RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - Judge Monique Rauls of the 9th Judicial District Court in Rapides Parish ruled on Friday that convicted felon and former mayor of the Town of Ball, Roy Hebron, cannot hold office. This, after Hebron won overwhelmingly in the November election to be re-elected as the town's mayor. But, it's not over, Hebron's attorney, Charles Elliott plans to file an emergency writ with the Third Circuit to appeal.
The town's outgoing mayor, Neil Kavanagh, challenged whether Hebron could hold office after a recently passed state constitutional amendment that prohibits felons from holding office for five years after the completion of their sentence. The election for mayor and the amendment were on the same ballot - with Hebron winning the election and the amendment passing. Kavanagh was represented by Gene Taylor with the Gold Firm.
Hebron was sentenced in 2011 to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $105,000 in restitution and a $25,000 fine after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud of FEMA of an estimated $320,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav while serving as mayor. He was released in December 2014. He completed his supervised release in December 2017.
The court looked at several issues: whether Kavanagh had a right to file the challenge, if Governor John Bel Edwards and the Secretary of State should be involved in the legal matter, if the federal charge he pleaded to would apply to state law, if five years had passed since the completion of the sentence, if Hebron should have been allowed to qualify for the election, and whether Hebron was grandfathered in with the new amendment since they were on the same ballot.
First, Judge Rauls agreed that Kavanagh had a right to bring forward the challenge as a private citizen.
Second, Judge Rauls said that the governor and the secretary of state did not have to be part of the suit, because this wasn't a challenge to him winning the race, but rather if he could hold the position come January. The amendment went into effect on December 12.
Third, Judge Rauls said while the federal and state laws "might not be worded in identical form," had this been a state charge initially, it would have been a felony.
Fourth, Judge Rauls agreed that five years had not passed since Hebron completed his sentence - setting the date for 2022 - which is five years after the end of his supervised release in 2017.
That issue was brought up with Hebron taking the stand when Taylor asked Hebron outright if it had been five years since the completion of his sentence. Hebron responded, "it has been close."
Fifth, Judge Rauls agreed that Hebron had the right to qualify because it took place before the amendment went into effect. Previously, a law had not been put into place prohibiting felons from qualifying.
And, sixth, Judge Rauls agreed that Hebron could not be grandfathered in before the amendment because that language does not exist in state law.
Elliott is planning on filing an emergency writ with the Third Circuit as soon as possible with the holidays approaching. It's unclear who will be mayor of the town on January 1.