Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ponchatoula man gets 99 years for sex crimes involving juveniles

Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 | Views: 5212

Ponchatoula man gets 99 years for sex crimes involving juveniles
From District Attorney Warren Montgomery:
COVINGTON — District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Ross Patrick Bernard, Sr., 41, of Ponchatoula, interrupted the second day of his trial Tuesday (Feb. 27) by pleading guilty to two counts of forcible rape, seven counts of sexual battery, and one count of failure to make required notification as a sex offender.

When handing down the sentences, District Judge Martin E. Coady ran several of them consecutive to each other, meaning Bernard will be required to serve a total of 99 years in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.

Over a period of 20 years, Bernard victimized more than seven juveniles. One of the victims was 10 years old and living in Pearl River when the abuse began with fondling and eventually progressed to forced oral sex. The male victim was abused until he was 13 years old. A second male victim also was similarly abused from ages 10 to 13. A third victim, who was 16 years old at the time, was spending the night with a relative of Bernard, when Bernard exposed himself and asked the boy to touch him. The teenager later awakened to Bernard trying to unbutton his pants. Bernard, who was a registered sex offender in Tangipahoa Parish, had failed to register in St. Tammany Parish when he moved to Slidell in December 2015.

Several victims and their family members gave impact statements prior to sentencing.

“I’m glad justice was served for all of the children he hurt,” said the family member of one victim. “He’s going to pay for what he did to all these children.”

Judge Coady said the victims’ pain is hard to imagine. “You victimized them for your own perverted reasons,” Coady said. But at least the victims can carry with them that the defendant (who initially denied the allegations) admitted his guilt, Coady added.

Coady sentenced Bernard to the following: 40 years on the forcible rape charges, with the sentences to be served consecutively; 10 years on each of the seven sexual battery charges, to be served at the same time, but those years begin after the time for the rape charges has been served; and nine years on the failure to register charge, to be served after the other sentences.

Bernard turned down an initial offer of 40 years in prison, but after hearing a full day of testimony from the victims, he offered to plead guilty at the outset of the second day of trial. The case was investigated by Detective Adam Maillho of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office, with an additional investigation by District Attorney‘s Office Investigator Tami Brisset. Shortly after the sheriff's office investigation began, Bernard fled the jurisdiction and later was arrested by federal marshals in Virginia. Det. Adam Pailet, assigned to a U.S. Marshall's Task Force, was instrumental in locating and arresting the defendant.

The victims were interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center and also were seen by child abuse pediatricians at the Audrey Hepburn Care Center in New Orleans. This case is an excellent example of multiple agencies working together to investigate and successfully prosecute a case.

Assistant District Attorneys Holly McGinness and Jay Adair prosecuted the case. The defendant was represented by Attorney Douglas Brown.