DA says he will keep arresting victims if he has to

Cannizzaro says it's a 'small price to pay'

Dave Cohen, WWL First News early edition
April 12, 2017 - 7:50 am

The city's top prosecutor today is responding to a critical report saying he locks up rape victims to make them testify.  

The Orleans Parish District Attorney is strongly defending his actions in response to the Court Watch NOLA findings.

"If I have to put a victim of a crime in jail for eight days in order to keep the rapist off of the street for a period years, and prevent him from raping or harming someone else, I'm going to do that," Leon Cannizzaro insisted during an interview on WWL TV.

He says his office only uses the material witness arrest option in a tiny fraction of cases.

"They were able to find six cases in which people were in fact jailed," Cannizzaro said.  "In the literally thousands of cases we prosecuted."

The prosecutor says they used the power to arrest suspects in cases of murder, attempted murder, forcible rape, aggravated burglary, sexual battery and domestic violence.

Court Watch NOLA was particularly critical in the rape case.

"The decision to apply for a warrant to arrest a non-cooperative victim should not be made lightly," the report said.

Cannizzaro says he will keep locking up uncooperative victims and witnesses when it is needed to solve a serious crime.

"It is a very, very small price to pay," he insisted. "We have a very, vary serious crime problem in the city of New Orleans."

The DA say it is not something they want to do, but if arresting the victim is the only way to put a violent offender behind bars... they will do it.

Executive director of Court Watch NOLA Simone Levine wrote in a news release, "With police often finding community members unwilling to speak about the crimes they are victimized by, the threat of arrest and incarceration of victims can only exacerbate this problem."

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