NOPD officer suspected of sexually assaulting 12-year-old relative _lowres

Willie Gant Sr.

A New Orleans police veteran was sentenced to a year in jail Thursday after a judge found him guilty of molesting a 12-year-old relative.

Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman convicted Willie Gant Sr., 61, of simple battery and attempted simple battery after a three-day trial that included testimony from the girl, now 16.

Investigators said that Gant, a 26-year Police Department veteran, fondled the girl in his St. Roch home on two occasions in July 2014.

In the second instance, Gant’s daughter was sleeping next to the victim on an air mattress in his living room as he put his hands on her chest and vagina, police said.

Gant watched the proceedings on a video feed in another room as the girl told the court about the incidents, which she said left her depressed and lacking appetite.

Two of Gant’s daughters testified that the victim told them about her fear of being left alone with the former officer, who retired after his arrest.

Yet the accusations left Gant’s family divided. Another one of his daughters testified for the defense that nothing happened in his home on the night of July 26, 2014.

Defense attorney Robert Glass argued that Gant had no opportunity to touch the girl as she slept next to three other girls. Glass attempted to show that one of the other girls was awake at all the times the abuse might have occurred.

Glass also questioned the thoroughness of the police investigation. The mother of two of the girls who were present for the July 26 sleepover said that nothing happened that night, and Glass questioned why Sgt. Lawrence Jones never mentioned that in a police report.

Prosecutors said that whatever the discrepancies between the various girls’ testimony, the victim was clear in stating that she had been touched against her will.

The District Attorney’s Office initially charged Gant with two counts of sexual battery of a victim under the age of 13, which carries a maximum 99-year prison term. However, earlier this year prosecutors reduced the charges to two counts of simple battery.

Glass on Thursday waived delays ahead of sentencing and asked for the maximum jail term for his client in an apparent attempt to secure a total six-month sentence.

However, Pittman ordered that Gant’s two six-month sentences be served one after the other, rather than concurrently. The defense attorney said he would appeal that order.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he was pleased with the verdict.

"While there now are stronger laws in place than at the time of this former police officer’s shameful offense against this victim, this represented the best outcome possible against this child predator given the witness cooperation provided to us," Cannizzaro said in a statement.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge. | (504) 636-7432