Juvenile Judge Yolanda King indicted for filing a false public record

A state grand jury indicted Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King on Thursday for filing a false public record and violating the state election code. It said she lied when, in qualifying for office last year, she signed an affidavit saying she lived in Orleans Parish.

Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman set a Monday bond hearing for King, 54, who could not be reached Thursday.

Her attorney, Clarence Roby Jr., was present in Herman’s courtroom when the indictment was handed up, but he declined to discuss the case, saying, “I wouldn’t know what to comment about.”

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office, which took the case to the grand jury in Orleans Parish, agreed to waive issuing an arrest warrant.

State prosecutors accuse King of listing a New Orleans address as her domicile, when she actually lived in St. Tammany Parish. To run for office, candidates must sign a sworn statement that attests to their address and that they are a registered voter in the parish.

King filled out a notice of candidacy on Feb. 13, 2013, that listed her address as 5336 Stillwater Drive in New Orleans. Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office records show that house is owned by Grace King and Jimmie Bobb.

King’s residency became a campaign issue before she scored a surprise victory in May 2013 to complete the term of Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier, who had won a Criminal Court seat. It was King’s fifth attempt at a judgeship.

Attorney Cynthia Samuel, who lost in the primary, accused both King and second-place finisher Doug Hammel of residency fouls. Samuel said King claimed a homestead exemption in Slidell — an allegation that Caldwell’s office renewed, saying King had claimed the exemption there since 2007.

Samuel said Hammel moved to Florida after Hurricane Katrina and claimed a homestead exemption there through 2011, although he registered to vote in Louisiana again in 2010. She said he was not eligible for office in Louisiana.

During the race, King acknowledged owning a home in Slidell and didn’t dispute having a homestead exemption at the property. But she said it was a mistake and that her sister actually lived at that address, according to a report at the time in The Times-Picayune. King asserted she lived at another sister’s home in New Orleans.

Caldwell’s office began investigating not long after King won the Juvenile Court seat. Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro early on had recused his office from the case.

The election code prohibits candidates from “executing an affidavit knowing it to contain false or incorrect information.” Violation of that law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Filing a false public record is a felony with a maximum sentence of five years.

Residency challenges are not uncommon in local political races. James Gray, for instance, faced accusations of living outside City Council District E when he ran in 2012 to serve out the remainder of resigned Councilman Jon Johnson’s term from that district. A judge ruled Gray was eligible to run, and he won.

The state Supreme Court in 2005 disqualified Rep. Cedric Richmond from seeking the District D council seat, saying he had failed to meet the residency requirement. The state’s high court later suspended Richmond’s law license for two months for lying about his residency on a sworn document.

However, such challenges rarely lead to criminal indictments like the one King now faces, said Loyola University law professor Dane Ciolino.

By comparison, he pointed to a 2007 guilty plea by former Civil District Court Judge C. Hunter King to a charge of conspiracy to commit public payroll fraud. Years before his conviction, the state Supreme Court had removed King from the bench.

“Honesty is a ‘minimum qualification’ expected of every judge,” the court found in removing Hunter King from office in 2003. It later disbarred him.

“It’s not surprising that she is facing problems from (her allegedly false affidavit). It’s a little surprising that it resulted in an indictment,” Ciolino said of Yolanda King. “It’s unusual, but if what they put in the indictment is true, than it’s certainly a crime.”

If convicted, King could later face trouble with the state judiciary and the attorney disciplinary board, Ciolino said.

No date has been set for King to enter a plea.