FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 519-592,
SECTION "K" Honorable Michael E. Kirby, Judge
Landry ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE Sonceree Smith Clark ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Winston E. White ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL COUNSEL FOR
APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA.
Christopher A. Aberle LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT COUNSEL FOR
composed of Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Regina Bartholomew
Woods, Judge Paula A. Brown.
A. Brown Judge.
Yolanda J. King ("Ms. King"), appeals her
conviction on one count of executing a false affidavit, a
violation of La. R.S. 18:1461.3, and one count of filing a
false public record, a violation of La. R.S. 14:133, for
falsely claiming an erroneous domicile in documents for her
candidacy for juvenile court judge in Orleans Parish. Ms.
King contends that the evidence was insufficient to convict
her of the crimes charged, and that she received ineffective
assistance of counsel. For the reasons that follow, we remand
for an evidentiary hearing on Ms. King's claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel, reserving her right to
re-urge her appeal and raise all assignments of error. We
instruct the district court to grant Ms. King a new trial in
the event the district court determines that her ineffective
assistance of counsel claim has merit.
OF THE CASE
King qualified to run for juvenile court judge in Orleans
Parish on February 13, 2013, and was elected on May 4, 2013.
On March 20, 2014, Ms. King was indicted by a grand jury. The
indictment charged that she violated La. R.S.
18:1461.3 by executing a false affidavit with the
Orleans Parish Clerk's Office, wherein she attested that
she was a domiciliary of the Parish of Orleans when, in fact,
she was a domiciliary of the Parish of St.
Tammany. The indictment also charged that she
violated La. R.S. 14:133(A)(3)  by knowingly filing a false
public record. Ms. King entered a plea of not guilty. After a
one-day, six-person jury trial, she was found guilty on both
count one, violation of La R.S. 18:1461.3, Ms. King was
sentenced to one year without hard labor, suspended, and two
years of inactive probation. The trial court also assessed a
$1, 000.00 fine, court costs, and imposed the following
special conditions: (1) she must be employed; (2) she must
perform one hundred community service hours; and (3) she must
refrain from criminal conduct. As to count two, violation of
La. R.S. 14:133, Ms. King was likewise sentenced to one year
without hard labor, suspended, and two years of inactive
probation, to run concurrently with the sentence imposed in
count one. The trial court also assessed court costs,
required one hundred hours of community service, and imposed
the same special conditions provided in count one.
trial court granted Ms. King's pro se motion for
an out-of-time appeal and this appeal followed.
following testimony was adduced at trial:
Claire Trimble, a Deputy Clerk for the Clerk's Office of
Criminal District Court in Orleans Parish and a notary,
identified Ms. King's Notice of Candidacy form, which the
State introduced into evidence. Ms. Trimble testified that
she notarized the document and that the candidacy form
indicated Ms. King's domicile was 5336 Stillwater Drive,
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70128. Ms. Trimble confirmed on
cross-examination that she had no personal knowledge of the
information contained in the candidacy form and that she did
not verify whether Ms. King was actually domiciled at the
Stillwater Drive residence.
Dugas, the Chief Deputy Assessor for St. Tammany Parish,
testified that the mortgage and conveyance records of St.
Tammany Parish showed that Ms. King purchased a home at 1638
Chancer Lane, Slidell, Louisiana, 70461, in 2006. On
September 8, 2006, she filed for a homestead exemption for
that residence. Mr. Dugas explained that an individual must
own and occupy the residence as a principal place of domicile
in order to qualify for a homestead exemption in St. Tammany
Parish. He stated the owner's signature on the qualifying
documents meant the owner did not claim a homestead exemption
on any other property in the State of Louisiana.
Dugas testified that in St. Tammany Parish, once an
individual files for a homestead exemption, it is not
necessary to re-file each year-the exemption is a perpetual
homestead. Mr. Dugas said Ms. King claimed a homestead
exemption for the Slidell residence every year from 2007
through 2013. He testified that in April 2013, Ms. King
requested that the assessor retroactively remove the
homestead exemption only for the years 2011, 2012, and 2013.
The homestead exemption application and real estate property
transfer forms were admitted into evidence and published to
Carroll, a private investigator, testified that he was asked
to by a client to investigate Ms. King. Mr. Carroll's
investigation revealed that Ms. King had two driver's
licenses-one issued in Georgia and another issued in
Louisiana. The background check showed that Ms. King changed
her driver's license address from 5535 Bundy Road, New
Orleans, Louisiana, to the Stillwater Drive address on April
22, 2013. Mr. Carroll went to the Bundy Road address and
discovered that it was an empty lot.
Carroll testified that he interviewed neighbors on Chancer
Lane in Slidell, Louisiana. After running the license plate
numbers, he learned that a vehicle parked in the driveway of
1638 Chancer Lane was registered to Yvette King and that
another vehicle, a champagne-colored Nissan Murano, was
registered to Ms. King. Each vehicle was registered to a
Carroll also conducted surveillance of Ms. King at the
Chancer Lane residence from May 14 through May 28, 2013. He
documented Ms. King's departure and arrival times. He
noted that on Mondays through Fridays, Ms. King entered the
Nissan Murano and departed from Chancer Lane between 6:30
a.m. and 7:30 a.m. each morning. Mr. Carroll took photographs
of the Nissan Murano while it was parked in the private
parking lot for judges and city officials behind New Orleans
City Hall, and he verified that the license plate number of
the Nissan Murano matched the vehicle he observed Ms. King
enter. Mr. Carroll said he interviewed some additional
neighbors on Chancer Lane-all of whom wished to remain
anonymous-who identified Ms. King as the person who lived at
the Chancer Lane residence. Based on his investigation, Mr.
