ST. MARTINVILLE — A St. Martinville city councilman has been arrested, accused of leaking information about a police investigation to the target of the probe, allowing the suspect to flee before an arrest could be made.
St. Martinville District 5 Councilman Edmond Joseph, 37, was booked Friday afternoon on charges of obstruction of justice, abuse of office and accessory after the fact to sexual assault.
According to St. Martinville Police Chief Ricky Martin, a witness swore out a statement saying that Joseph, who has access to the police department's daily update report, told the mother of the target in an investigation of a sexual assault case that police were focusing on her son and that a warrant was being sought for his arrest. Martin said that when officers attempted to arrest the suspect, he was no longer at his residence and had gone into hiding.
After the statement was filed, 16th Judicial District Court Judge Roger Hamilton signed the warrant for Joseph's arrest.
Joseph has been a reliable vote on the St. Martinville City Council for Mayor Melinda Mitchell ever since her election in May, 2018. Joseph has also been constant in his criticism of current Chief Administrative Officer Avis Gutekunst, who was brought in after Mitchell's first hire for the position, Shedrick Berard, resigned from office moments before a meeting was to be held in April 2019 to discuss his job performance.
As a councilman, Joseph has consistently painted issues in racial terms, from accusing former Public Works Maintenance Supervisor Brian Touchet of spending more of the city's time and money in White neighborhoods and parks to claiming that Mayor Pro Tem Craig Prosper and District 1 Councilman Mike Fuselier opposed Mitchell's hire of a pool manager because the candidate was a Black woman.
When Joseph won his seat on the council in April, 2017, the 2003 St. Martinville Senior High School graduate was the youngest serving member of the body. He defeated former Councilman Arthur Champ Jr. in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Romanus “Ike” Robertson, who died from Lou Gehrig Disease in August, 2016.
Joseph again defeated Champ in 2018 to win his first full term in office.
Obstruction of justice in this case, since sexual assault is not a capital crime, carries a penalty of not more than 20 years at hard labor, a fine of not more than $50,000, or both. Abuse of office has a penalty of imprisoned with or without hard labor for not less than one year nor more than five years or a $5,000 fine. Accessory after the fact carries a sentence of not more than five years in prison, with or without hard labor, a maximum fine of $500, or both.
Joseph was booked into the St. Martin Parish Jail. He was released on $30,000 bond around 9 p.m. Friday.