GONZALES — Defense attorneys for Wilson Longanecker Jr., the former Sorrento mayor arrested last month on dozens of child pornography counts, say his $1.025 million bail is excessive and that the businessman with deep ties to Ascension Parish is no threat to the community.
Judge Jessie LeBlanc, of the 23rd Judicial District Court, is expected to consider at a hearing 9 a.m. Monday whether, in light of those and other factors, to reduce Longanecker’s bail to $100,000 so it can be paid with a bond secured by family property.
“He (Longanecker) has never been convicted of a crime or even arrested and if he and/or his parents are able to post a reasonable property bond, he would be absolutely no flight risk as he would never put his family at jeopardy of losing their homes and businesses by fleeing the jurisdiction,” defense attorney Timothy Pujol wrote in an Oct. 28 bond reduction motion.
Longanecker was arrested Oct. 23 on 40 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of obstruction of justice and was booked into Ascension Parish Prison near Donaldsonville where, the sheriff’s website says, Longanecker remained Thursday.
Longanecker, 41, the son of former two-term town mayor Wilson Longanecker Sr., was mayor himself from mid-2011 to mid-2013. Wilson Longanecker Jr. did not seek re-election but opted for a failed bid to regain an at-large seat on the Town Council that he had left to fill the remaining term of former Mayor Blake LeBlanc. LeBlanc stepped down in October 2010 after accusing council members of overstepping their authority.
Longanecker also operates a pool business in Gonzales.
On the morning of Oct. 23, a joint task force led by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office searched Longanecker’s three-story, columned house on Main Street and found 40 videos of children between the ages of 3 and 14 years old engaging in sexual activities or being posed in a sexual manner, authorities said in a news release then.
The Attorney General’s Office said Longanecker tried to hide evidence while investigators were serving the search warrant at his home.
Prosecutors have not yet brought formal charges against him. Longanecker has not been arraigned and is considered innocent until proven guilty.
Since his arrest, Longanecker’s wife of nearly 14 years has filed for divorce, custody of their three young children, use of their home and separation of their property. Her divorce petition says he is not disputing the requests.
Defense attorney Pujol was not immediately available Thursday afternoon, but he wrote to LeBlanc that Longanecker’s family cannot afford the $1.025 million bail that she had set previously.
Pujol wrote that the bail of $25,000 per count is excessive because authorities customarily overcharge defendants to “negotiate downward from there at a later date.”
“It is extremely unlikely that the resolution of this case will involve anywhere near forty counts of the same charge, so it is excessive to set bail at $25,000.00 per count,” Pujol wrote.
Assistant District Attorney Robin O’Bannon, who is handling Longanecker’s case, said Thursday that prosecutors will oppose the bond reduction request. She added that prosecutors have not yet decided how many counts to file against Longanecker.
“That’s a charging decision based on the evidence,” O’Bannon said.
Pujol also appealed to LeBlanc’s sense of fair play in the high-profile case, writing that Longanecker’s attorneys cannot yet address the weight of the evidence against him because they have not been able to get a close look yet at the state’s case.
“While it may be acceptable for persons of the general public and even the media to disregard the presumption of innocence, the lawyers in this case, and particularly the judge, are charged with maintaining the presumption of innocence in their function as gatekeepers,” Pujol wrote.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.