A pre-trial hearing has been set for May 29 for three Destrehan High School seniors who have pled not guilty to charges stemming from a Mardi Gras melee with Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies in which they were arrested.
Rickey Jefferson, Joe Sharpe and David Sampson, who all played football at DHS last season, were arrested by undercover narcotics unit deputies on Feb. 2 in the parking lot of Lakeside Shopping Mall in Metairie during the Krewe of Caesar parade.
All three pled not guilty to charges of resisting arrest by violence at an arraignment hearing.
Only two days after his arrest, Jefferson signed a letter of intent to attend LSU on a football scholarship.
Baton Rouge attorney Lance Unglesby is providing defense for Jefferson.
Unglesby also provided defense for Jefferson’s older brother, former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, on a 2010 assault charge that was eventually dismissed and is currently serving as his attorney for a marijuana possession charge.
Unglesby said he hopes to wrap up the charges against Rickey Jefferson quickly.
"Rickey Jefferson is an incredible young man who has never been in trouble a day in his life," he said. "He has made the honor roll throughout high school, except for two semesters and looks forward to getting this behind him."
Joe Sharpe, who has also signed on to play college football for a school in Mississippi, is being represented by New Orleans attorney Robert Hjortsberg.
Hjortsberg said it is his goal to handle the case as quickly as possible.
"We want what is best for these kids. I think the best thing for them is to get this dealt with efficiently and quickly so they can get on with school. What everybody wants to see is that these kids finish school, go off to college and become productive members of society," he said. "That’s exactly what these kids are trying to do and this is just a big impediment to that."
Hjortsberg said his client, along with Jefferson and Sampson, were the victims of miscommunication.
"We have entered a plea of not guilty on their behalf. I think there is just a lot of confusion with this matter. We certainly don’t believe it unfolded the way it has been portrayed thus far," he said.
The accounts of the accused, as well as other witnesses who were allegedly with them at the time of the arrest, differ greatly from the official report of the deputies responsible for the arrests.
"I think this is just a big misunderstanding. I think that once the case plays out in court, and once we have the opportunity to sit down with the district attorney and sit down with everyone who is involved, I fell very confident that the case is going to work out in their favor," he said.
Witnesses quoted by the Louisiana Weekly said the incident was provoked by Sampson calling a friend a derogatory name and undercover officer Det. Joshua Collins mistaking it as being directed towards him. After that, Collins reportedly told Sampson to approach him and Sampson ignored the order and kept on walking.
Sampson’s mother, Roanne Sampson, who is a detective with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, told the Louisiana Weekly that Collins chased Sampson down, ripped his shirt off and slammed him over the hood of a car. According to her account it was not until after Jefferson and Sharpe tried to intervene and pull the deputy off of David that he identified himself as a police officer.
Sharpe told the Louisiana Weekly that he thought his friend was being attacked by a stranger for no reason and that is why he and Jefferson intervened. After Collins told them that he was a deputy, Sharpe said that he and Jefferson quit struggling with the policeman.
According to the police report written by Collins, Sampson allegedly shouted obscenities at him while he was arresting someone in the crowd for a narcotics violation and he tried to arrest him. Collins also wrote that Sampson swung at him and the two began fighting in the parade route and then Jefferson and Sharp started to attack him as well.
Collins said that Sampson escaped but that he was able to tackle him after a lengthy chase through the parade route. As he was running, Collins alleges that witnesses told him Sampson threw a gun that was never recovered by officers.
Sampson’s mother also told the Louisiana Weekly that she alerted civil rights organizations and community leaders about her son’s alleged mistreatment, which reportedly included deputies yelling racial slurs at him.
Sampson is an honor’s student at Destrehan who was nominated for the school’s student of the year. He is also a member of the National Honor’s Society and received the U.S. Marine Corps Scholar Athlete award.