Grand jury indicts Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office deputy connected with prison stabbing _lowres

John Dupart

A judge reduced the bail Tuesday for an Orleans Parish Prison deputy accused of opening the door, literally, to violence inside Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s jail in September by unlocking a gate and letting a group of men cross a tier and repeatedly stab a fellow inmate.

Criminal District Court Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson lowered John Dupart’s bail from $750,000 to $100,000 after defense attorney Jeffrey Smith argued that his client has deep community ties and no prior criminal record.

A four-count indictment handed up last week charged Dupart, 42, with malfeasance in office and being a principal to aggravated battery.

Smith said he expected Dupart, who has been placed on administrative leave by the Sheriff’s Office, to be released late Tuesday or Wednesday after posting property for his bond.

At a brief hearing Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Angad Ghai did not challenge the request for lower bail for Dupart, a sheriff’s deputy for nearly five years. Ghai also acknowledged that the deputy was charged as a “principal” to aggravated battery.

“We’re not saying Mr. Dupart held a knife,” Ghai said. Rather, he said, Dupart is accused of “opening a gate from one side of a tier to another side of a tier, allowing inmates to move over.”

Dupart, dressed in orange St. Charles Parish Jail scrubs, pleaded not guilty, as did seven inmates who were present in the courtroom Tuesday to answer charges of either taking part in the group stabbing or trying to cover it up.

Six of the men — Tyrone Knockum, Marvin Banks, Joshua Domino, Frederick Johnson, Lonnie Ingram and Darrius Knox — face a charge of attempted second-degree murder in the stabbing.

Several of the men accused of stabbing Terrance Lee are either alleged “3NG” gang members or convicted murderers, all of whom were housed inside the Old Parish Prison, a building that holds many of the jail’s most violent criminal defendants.

With them there was Lee, 37, who was being held only on an attempted simple robbery count after an arrest in August, court records show.

Lee was stabbed more than a dozen times, suffering “several stab wounds throughout his back area” in an attack just before 9 a.m. Sept. 13, according to a Sheriff’s Office report. He landed in the emergency room, and three days he later identified a host of fellow inmates as his assailants. Another witness also identified many of the same inmates, as well as others.

A month later, sheriff’s investigators interviewed several of the alleged assailants, all of whom denied involvement in the stabbing, according to investigative reports.

Lee has since been released from jail.

Dupart was not named in the initial report on the stabbing, although Smith said the deputy served a four-day suspension over the incident a few months ago. Gusman’s office also transferred Dupart from the jail to the Criminal District Courthouse, where he served as a bailiff.

Dupart who lives in Chalmette and has three children, was pulled from his job in a courtroom less than an hour before a grand jury indicted him last week.

“They’re saying he did it on purpose,” Smith said of Dupart’s opening the gate at the prison. Smith denied it.

“They’re most likely relying on a gang member as a witness,” he said.

Smith also questioned why the criminal charges came months after Dupart’s brief suspension.

“Why wasn’t he arrested then for felony charges?” Smith asked outside the courtroom. “This is the famous CYA: Cover your (expletive).”

Gusman’s office did not immediately return a message Tuesday asking about Dupart’s earlier suspension.

Dupart and the eight other men named in the indictment are due back in court Jan. 7.