FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 532-536,
SECTION "L" Honorable Franz Zibilich, Judge
Cannizzaro DISTRICT ATTORNEY Scott G. Vincent ASSISTANT
DISTRICT ATTORNEY PARISH OF ORLEANS, COUNSEL FOR
APPELLEE/STATE OF LOUISIANA
J. Hessler ATTORNEY AT LAW COUNSEL FOR OFF. BALLARD/APPELLANT
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Daniel L.
Dysart, Judge Tiffany G. Chase
L. Dysart, Judge
a judge trial, Van C. Ballard, a retired New Orleans Police
Department ("NOPD") officer (hereafter,
"Ballard"), was convicted of one count of
malfeasance in office, and he now appeals his conviction. For
the reasons that follow, we affirm.
February 8, 2017, the State of Louisiana filed a bill of
information charging Ballard with malfeasance in office, a
violation of La. R.S. 14:134.
time of the alleged offense, Ballard was working as a
civilian employee of NOPD. He was also serving as a
commissioned reserve officer with the Orleans Parish
Sheriff's Office (OPSO), and in that capacity, was
working a private detail in the uptown area of New Orleans.
entering a plea of not guilty to the offense, Ballard elected
a trial by judge, which was held on May 30, 2017. The court
took the case under advisement, and on the following day,
found Ballard guilty as charged. Ballard waived all delays
and was sentenced to two years imprisonment at hard labor,
suspended, and two years of inactive probation. Ballard was
also assessed fines, costs and fees totaling $987.
trial, NOPD Sgt. Terrance Wilson testified that he
participated in the arrest of Maurice Johnson, the victim, on
November 3, 2016, who, along with another assailant, was
suspected of burglarizing vehicles and residential
trespassing. In pursuit of the suspects, the officers
responding to the incident located the victim hiding under a
house in the area and were attempting to take him into
custody. While the officers were apprehending the victim,
Ballard, who was not assigned to the arresting officers'
unit, "showed up out of nowhere." Sgt. Wilson
testified that neither he nor his colleagues had requested
Wilson testified that he and Off. Jorgenson coaxed the victim
out from under the house and restrained him face-down on the
ground in a small alleyway while they placed him in
handcuffs. In the process of making the arrest, Sgt. Wilson
witnessed Ballard run up the alley toward them and heard the
"thud" of Ballard striking the victim in the mouth
with his foot. Sgt. Wilson told Ballard that NOPD Officers
did not behave that way anymore and asked him to back away
from the scene. Sgt. Wilson testified that the victim had not
made any threatening motions toward Ballard or anyone else.
Sgt. Wilson stated that the victim immediately complained
that Ballard had kicked him in the mouth and asked if the
officers were going to do anything about it. Sgt. Wilson
replied that he would "handle it."
Wilson and Off. Jorgenson proceeded to arrest the victim as
Ballard continued in the direction of the second suspect and
assisted in his apprehension from the roof of a nearby
building. Sgt. Wilson characterized the physical contact
between Ballard and the victim as "a battery" and
reported it as such to Lt. Kendrick Allen. Sgt. Wilson
testified that he and Off. Jorgenson had the victim in
custody by the time Ballard made contact with him, and stated
that "once a person stops resisting, any kind of action
stops, and we just don't receive that kind of training to
kick people in the face."
cross-examination, defense counsel asked Sgt. Wilson if the
"kick" was accidental or intentional and Wilson
responded that he did not "know why [Ballard] did it,
" although he admitted he did not ask. Notwithstanding
Sgt. Wilson's admission that both he and Off. Jorgenson
were yelling at the victim to show them his hands, Sgt.
Wilson confirmed that the victim had already complied with
their commands by the time Ballard approached and Off.
Jorgenson was in the process of securing the handcuffs behind
the victim's back. Sgt. Wilson described the alleyway in
which the victim was apprehended as "really dark"
and a "tight squeeze." Overall, there were four
fleeing suspects who were alleged to have been burglarizing
vehicles, climbing over people's fences, and onto their
roofs in an uptown neighborhood at 1:00 a.m.; under these
circumstances, Sgt. Wilson ...