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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— New District Attorney Jason Williams was elected on a promise, not to throw so many people in jail, but the Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC) says it means more violent criminals walk free.

In March of this year Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams told WGNO his office would be prosecuting people accused of violent crime in the city.

Williams said, “We’re gonna be ready to go and try those very difficult, very tough cases in which people have hurt people cases in the city of New Orleans. Some people have got to go to jail. That is the job of this office.”

But according to a new report from the Metropolitan Crime Commission that’s just not the case.

According to MCC’s President Rafael Goyeneche, “In the first 8 months of this year, the New Orleans Police Department arrested 1,411 violent felony offenders. During the first 8 months of the Jason Williams administration, January 11 to August 11th, he either refused or dismissed 937 violent felony cases.”

The commission’s report also says a little more than half of the felony cases presented to the DA, have been dismissed or refused.

Goyeneche also asks, “Why is it that so many cases are being refused and how does that look versus the prior administration, and why is that so many cases are being dismissed versus the prior administration?”

According to a statement from the DA’s office, “The policies of this office over past half century, while well-intentioned, were fostered by the MCC. The policies have led to this city becoming the incarceration capital of the world and city with the most exonerations of incarcerated persons,” – echoing what Williams told us back in March.

Under District Attorney Jason Williams, the Orleans Parish DA’s Office has set a high standard for transparency and gone further than any DA’s Office in New Orleans to proactively provide data for the public on the work of this office. The first set of data was released on March 19, 2021 only 68 days into the administration. This was a commitment the DA made and will continue to live up to.

We are the first DA’s Office in New Orleans to have an in-house data analyst. We have also partnered with Prosecutors Performance Indicators initiative, the Vera Institute of Justice New Orleans, Loyola University and AH Datalytics – all credible and independent organizations – to further expand our information and data sharing capacity. All of these efforts have been made so that this office can publish even more information this quarter with the DA’s office new website and public dashboards.

Our office is committed to directly providing ALL the people of New Orleans with data and statistics about its work and performance so that the people of this city can make up their own minds about the work of the office and not have Mr. Goyeneche tell them what to think.

When Rafael Goyeneche falsely asserted in June to Fox 8 that the DA’s Office did not oppose the bond reduction in the hearing of Bryan Andry who went on to murder an innocent community elder when court records clearly showed that in fact, we had opposed bond reduction – it was clear that our hope for a constructive and fair Metropolitan Crime Commission may have been for naught.

This cherry-picked data analysis in the MCC October 13 report indicates an antagonism to the progressive changes in the criminal legal system that the people of New Orleans voted for, and seeks to cause division when we are working hard with all stakeholders in the criminal legal system to increase safety and justice for New Orleans families. 

At just past noon on Monday, October 11, 2021, the DA was sent a draft of the MCC’s report, and the MCC president gave our office less than 24 hours to respond to its analysis of approximately 10,000 cases, without providing the underlying data.

Failing to provide the underlying data and such an oddly short window to respond is worse than giving us no time at all – and it shows a lack of good faith on the part of Mr. Goyeneche and MCC.

It should be noted that the policies of this office over the past half century, while well-intentioned, were fostered by the Metropolitan Crime Commission. These policies have led to this city becoming the incarceration capital of the world and the city with the most exonerations of incarcerated persons, with a concurrent and steady decrease in public safety. We are striving to reverse these trends.

Bob White, First Assistant DA

The MCC says not prosecuting the vast number of violent cases could undermine the public safety.

“We’re just saying that this is information, this is the record and if he district attorney is displeased with it, it’s not because we cherry-picked. This is every case that we looked at,” said Goyeneche.