Trial begins for convicted felon in federal court

Baton Rouge resident Lonnie Poydras went on trial Tuesday in Baton Rouge federal court on a charge that he was a convicted felon illegally in possession of a firearm during a traffic stop in May 2009. Police said they found a .40-caliber pistol next to the driver’s seat of Poydras’ Chevrolet Tahoe.

The trial is the second Poydras, 30, has faced on the charge. And the charge is rooted in a 2001 crime spree involving Poydras and two other men, one of whom was convicted of shooting and killing a man.

“This is a simple case, but it is an important case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Jefferson told a jury of seven women and five men. “I told you this is a serious case, and it is.

“On May 18, 2009, … Mr. Poydras was already a convicted felon,” Jefferson added. “He possessed a firearm that day.”

Jefferson did not mention the details of Poydras’ criminal case from 2001.

The prosecutor asked jurors for “an appropriate verdict, a just verdict … guilty as charged.”

Poydras was convicted of the same firearm charge in 2010 and sentenced in April 2011 by former Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson to six years in federal prison. Tyson died later that year.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later erased Poydras’ firearm conviction, ruling that his first jury should not have heard some witness testimony about his character.

Michael A. Fiser, Poydras’ defense attorney, told jurors Tuesday that they should not rush to judgment. He said they should wait for what former radio commentator Paul Harvey always referred to as “the rest of the story.”

“What you have heard from Mr. Jefferson is what he hopes this case is about,” Fiser said.

He quickly added that the witness stand is “where talk turns into reality. This case is not nearly as clear-cut as Mr. Jefferson would have you believe.”

“Wait until you have heard the rest of this story,” Fiser said. “My client, Lonnie Poydras, is not guilty.”

Records of 19th Judicial District Court — not contained in Poydras’ federal court file — show he admitted that in April and May 2001 he was part of an armed three-man crime group that robbed a grocery store, took a deputy sheriff’s pistol and cellphone at gunpoint, and stole an LSU student’s 1991 Oldsmobile Royale.

Poydras also admitted the group carjacked a 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier from three other men and accosted Demetrius White at a canal bridge on a Florida Boulevard service road, where one of his co-defendants shot and killed White, according to court records.

Poydras was 18 when he was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

The current trial in the courtroom of Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson is scheduled to last at least two days.