- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A 43-year-old suspended New Orleans Police officer accused of sexually assaulting three teenagers dating back to the 1990s broke into tears as prosecutors sought to again push back his trial date.

“This game gotta stop, man!” said a tearful Desmond Pratt as he sat Tuesday in a jury box in shackles and jail scrubs.

According to his attorney, Robert Jenkins, Pratt had just rejected a deal from Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office to plead guilty in the case - a deal offered on the morning the former homicide detective was scheduled for trial on allegations that he molested three teenagers.

The New Orleans Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1kMA86Y) the most recent of the alleged incidents - a sexual battery - took place a year ago. He’s been in custody for 11 months for the alleged molestations. He also faces charges of aggravated sexual assault and carnal knowledge of a juvenile from earlier alleged incidents.

Prosecutor Jason Napoli told Criminal District Judge Franz Zibilich that authorities were getting no help from the mother of the purported victim in the most recent incident, and that the mother has “consistently stifled our ability to prepare for trial.”

Zibilich granted a request to subpoena the girl through her mother, who was in the courtroom. She later spoke privately with Cannizzaro outside the courtroom, then with a group of Pratt’s supporters, leaving unclear whether she continues to press for Pratt’s prosecution. She declined to speak to a reporter.

Zibilich put off the trial until April 1 and ordered Jenkins to submit an argument by Monday on whether, and under what circumstances, a videotaped statement from the girl could be used at a trial.

Pratt has been in jail since April. Zibilich reduced his bond in November from $500,000 to $400,000 but refused to lower it further despite at least two trial delays. The judge said there appeared to be no new evidence that warranted a bond reduction.

During Tuesday’s court appearance, Zibilich turned to Pratt and urged him to consider agreeing to a deal. He noted that the most serious allegation could bring a sentence as high as 20 years if Pratt is convicted.

“I’m not going to say there’s a reverse presumption (of guilt),” Zibilich said, but “some jurors come in and say, ‘Why would this little girl lie?’ ‘Why are these women lying?’ “

He told Pratt, “You’re at risk here.”

Before his arrest, Pratt worked in the Sixth District. Prior to that, as a homicide detective, he was a key figure in the investigation of crimes now pinned on alleged drug lord Telly Hankton, who is serving a life prison sentence for his conviction in a 2008 murder.

How Pratt’s legal troubles might affect that case is unclear.

Jenkins declined outside the courtroom to specify the plea deal offered by prosecutors. Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, also declined to elaborate, citing a policy against commenting on open cases.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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