough for either to come to full stop. Yet the exchange was enough for 24th Judicial District Judge Adrian Adams to call a mistrial in the case of Rafael Chinchilla, who is accused of sexual battery of a juvenile under the age of 13. All the jurors who put in their time are now dismissed, and a new group will need to be empaneled.
It’s hard to imagine what effect Yenni’s conversation could have had on the jury’s deliberations. Yenni said afterwards that he knew the woman, who works in tourism in Kenner, from his time as mayor. He recalled saying something like this: "Who’s running tourism in Kenner if you’re on a jury? I hope it's not a hung jury.”
"I was just being congenial," he said.
Who would have guessed that the most dramatic endorsement in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's race wouldn’t be of a candidate, but by a candidate?
Jurors aren’t supposed to be congenial with anyone, of course, and officials such as Yenni who work in the same building know that. But everyone involved is human, and it’s hard to argue that a brief greeting rises to the level of endangering justice.
Even if the guy offering that greeting is someone as divisive as Yenni.