A Lafourche Parish councilman has once again denied three criminal charges against him but got a new charge Thursday of violating a protective order.
In state District Court Thursday, James Bourgeois pleaded not guilty to an amended charge of violation of the homestead exemption law and a second charge of simple battery. He previously pleaded not guilty to filing false public records.
Prior to the hearing, Bourgeois was charged with violating the protective order relating to the battery charge that he threatened fellow Councilman Jerry LaFont.
Lafourche Parish sheriff's public information officer Brennan Matherne said Bourgeois violated the order Tuesday during the council meeting when he entered through the wrong door.
In the restraining order, state District Judge Steven Miller outlined that both men were to enter and exit meetings from specified doors to prevent run-ins. Bourgeois entered the meeting Tuesday about two minutes late and used the front door instead of the designated side door.
The two men also now sit on opposite sides of the council chambers. Bourgeois is set to appear in court for that charge July 18 before state District Judge Christopher Boudreaux.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Chatagnier is the prosecuting the case.
Bourgeois missed an appearance in court on June 7 and a bench warrant was issued. Miller recalled that warrant when Bourgeois appeared in court Thursday.
“I got confused,” Bourgeois said about missing the court date.
Bourgeois was charged with filing false public records and violating a law regarding permanent registration of homestead exemption in October after a Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office investigation. The department investigated claims Bourgeois’ falsely declared he was domiciled in District 5, which covers Bayou Blue and parts of Pointe-aux-Chenes and Raceland.
After the indictment was issued, Bourgeois turned himself in and was released on a $500 bond.
His defense, attorneys Thomas Calogero and Eric Santana, filed a motion to quash for failure to timely prosecute Wednesday.
“We were prepared to go to trial today,” Santana said.
Prosecutors amended the charge to reflect homestead exemption dates from October 2015 to October 2017.
The defense claims this was done so that the charges did not exceed the two-year time limit. The original charges included homestead exemptions filed four years ago.
The trial for the homestead charge was continued until 9 a.m. Aug. 7.
However, both parties will proceed to a trial by judge or jury for Bourgeois’ felony charge of filing false public records. That trial is expected to take place in September.
Miller asked for an update on any amendments to that charge during the pretrial hearing on Aug. 7.
In May, Bourgeois was charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor, after the altercation with LaFont.
The restraining order is in place through the end of the year, but the two men are both allowed to attend council meetings.
Miller set a pretrial hearing on the battery charge for July 30.
“We are very confident he will be acquitted and cleared of all charges,” Calogero said.
Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.