St. Tammany work-release prisoner goes on crime spree, police report
The same day that a civil rights group issued a report criticizing St. Tammany Parish work-release programs, a Covington halfway-house inmate walked away from his job and, according to Mandeville police, tried to rob three people, then led officers on a chase that lasted more than an hour.
Johnathon Leger, 40, was booked on two counts of armed robbery, aggravated battery and aggravated flight, said Mandeville Police Department spokesman Lt. Gerald Sticker.
Leger is accused of trying to rob two men near the Taco Bell restaurant on Florida Street in Mandeville just after 11 p.m. Wednesday. When the two men resisted, Leger fled.
While police were investigating the first complaint, a similar call came from a gas station at 2720 Florida St. In the second incident, police said,
Leger attempted to rob a man, stabbing him in the neck with a box cutter and knocking him unconscious.
During the investigation of the second incident, police said, they learned Leger had fled in a white Volvo, which was seen by another officer.
When spotted, Leger fled, allegedly reaching speeds of more than 100 mph as he led officers from the Mandeville police, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and State Police on a high-speed chase along U.S.190 toward Covington.
The chase came to an end in Covington when Leger crashed into a tree and was captured after a short chase on foot, Sticker said.
Sheriff Jack Strain, talking about the work-release program Thursday, said he’s been asked many times why the Sheriff’s Office should be involved in the work-release business, “especially when one of the inmates does something stupid.”
But for the majority of participants, the privatized facilities in Slidell and Covington offer offenders the opportunity to turn their lives around, Strain said.
“One of the offenders, one of the participants of work release ... apparently did not see the benefit of staying in the work-release program,” Strain said.
Participants know that if they commit a crime or break the rules, they will return to prison, he said.
“You’re dealing with a group of men who already show the propensity for criminal activity,” Strain said.
But for every few who wind up booted from the program, he said, many more participants become successful and productive members of society.
Faimon A. Roberts III contributed to this report.