Even though drug, firearm and counterfeit money charges against former Lee Street Alternative School Principal Darius Sias still are making their way through the courts five and a half years later, there may be an end in sight for the case.
In a hearing Monday, 16th Judicial District Court Judge Gerard B. Wattigny heard testimony from Sias and former Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics agent Jerrell Tauzin on the misdemeanor counts — possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia — against Sias.
Assistant District Attorney Rob Vines said Tuesday morning that Wattigny would take the testimony under advisement, going back to previous court transcripts to review testimony before rendering a decision on those matters in coming weeks.
And, as the misdemeanor case comes to a conclusion, Sias faces a Feb. 4 felony trial date on charges of possession of cocaine, three counts of possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance, monetary instrument abuse (possession of counterfeit money) and conspiracy to commit perjury.
Sias, along with 29-year-old Derrick Derouen of New Iberia, was arrested on July 29, 2008, after Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics agents conducted an early morning raid on his home. Sias was placed on administrative leave the following day and, after an administrative hearing on Sept. 18, 2008, suspended with pay.
His status was changed to suspended without pay after a hearing on Oct. 28, 2008, and after a Feb. 5, 2009, tenure hearing Sias was fired from his job with the Iberia Parish school system.
Adding some murk to the case against Sias was the arrest months later of Tauzin. In January 2009, a 35-page bill of information charged Tauzin with 10 counts of malfeasance in office, five counts of illegal possession of stolen things, five counts of theft over $500 and five counts of burglary.
Sias appealed the firing to the 16th District Court, which refused to reinstate the former principal.
On the criminal charges, delays and legal maneuvering continued as well. Sias’ lawyer, Harold Register of Lafayette, requested delaying the criminal trial in mid-2010, saying the trial should be delayed until Sias’ appeal of the School Board’s decision to fire him was settled in 16th Judicial District Court. District Judge James McClelland upheld Sias’ termination, including in his ruling numerous explicit details surrounding Sias’ criminal charges.
In January 2011, Register again appeared in court to request a date be set for the charges against Sias to be heard.
Sias then brought his termination to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in 2011. He said in his appeal that not only had the lower court found incorrectly that the School Board had enough evidence to fire him, he also claimed that Tauzin’s presence in the investigation tainted the charges made against him.
In October, 2011, Sias’ appeal was denied.
After Tauzin’s arrest, Vines said at least three of Tauzin’s cases were dismissed because the state had only Tauzin as a witness. While some of Tauzin’s cases have been unaffected because of video evidence, Vines has said cases that rely on Tauzin and lack corroborative evidence will not be prosecuted. And, according to court records, the case against Sias relies on testimony from several sources.
According to court documents, Sias admitted to using marijuana the night his home was raided and told investigators the drugs found in the home belonged to a former student.
“The photographic evidence … as to where the drugs and guns were found within Sias’ residence seriously dispute Sias’ statement that the drugs belonged to (a former student),” McClelland said in his ruling.
Another witness told detectives Sias often smoked marijuana around his neighbors, friends and “most importantly in the presence of one of his students,” according to court documents.