Carroll was convinced that Ms. King lived at the Chancer Lane
residence with her sister.
cross-examination, Mr. Carroll stated that he met with Gerald
Bayer and other agents from the Attorney General's Office
on May 28, 2013. At that meeting, he turned over the findings
from his investigation of Ms. King. Mr. Carroll acknowledged
that Ms. King's Orleans Parish home address before
Hurricane Katrina was the empty Bundy Road lot. He also
admitted that he never investigated Ms. King's domicile
before she qualified for juvenile court judge, but rather,
after she was elected. With regards to the Chancer Lane
neighbors, Mr. Carroll testified that he did not obtain any
video, audio, or sworn statements from any of them.
Bayer-a criminal investigator for the Louisiana Department of
Justice, Office of the Attorney General-testified that in May
of 2013, he assisted the Secretary of State's Office in
an investigation of Ms. King. Mr. Bayer said his contact with
the Orleans Parish Assessor's Office determined that
Jimmie Bobb and Grace King were the owners of the residence
at 5336 Stillwater Drive in New Orleans and that the
residence had been purchased on September 25, 1987.
Bayer said that he interviewed a neighbor, Michael Barwell,
who resided at 5346 Stillwater Drive. According to Mr. Bayer,
Mr. Barwell told him that Jimmie Bobb had lived at the
residence for twenty-five years and that Grace King had lived
with Mr. Bobb at that residence until Hurricane Katrina. Mr.
Barwell also told Mr. Bayer that after Hurricane Katrina, Ms.
Grace King visited periodically. Mr. Bayer testified that Mr.
Barwell confirmed that only Mr. Bobb and Grace King lived at
the Stillwater Drive residence, not Ms. King. Mr. Bayer
further testified that although he was unable to speak with
other neighbors, he did attempt to speak with Mr. Bobb.
According to Mr. Bayer, Mr. Bobb not only failed to appear
for a scheduled appointment with him, Mr. Bobb also refused
to speak with him, even though he had been subpoenaed.
Bayer testified that he also spoke to Mr. Carroll, the
private investigator who had investigated Ms. King. Mr. Bayer
said that Mr. Carroll voluntarily told him that Mr.
Carroll's investigation revealed Ms. King lived at 1638
Chancer Drive in Slidell. At the end of his investigation,
Mr. Bayer concluded Ms. King did not reside at the Stillwater
cross-examination, Mr. Bayer confirmed that, after Ms.
King's election, his office received a package from the
Secretary of State, which had been submitted by Cynthia
Samuel, another candidate in the election. He represented
that the package included a complete investigation with
witness statements and letters regarding Ms. King's
domicile. Mr. Bayer spoke to the Registrar of Voters in
Orleans Parish after he received the package from the
Secretary of State, but he admitted he never spoke to Ms.
King. Mr. Bayer also acknowledged that he was unable to
secure a sworn statement from Mr. Barwell, the Stillwater
neighbor, stating that Mr. Barwell "really didn't
want to get involved."
L. Wilson, Registrar of Voters for Orleans Parish, testified
that Ms. King was a registered voter in Orleans Parish from
2006 through the date of trial. Specifically, she stated Ms.
King was a registered Orleans Parish voter in February 2013.
According to Ms. Wilson, the only change in Ms. King's
voting record was a change of address from Bundy Road to
Stillwater Drive or vice versa.
Wilson testified that in April 2013, she received a letter
stating that Ms. King was not eligible to vote in Orleans
Parish based on her St. Tammany Parish homestead exemption.
She notified Ms. King of the challenge and allowed her
twenty-one days to respond. Ms. Wilson testified that Ms.
King was removed from the Orleans Parish voter registration
rolls on June 13, 2013, but was reinstated on June 17, 2013.
The reinstatement was based on information she received that
Ms. King had removed her St. Tammany Parish homestead
Bobb testified that he and Ms. Grace King owned the home at
5336 Stillwater Drive, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70128. He has
resided in the residence for over twenty years, and Ms. Grace
King no longer lived at the residence. When asked who lived
at the Stillwater Drive residence on February 13, 2013, Mr.
Bobb responded that Ms. King lived there "for a minute,
for a while." Mr. Bobb could not recall exactly how long
Ms. King lived at the Stillwater Drive residence; however, he
stated she might have lived there "[p]ossibly, possibly
a year, maybe more." Mr. Bobb also could not recall when
Ms. King moved in or out of his Stillwater Drive residence.
Bobb acknowledged that he went to the Attorney General's
Office with his attorney to discuss whether Ms. King lived at
his Stillwater Drive residence. Although he was aware that he
was not under investigation, he did not want to tell the
investigators who was living in his home. According to Mr.
Bobb, he was exercising his Fourth Amendment right to privacy
and he felt that there was no need to reveal that information
to anyone. Mr. Bobb testified that he did not have a grudge
against Ms. King or her sisters and reaffirmed it was not a
secret as to whether Ms. King lived at his Stillwater Drive
residence. Mr. Bobb also denied any knowledge of Ms.
King's ownership of a residence in St. Tammany
Bezet, a special agent for the Federal Bureau of
Investigation ("FBI"), testified for the defense.
He stated that Ms. King contacted him in May 2013 and
indicated that "people were trying to get her out of the
election."  Mr. Bezet said his investigation included
surveillance and wiring Ms. King with audio or video
equipment to verify the alleged threats. Mr. Bezet testified
that Ms. King identified the other candidates in the juvenile
court race as the individuals who made the threats. Mr. Bezet
did obtain some investigative documents, but his
investigation ended after the election. Mr. Bezet added that
neither he, nor anyone from the FBI investigated Ms. King
regarding her residency challenge. Furthermore, no one from
the Attorney General's Office contacted him regarding the
courts review all criminal appeal records for the existence
of a patent error. See La. C.Cr.P. art.
920(2). Here, we have ...